Sony tonight announced its much-rumored next video game console, the PlayStation 4. Sony Computer Entertainment prez and CEO Andrew House unveiled the console with little more than a logo and a handful of concepts, though he did say it’s coming in holiday 2013. As far as specs, the PS4 has an 8-core 64-bit x86 “Jaguar” CPU from AMD and a Radeon GPU with 18 “compute units” pushing 1.84 TFLOPS of horsepower. It features a 6X Blu-ray drive, 802.11n WiFi, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 2.1, HDMI, optical out, analog AV out, and an unknown amount of internal storage.
Lead system architect Mark Cerny — legendary game dev and, most importantly, creator of Marble Madness — said that development of the PS4 started five years ago, and since then, he’s been exploring how to evolve “the PlayStation ecosystem.” Speaking to the limitations of the previous PlayStation console, Cerny said he’s been aiming to make sure “nothing gets between the platform and the game.” An image of an old-timey hunter shooting Space Invaders ships in the sky (in reality) was used as an example — later, a more concrete example was given in the PS4’s multitasking ability, as well as its ease of use. More on that in a moment.
“We were able to create in PlayStation 4 a system by game creators, for game creators,” Cerny said. Double Fine president Tim Schafer and Harmonix president Alex Rigopulos were just two of several game devs that spoke to Sony reaching out and asking for input. He next unveiled the DualShock 4, which looks an awful lot like the leaks we saw recently — it features a new touchpad, a new light bar, a Share button, a mono speaker, and what looks like rubberized grips (in addition to the standard dual analog sticks, d-pad, triggers, shoulder buttons, and four face buttons). Internally, it’s still got rumble functionality and a built-in, non-removable lithium ion battery. In so many words, the DualShock 4 looks an awful lot like a DualShock 3 with some new bells and whistles.
Cerny talked software next: the PS4 can pause and resume mid-game on a system level, allowing players to multitask. Say you’re playing Killzone: Shadow Fall and you desperately need to open another application on the PS4 — that is apparently something doable on the PS4. He said a second chip dedicated to managing uploads and downloads will also help with the system’s usability, meaning you can download games in the background or when the system’s off. More importantly, however, you can start downloading a game and begin playing it as the download goes — pretty great! As far as sharing goes, PS4 is heavy on social interactivity; Cerny said its social network will extend beyond the console to mobile and Vita. He’s ambiguous about which platforms that’ll mean, but it sounds like Sony’s aiming to make it platform agnostic. There’s also a Pinterest-esque social aspect for friends to share screens and video, which Cerny said applies to the PS4’s “personalization” angle. “You’ll see real pictures of your real friends,” he said.
David Perry went next, and he talked about Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai (he was the former head of game streaming company Gaikai, but now he’s working with Sony). His game streaming service — now dubbed “PlayStation Cloud” — is being employed to run demos on PS4, allowing people to try any game they want instantly (rather than requiring a file download, as it is now). He also said that both Facebook and Ustream are being employed on PS4, using the DualShock 4’s Share button; the idea here is that you’ll share game clips and screenshots from within your PS4. Beyond just sharing games you’ve already played, you can also livestream — to the point that a friend of yours who is spectating can actually jump into your game, via streaming, and help you out.
But wait, there’s more! Despite Remote Play being a function in the previous PlayStation console, Perry said it’s also heading to PlayStation 4. A brief demo of Mark Cerny’s PS4 game Knack was shown running on a Vita via PS4; Perry said latency should be imperceptible using Gaikai’s (now bolstered) streaming tech. Perry gave one last tease: “everything everywhere.” He’s hoping that PlayStation Cloud will apply beyond the PS4 and Vita, to mobile devices as well. The service will roll out “in phases,” Perry said, without giving more detail, though he did say that Cloud will power PS1, PS2, PS3, and PlayStation Mobile games on the PS4. the system is not natively backwards compatible with PlayStation 3 Blu-ray discs.