Sony keeps PlayStation 4 under wraps, focuses on controller and new games

Business | Tech

On Feb. 20, Sony held a press conference to officially announce the PlayStation 4.

Here is what you need to know

  • The PS4 console itself was a no-show.
  • There was no firm release date and no pricing announcement. Look forward to more info during the lead-up to this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and the “holiday 2013” console release.
  • The PS4 will have an x86 processor, 8-core combined CPU/GPU, 8GB of GDDR5 memory and a yet-unspecified internal HDD storage.
  • The PS4 DualShock 4 Controller is an updated version of its predecessor and includes a headphone jack, a motion sensor, a Vita-style touchpad, a social Share button and a coloured light bar to more closely tie player identities on and off-screen.
  • While the system will not be backwards compatible with older Sony console games, the new PlayStation Cloud service will allow streaming of older game titles, eventually including games from PlayStation, PS2 and PS3.
  • PS4 is game- and socially oriented, promising suspend functionality (the ability to launch a game from sleep) and the ability to share gameplay with friends via video upload and streaming, even letting you play a friend’s game from your console.
  • The PS4 will also support remote play through the Vita, similar to the WiiU and its TV remote.
  • Square-Enix will be announcing a Final Fantasy title for PS4 at E3.
    (Seriously, that’s all they would say.)
  • Diablo III is coming to the PS4 and PS3.
  • Bungie’s Destiny will be on PS4 and include PlayStation-exclusive content


Here is what happened

Everyone was expecting the PlayStation 4, and that’s what they got, but only in spirit. For two hours, Sony and its partner companies talked about new and expected software, but despite breaking down internal components and design philosophy, they failed to show the actual console.
With the world waiting expectantly, Andrew House, CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, began with a long-winded look at Sony’s current and past portfolio and continued to push the company’s mobile Vita platform, stating that it would continue to be supported throughout the lifecycle of the PS4.
When House handed things over to lead system architect Mark Cerny, we were given a look at the PS4’s new controller, a chubby analogue to the current DualShock 3, with a twist. The new controller possesses a headphone jack, as well as a front-mounted Move sensor used along with a dual-camera tracking peripheral strikingly similar to Microsoft’s Kinect. On the face of the controller is a Vita-style touch pad and a Share button. The philosophy behind the PlayStation 4 is clearly social, and Cerny talked about giving players the ability to suspend and resume when juggling games, as well as new social features.
Sony boasted about speed a lot. Players are expected to be able to instantly upload their gameplay in the background via a secondary CPU and be able to spectate other players’ live game-play, even jump into their game and play for them. Claims extended further when talk turned to the PlayStation store. Not only will players be able to instantly jump into a live game demo, but their consoles will also monitor their playing habits in order to predict which games to download.
With no console hardware to show, the onus was on software to sell the idea of the coming system. Debuts included Guerrilla’s Killzone: Shadow Fall, a stereotypical albeit shiny addition to the Killzone franchise. To build on Sony’s social focus comes Drive Club, a social racing and car simulation game from Evolution Studios. Sucker Punch’s new inFAMOUS game Second Son showed off a dystopian future where those with superpowers rise up against a fascist government. After a long lineup of action titles, Braid creator Jonathan Blow gave an ironic apology for the lack of explosions in his upcoming game, The Witness, a psychological-puzzle game that seeks to evoke the elusive “a-ha!” moment. To bolster Sony’s first-party offering, Media Molecule’s Alex Evans spoke about his company’s new-found love for the PlayStation Move controller and showed demo footage of the Move being used to create and sculpt virtual clay creatures. As always, Media Molecule vows to tap into players’ creativity.

Third-party studios also came with demos to show and a few surprise announcements.  Capcom debuted a trailer for Deep Down, a gritty medieval adventure that features a band of knights fighting fiercely against the fury of a fire-breathing dragon. Ubisoft demoed a new section of their open-world cyberpunk thriller, Watch Dogs. Big announcements came from Blizzard and EA. Yes, Diablo III is coming to both PS4 and PS3. Not to be outdone, EA announced that Bungie’s new game Destiny will be coming to the PS4, making it the first time that PlayStation owners will have the opportunity to enter the Bungie universe.

Here is the rub

So, after months of hype and expectation Sony finally gives us a glimpse of their future, but it’s hard not to be disappointed. It is one thing to want to save a little surprise for later, but if you are going to announce a product with as much build-up as Sony did, people are going to expect to actually see it. Still, absence of the PlayStation 4 aside, there are a few things of note to come out of the conference. Sony is being aggressively social. Its new philosophy of simple, immediate, social, integrated and personalized shows that this time around they are correcting their past mistakes, pushing for greater connectivity and making a play for the online space that Microsoft has dominated this generation. Still, Sony also knows that the next generation is all about services as well as games and is trying hard to provide users every option out there. And while it may feel like Sony is racing to catch up with what might be around the corner, it only means more for consumers.