Sony’s big announcement came and went yesterday in the form of a 2 hour event to start throwing gamers into a frenzied ball of anticipation. The whole presentation had the feel of an E3 press conference and brought plenty of special effects, giant screen graphics, and international guests to the stage to talk about the Playstation 4. As exciting as it all was, talk of the console itself was left at a disappointing minimum. Most of the time was spent with game developers and publishers on what they hoped to bring to the new console. So what’s the take-away?
The guts of the system read like a mid-level PC. 8-core x86 64-bit AMD Jaguar processor with 8 gigs of GDDR5 memory. Those numbers alone blow the PS3 out of the water to be sure, but as another staffer put it, “my laptop has 8 gigs of ram and it’s 4 years old”. The GPU has been developed specifically to take power away from the primary CPU to handle physics simulations . . . just like every other modern video card on the market.
A DVD/BluRay drive are standard, as is Ethernet, WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity hardware. HDMI, analogue and digital optical outputs are present. Sony’s release on the PS4 states that a hard drive will be built in, but specifies nothing of size or whether it’s a standard or solid state type drive.
Sony showed the world the new DualShock 4, with it’s Share button, headphone jack, mono-speaker, track pad and a light bar that tracks movement (with a Kinect-like, dual camera sensor bar) a la the Playstation Move.
What they didn’t reveal was the actual console. Nothing on price, and aside from the vague “Coming Holiday 2013″, there’s no solid release date.
Sony has partnered with Gaikai to stream PS1, PS2 and PS3 games, making the box fully backward compatible, but the jury is still out on used games. Forbes Magazine interviewed the head of Sony Worldwide Studios last night, Shuhei Yoshida, who danced around the issue only to finally say “So, used games can play on PS4. How is that?”. Forbes claims that to mean that in fact, the PS4 can play used games despite the fact that Sony recently filed a patent on used-game blocking tech. As far as I’m concerned, Yoshida’s quote is as vague as the PS4’s release date.
For new titles, Sony has racked up nearly 150 developers to release on the platform across 4 countries. Most of them are old friends with the Playstation but some like Bungie are new to the PS4 and still others, like Blizzard, are making first time console appearances exclusively with Sony. Activision, Ubisoft and Square Enix all had hands to play, but nothing too surprising. Jonathan Blow, the creator of the gorgeous and engaging Braid, announced that his new title, The Witness, will be a launch title for the new console. Knack will also launch with the PS4, a platformer with a distinctive title character from veteran game director Mark Cerny.
Obviously the PS4 makes the PS3 look like a pile of moose poop comparatively. At 16 times more RAM than its predecessor, the PS4 aims to be well prepared for another 6 year run at the video game industry. Now, before I get roasted over the coals for making the comparison, know that during the conference, Sony themselves referred to their new system as a high-end PC. To which I respond: not even close. Consoles are dedicated machines with an assumed lifespan, so they don’t need to be catch-all devices for everything a consumer wants it to do, but if you’re going to try and sell me on its power compared to my desktop, I’m gonna stop you right there and say “your high-end is strapping on 4 year old tech”.
Some of the features I like are the little bells and whistles Sony is adding to the Playstation Network. Storing and displaying real-life friends’ information as opposed to just seeing a gamertag and avatar appeals to me. On the other hand, I can’t seem to find any reason to want to share my screenshots, videos or, god-forbid, turn my controller over to someone else so they can beat a level for me. What’s the point? I didn’t shell out 60 bucks so I could watch a friend take out the final boss. And does YouTube really need more pre-pubescent Sam Kinisons narrating their Call of Duty matches?
I guess Sony’s marketing machine felt there was value in beating Microsoft to the punch on announcements this year, but for all the pomp and circumstance on display here, little was actually revealed. All the game and tech demonstrations put on for the show were driven by prototype hardware, somewhere behind the scenes, not unlike the PS3’s E3 showing of 2005. They’re only months away from retail shelves and there’s no sign of the box itself, only the controller, which varies only slightly from its predecessor.
The only thing that really got my motor running was more footage of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs, which will be out for current gen consoles this year regardless.
I’m just not all that impressed, but then again, I tend to swing more in Microsoft’s jungle anyway so your mileage may vary. If you’d like to relive the conference, click to our live blog page now featuring a repeat of the conference. Or have a look at the Sony press release with all the marketing speak-drenched specs.