Sony Officially Launches the PS4; Here’s What We Know
As expected, last night’s big Sony PlayStation event was the official announcement of the PlayStation 4. Okay, the existence of the PS4 was never in doubt nor was there any doubt that yesterday’s announcement would be unveiling the PS4. We didn’t actually get to see the console itself but we learned all about it and even got to see some teasers of games for the upcoming console.
Yes, the specs are impressive
Well, we didn’t find out too much about the real specs of the PS4 during the launch event. I think that has more to do with the fact that they didn’t want to bore the audience with technical minutiae of the console’s hardware. However, the post-announcement press release had some more concrete details.
- CPU: x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores
- GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon based graphics engine
- RAM: GDDR5 8GB
- Hard Drive: Built-in
- Optical Drive: BD 6xCAV / DVD 8xCAV
- Input/Output: USB 3.0
- Connectivity: Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1, 802.11 b/g/n wireless
- Audio/Visual Output: HDMI, Analog-AV out, Digital Output (optical)
Well, the information on the processing end is nice to have even if I can’t quite make heads or tails of what it actually means. However, I would have been happy if Sony could have given us a bit more detail about the hard drive than it being built-in. I hadn’t expected it to be plugged into the back and strapped to the console by duct tape but it’s good to know they won’t do that. I suppose this means that they’ll launch with two hard drive sizes and two price points like they did with the PS3.
As speculated, Sony is using the Gaikai cloud gaming service as a workaround for backwards compatibility for the PS4. They are even working on using Gaikai to bring PS1, PS2 and PS3 games to the Vita handheld console.
No details were released as to if you would have to subscribe to the service (now branded as PlayStation Cloud instead of Gaikai) or if you would have to re-purchase any games you currently own if you wanted to play them on PS Cloud.
Download and play at the same time
In something that I wish Steam would have with some big releases (especially since us Canadians have some draconian data caps from our terrible ISPs), the PS4 is capable of downloading and playing games at the same time. This isn’t the PS Cloud service but for digital download of full PS4 games.
PS4 lead system architect Mark Cerny said that downloading would be handled by a secondary chip. This chip is custom designed expressly for downloading and processing games so you can play as you download. I don’t know what the file size is on the PS3 but Max Payne 3 is a 30 GB download on the PC. I’d love to be able to pull that background download while you play with it instead of spreading out the download over months because Shaw Cable is evil.
Sharing is caring
We got to see what looks to be a final version of the PS4 controller and it does have the Share button. The sharing feature ties to video uploading as had been speculated but also streaming and social media.
In addition to that secondary processor for downloading, the PS4 is also set up to record and process video in the background without detracting from your gaming experience. This includes saving a couple of minutes of video on your hard drive which you can trim down to what you want for upload. You can even live stream your play session to Ustream.
Sharing now also includes your social media pals too. The example used was that you can find your Facebook friends on the PSN and share videos to Facebook right from your PS4. Presumably they’ll try to cut a deal with Twitter and YouTube (for videos anyway) before launch.
I like to move it, move it
Okay, I’m just going to throw everything controller related under here. The new controller was unveiled and was a little more polished than the prototype version we previously saw. It still has the touchpad on top and the PS Move style “light bar” on the top. It also has a built-in speaker and headphone jack should you want to use those.
The light bar on the controller will be put to use as the controller will have some motion control element tied in with the new PlayStation 4 Eye camera that will ship with all consoles. Now, it hasn’t been revealed if the Move has been completely replaced by the PS4 Eye. However, a Media Molecule tech demo showed that the old PS Move controller will still work with the PS4 in some capacity. Whether there will be a PS Move 2 or the PS4 Eye, we’ve yet to find out.
The second screen experience
Nintendo’s doing a two screen thing with its Wii Gamepad and Microsoft has their Smart Glass app for mobile devices. Now, Sony is getting in on the action with both the Vita and mobile devices.
The Vita will use remote play to stream games from the PS4 to the Vita’s screen over wi-fi. This is roughly the same thing that you can do with the WiiPad so if someone wants to watch something on TV, you can play your game in the palms of your hands.
Sony also announced the PlayStation App. This has the Smart Glass elements of a map or other supplementary information for your game on your iOS or Android device. When you’re not gaming and/or away from your console, you can buy games, manage your downloads and even watch your friends’ shared videos.
Sony is leveraging the devices they already have to get second screen experiences for the PS4. Since everyone else is moving in that direction (including TV shows like The Walking Dead), it makes sense for Sony to try it with the PS4. While I can’t see myself using the PS App for gaming info, I can definitely see myself using it for buying and downloading games. I can see that functionality being the most popular part of Sony’s two screen setup.
They announced some games too, if that’s your thing
I suppose it wouldn’t be a bad idea to actually show off some software alongside the hardware guest of honour. Sony and some developers/publishers unveiled some games that would be on the PlayStation 4.
The first game unveiled was a cartoony looking game called Knack about a robot that battles goblins. When I want to show off my brand new console, I immediately think of showing off a stylized game that has some nice particle effects but nothing else that screams next-gen.
Fortunately, there were some games that appeared to be PS4 exclusives that looked pretty good though not exactly with mind-blowing visuals quite yet. We’ll see Killzone: Shadow Fall, new racing game Driveclub, and even Braid creator Jonathan Blow’s next game The Witness. Okay, The Witness won’t be an exclusive but it will launch on PS4 before any other platform. Perhaps the biggest exclusive announced was inFAMOUS: Second Son. More inFAMOUS can’t be a bad thing.
Some multi-platform games were confirmed to be coming to PS4 as well. Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs was initially speculated to be a next-gen title and it will launch on PS4 along with the PC, PS3, 360 and Wii U. Bungie’s much hyped new IP Destiny will also be on the PS4. (We’ll have more about the Destiny hype machine tomorrow.)
Capcom and Square Enix both announced that they would have new games coming to the PS4. Capcom unveiled a new IP tentatively called Deep Down which looks to be a medieval fantasy RPG. Square Enix, meanwhile, announced that there would be a new Final Fantasy game on the PS4 (I think that means we’re up to FF15 with this one) and it would be unveiled at E3. Square also replayed their Luminous Engine tech demo from last year’s E3. Hopefully, this means that FF15 will be similar to what we saw last summer.
Perhaps most interestingly when it comes to third-party games was Sony and Blizzard announcing a “strategic partnership.” The first part of this is Diablo III coming to the PS3 and PS4. What else would come from this partnership hasn’t quite been spelled out yet but that touchpad sure looks like it would make playing an RTS on a console much easier.