The biggest news at Sony’s big PlayStation 4 unveiling event might have been what they didn’t reveal. No look at the console itself. No pricing. But here are the ten big things we did learn.
1) It’s real.
Sony made a lot of noise about the PlayStation 4 and how it’s going to change gaming and all that jazz. But their biggest announcement may have been officially confirming the news that we all knew already: they’ve been working on the successor to the PS3. Unfortunately we have to wait a while to, you know, see it.
2) It’s coming this year.
The one concrete piece of information we got about the PS4’s release is that it’s planned for this coming Christmas. No word yet on price, included accessories, or much of anything else.
3) It’s a social animal.
In addition to integrating Facebook, there’s a whole slew of new features that are set to satisfy all your social needs, most of them accessible via the new controller’s “Share” button. Tune in and watch game matches being played by others. Record and share an awesome move — in any game — and share it instantly with your friends. Need help completing a tricky game level? Give a friend remote access to your game and watch as they complete the level for you. This, and much, much more are a big part of PS4’s all-important social strategy.
4) The (technical) walls of Jericho have come crumbling down.
One of the smartest moves Sony made in planning the PS4 was to solicit the desires and ideas of developers. And I’d be willing to bet that the top request from every single one of them was that Sony’s insistence on proprietary chip architecture (aka, the Cell processor) had to go. The Cell may be powerful, but it’s also hard as heck to program for. Two major platforms already share a similar technological core (PC and Xbox 360), but having to program your triple-A game for the PS3 created a major headache for devs, because it’s so different inside. PS4’s PC-based architecture will make life a gazillion times easier for game developers.
5) No backwards compatibility for you.
As roadblocks go, this is a big one. A key appeal of any major new console is the ability to bring your existing catalog of games over to your shiny new game box. But Sony’s change in core architecture means that your PS3 game discs won’t do squat when you stick them in your PS4. Talk about buzzkill. As a consolation prize, Sony says it’s “dream” is to bring classic PS3 (and PS2, presumably) games to the PS4 through its new streaming games technology, aka Gaikai. The only way this will appease gamers — aside from the streaming technology working flawlessly — is if Sony doesn’t make you pay to stream-and-play the PS3 games you already own.
6) The new Dualshock is an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink device.
Since they didn’t show off the actual PS4 hardware at this event (rumor has it they’re holding onto that reveal for E3 to have something to build buzz with there), our consolation prize was the new Dualshock 4 controller. As we learned about all that the DS4 could do, it quickly became apparent that this controller is one way Sony is trying its darnedest to think of everything, to appeal to every kind of gamer and leave nothing out. The DS4 is the every game controller. Check it:
- DualShock: It’s the PlayStation controller you already know and love, with all the familiar buttons, sticks, and triggers.
- Motion: It’s got its own Move-style motion control built in, as well as an accompanying camera/sensor. It also has a built-in speaker.
- Touch: For the tablet and smartphone players out there, it has a clickable touchpad.
- Social: For the social gamers, that magical “Share” button does all sorts of social things. (See #3.)
These varied (one might even say conflicting?) functions feel like Sony’s basically cribbing from all of the best ideas their competitors have and throwing them into one big melting pot. The motion-control stuff takes its cues not only from the Move but from Kinect and the Wiimote as well. The touchpad is an obvious riff on the iPhone. The Share button is, to some degree, an attempt to appeal to casual gaming/Facebook set (although it does a lot more than that). At certain angles, the DualShock 4 almost looks like an Xbox 360 controller, so you can expect more comfortable ergonomics as well.
7) Its specs are predictably high.
One place Sony has always excelled at is in maxing out the internal specs inside its consoles. The PS3 was a powerhouse, and PS4 looks set to be a worthy successor, tech-wise. A whopping 8GB of memory will be paired with a massive hard drive, a custom 8-core AMD x86 processor, Radeon graphics chip, Blu-ray/DVD drive, USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, both Ethernet and WiFi at the highest current specs, Bluetooth 2.1, etc. One particularly nice touch is how you’ll be able to put your PS4 to sleep or wake it back up, and never have to save or pause or stop the game you’re playing.
Of course, all that power came at a hefty price tag with the PS3, which Sony came under a lot of fire for. Can Sony find a way to balance all that souped-up tech with affordability? The jury’s still out.
8) It large with the Vita love.
Your PS Vita will work as an extra controller, which isn’t surprising since the new DualShock is basically a PSV without the screen. It will also allow you to “remote play” PS4 games on your PSV, a la the WiiU gamepad.
9) The games roster looks good.
We have no idea which games will be launch titles and which ones will arrive later, but the PS4 game lineup that we know of so far looks promising. Anchored by new entries in PlayStation exclusive franchises like Killzone, Infamous, and Final Fantasy, there are plenty of new IPs in the mix too. They include the Katamari-on-legs platformer Knack, team racing game DriveClub, Capcom’s dragon-fighting RPG Deep Down, Bungie’s Destiny, Braid developer Number Nones The Witness, Ubisoft’s incredible-looking Watch Dogs, and the first console port of Diablo III. And something new from LittleBigPlanet makers Media Molecule that involves sculpting 3D stuff in midair using the Move controller. Or something.
10) The PS3 still has plenty of life left in it.
Several new games were mentioned as being made for both PS4 and PS3. As pretty as those graphics were on all the PS4 game vids — and they was some gorgeous eye candy on display — none of it looked like the huge jump forward in fidelity that occurred between PS2 and PS3. Looking into the future, I see loads of games that will work with PS3 and PS4 both. Because… Well, why wouldn’t they? Games still look and play great on the PS3, so I guess it all comes down to this.
(And by “all,” I mean everything we know about the PS4.)
Are there enough differences between the PS3 and PS4 to justify upgrading? There doesn’t seem to be any one killer hook, just numerous smaller features. Do the new tech specs wow you? Are all the new social features or the streaming games enough to reel you in? Does that slick new DualShock controller make a difference? What about the games exclusive to the PS4?
Let’s hear it, gamers.