Today in New York, Sony unveiled the future of the PlayStation with the first public showing of the PlayStation 4 platform–PS4 for shot. Andrew House came on the stage to announce that this is a moment of truth and a bold step for PlayStation and Sony as a company. They are going to revolutionize not only the console market–but every other product they make. This is the most powerful platform they have ever made.

House brought on the Lead System Architect on PlayStation 4, Mark Cerny, to talk more about the new PS4. Cerny came to the industry at the age of 18 and his first claim to fame was as the creator of Marble Madness. He went on to work on Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Crash Bandicoot, and Jak and Daxter. This is the first time Sony has used someone outside of Japan as the designer of one of their consoles.

We learned that Sony began working on PlayStation 4 right after the launch of PS3. They knew that the world was changing from a single-purpose console to a multi-purpose box. There was only so much they could do with the PS3 as it wasn’t necessarily designed for this. The PS3 did a good job, Cerny said, and it is the number one Netflix platform. In 2008, Sony began reaching out to developers and seeking their advice on how to build their next iteration of hardware.

So what is in the final hardware? Sony was not very detailed in telling us about the hardware. In fact, no final hardware was shown. Yes, Sony revealed the PlayStation 4 without revealing the PlayStation 4 hardware–only the controller and a Sensor bar, with cameras, that was hinted at being a direct competitor to what Microsoft has with Kinect. While I doubt Sony will call this “Sony Connect,” it is probably the next generation PlayStation Eye.

What we “officially” know about the hardware is:

  • 8 GB of high-speed RAM
  • 8 Core X86 CPU
  • “An Enhanced GPU”
  • Hard Drive

Sony did not give us specs about what kind or kinds of Hard Drives the PlayStation 4 will launch with, if they will be standard sized drives or proprietary, what specific processor, and what specific GPU is in the console. We do know that Developers will be able to utilize the GPU as additional power for the CPU. This should give more power than ever seen before in a home console. Will the next Xbox offer something similar?

While details about the hardware was scarce, we did get a few details about the controller. Called DualShock 4, they have increased the power of the motor for rumble, added a color sensor bar, to distinguish between different players, added a share button, added a touch screen in the middle, reduced the latency, and added a headphone port.

The Share button is a new feature for PlayStation 4 that will allow users to instantly share videos of gameplay. By tapping the button, you can select that last several minutes of gameplay and upload it directly to Ustream. Sony also spoke about the ability to use the streaming service to have friends watch you play games, offer tips, or just chat with you while you play. This will appear onscreen so you can keep conversations alive no matter where you are at on PlayStation 4.

Cerny also discussed a secondary chip in the PlayStation 4 that will allow for games to be downloaded in the background without impacting what you are doing. This chip also allows for users to begin a download of a game and start playing it instantly. This means if a title is 20 GB, you don’t have to wait for it to finish before starting.

PS4 also features a Suspend and Resume feature. By hitting the Power Button, everything you are doing is saved into RAM and the next time you startup will be instant. As you play games, PS4 will learn your likes and dislikes–eventually being able to preload content you are expected to enjoy so there are very little download times for you.

You also will see Sony move away from old-style usernames and into Real Names that are integrated with Facebook friends. They weren’t exactly clear but they will still allow use of your old PSN username in some cases. Perhaps when playing with people off your friends list?

David Perry, CEO of Gaikai, came on stage to talk about Sony greenlighting a project to make PlayStation 4 the fastest, most powerful gaming network in the world. They also are using Gaikai technology, in the PlayStation 4, to give developers the option to Remote Play their PS4 games on the PS Vita. This is exactly the same thing Nintendo is doing with the Wii U and spells trouble for the “Big N.”

Gaikai technology will also give PSN an easy way to give demos to players. Hit a button, try a game, and the buy it if they like it or share it with friends. It sounds simple yet the way Perry spoke, it is more of a concept than reality at this point. He next touched on PlayStation Cloud–a service that they hope will allow players to play PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 games on any device they want using Gaikai. Sony says this service will give Sony hardware backwards compatibility and will be rolled out in phases during with details to follow later this year. Does this mean no PS3 games playable at the launch of PlayStation 4? If so, this is quite disappointing as the launch window is usually the time when people play their older software the most.

Sony showed off a few titles for the platform. We will list them here and run further coverage on these later.

  • Knack is from Studio Japan and shows a little monster that can grow. It seemed a bit lackluster.
  • Killzone Shadowfall was shown by Michael Denny, of Guerrilla Games. After Killzone on the PS3, will anyone doubt this was real gameplay footage?
  • Driveclub was shown by Evolution Studios as a real-time and asynchronous Racing game that leans more on your social life and friends than just cars and tracks.
  • inFamous Second Son was shown by Sucker Punch
  • The Witness, the next game from Braid creator Jonathan Blow was shown as a launch window exclusive for the platform. This is an open world game with everything placed in the world for a reason and puzzles that are there for a reason. It also features 25 hours of gampelay.
  • David Cage came up to discuss his thoughts on emotion and facial expressions for a future Quantic Dreams title.
  • Alex Evans, from Media Molecule, came up to show off their next design ideas for the next wave of creation games post-LittleBigPlanet.
  • Code Name Panta Rhei engine was shown power Deep Down from Capcom. This looks like a cross between Demon Souls and The Elder Scrolls.
  • Square-Enix showed off a real time demo of Luminous Studio–their next generation engine. They also said Final Fantasy will be revealed at E3 and the PS4 was a Developers dream come true.
  • Watch Dogs was revealed as a PS4 launch title and we will see more later this year.
  • Diablo 3 was revealed to be an exclusive Sony console title for both PS4 and PS3. Blizzard also revealed they have entered into a strategic partnership where “they will take over the world. If only it was that easy.”
  • Destiny showed off a few new clips for their 2014 release game. This marks the first time Bungie will ever be on a Sony platform.

Sony ended the event by saying they will be bringing us more news in the months ahead. This means E3 2013. They also revealed that PlayStation 4 will be coming Holiday 2013 but failed to mention specific regions.

After the event ended, what are we left wondering?

First, where was EA? As one of the biggest Publishers and Developers in the world, why was EA not present at Sony’s event? Does this indicate that they have some type of special relationship with Microsoft planned? There is no indication that Electronic Arts won’t develop and publish software for PS4, but this is a bit shocking.

Second, where was Konami showing off the new Metal Gear title? We have already seen gameplay footage and know that current-generation consoles can’t run it as smooth and detailed as previously shown. Is this going to be another E3 2013 title for Sony to show off?

Third, while I can understand saving your price and release date for E3–to try and steal thunder from Microsoft’s announcement–why was no hardware shown? Is the hardware still not finished? Will the games be digital only or will a Blu-ray drive be included?

Fourth, will Sony allow for used games to be played on the platform. Just a simple answer to this question would make a lot of gamers feel much better.

The February 20, 2013, Sony even felt very premature and while there is quite a bit to be excited for, there were just so many details left out. Sony doesn’t want to reveal everything but it seems like revealing a console without showing a console is going a bit far. Still, I eagerly await E3 2013 where we will get to see all the details about the next Xbox and PlayStation 4. The console wars are going to get exciting for Sony and Microsoft. Looks like Nintendo will be doing their own thing for the next five to seven years.

By Kaleb Rutherford – 02/20/13

Screenshots for PlayStation 4’s 1st Official Reveal