Sony Announces the PlayStation 4

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Sony Announces the PlayStation 4

Sony announced the PlayStation 4 tonight. You play games on it.

(Oh, not your old games, though: There’s no backwards compatibility with the hardware, although Sony hinted at a possible solution in the future. Hang on to that PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2, and maybe look into adding on to that entertainment center.)

They went a bit light on the consumer-facing details. There’s no release date yet, although it will be out sometime this holiday season. They were mum on a price point, gave no info on how many different SKUs will ship, and specified little about its online capabilities. We don’t know what it looks like, but it’s probably dark and rectangular.

That’s fine, though. This was merely an introduction, a brief glimpse at the hot new whatsis that will be heavily hyped for the rest of the year. We’ll hear more at GDC and PAX East next month and then learn the rest at E3 in June. And some of what they did announce reveals both an understanding of and a desire to rectify some of Sony’s biggest current failings.

ps4 press conference.jpg Andrew House, President and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment. (PRNewsFoto/Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.)

If you own a PlayStation 3 you’re probably used to inordinately long download times. (Once, about an hour into a PlayStation 3 download, I turned on my PC and Xbox 360, downloaded the same game in its entirety within ten minutes, and returned to the PlayStation to see the meter had barely progressed by 10%.) The PlayStation 4 will have a special chip that lets your system download games and other content when it’s not even on. Sony also says you’ll be able to start a game as soon as you start downloading, effectively streaming the game as it downloads in the background. Hopefully these features will work as touted.

The PlayStation 4 will also beef up the game library for your PlayStation Vita. Sony’s new handheld is a bit barren, but the company aims to make all PlayStation 4 games playable on the Vita. They didn’t explain how that will work, or how far from the console the Vita can travel while still accessing those games, but in theory it sounds similar to what you can currently do with certain Wii U titles and the Wii U GamePad.

Also interesting: supposedly when you power down the system will bookmark your location in whatever game you’re playing. When you turn it back on you’ll start exactly where you left off. It sounds like what we’ve grown accustomed to on our phones, tablets and handhelds.

dualshock 4.jpg

Sony didn’t show the console itself, but it did display the new controller. The DualShock 4 resembles a slighter longer, slightly flatter version of the standard DualShock design. The big difference is a thin touch pad on that front that looks a little bit bigger than a matchbook. The controller also has built in speakers and a head-phone jack.

The night’s software revelations weren’t particularly shocking. Two Sony franchises, Infamous and Killzone, will have PS4 exclusive sequels. Major third-party games including Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs and Bungie / Activision’s Destiny will exist on the PlayStation 4, along with almost every other home console. New IPs include an all-ages action joint from Sony called Knack and Capcom’s Deep Down, whose animated cinematic featured a dragon and various men with bad skin. And speaking of lovingly rendered, unattractive old men, Quantic Dream (of Heavy Rain fame) showed off the system’s graphical prowess with the disembodied head of a slightly healthier looking Cryptkeeper.

the witness 2202013.jpg The Witness

Jonathan Blow, the designer of Braid who bookended Indie Game: The Movie with his departure lounge wisdom, announced that his upcoming puzzle game The Witness (which we’re kinda looking forward to) will “debut” for the PlayStation 4. One of the biggest stories of 2012 was the PlayStation 3’s bounty of top-shelf independent games. Scoring Blow for this press conference is an encouraging sign that Sony’s commitment to quality won’t waver with the new hardware.

Again, expect to hear more news on the PlayStation 4 in the weeks and months to come. Also expect news soon from Microsoft on the new Xbox, which will almost definitely be out this year, as well. This is going to be a pretty big year for videogames.