Several leaks over recent days have hinted that today’s Sony press event was going to be about its next-gen games console, and Sony has just revealed that it’s all true and that the PlayStation 4–of course–is indeed on the way.
Sony’s event began with a frank admission that the gaming console market needed radical innovation, and its previous effort, the PS3, didn’t quite deliver. Console machines had been single purpose, with a game cartridge or CD to deliver access to new content–and the PS3 arrived when all this was in flux. Given the shifting sands, Sony says, there were natural limitations to what the PS3 could do. Instead it’s promising its PS4 is a “shift from thinking of a box or console.” Instead gamers will find that the PlayStation 4 is “the best place to play,” in a highly personalized, powerful gaming environment.
As leaked photos had suggested, the PS4 will build in ideas from Sony’s PSP handheld machine and its heritage: The controllers for the PS4 are a radical change (though less so than the Wii U’s controllers) because they have a built-in track pad and 3-D positional sensing systems much like the earlier Xbox Kinect-rivaling PS Move system. The console hardware itself will be based on “supercharged” PC-like architecture, a little like the PS3, and Sony’s moved to make programming the thing simpler: The company seems to have learned its lessons that the PS3’s Cell chip was almost too innovative for games coders to master.
A key part of the PS4 is background processing for downloading content and other actions during play. And there’s a big social angle, so players can share video of their play almost as soon as they’ve done it. There’s also emphasis that this new social angle will reach smartphones and tablets via social networks like Facebook and companion apps. The console will also learn gamers’ likes and dislikes, and may even pre-load content, and games, that will appeal to a user.
Sony is playing a difficult game here, with the rise of casual gaming on smartphones and tablets seriously eating into the console gaming market. A former MS executive has even intimated that Apple could “kill” Sony’s, Microsoft’s, and Nintendo’s market by adding apps to the Apple TV.
Controversially, Sony’s saying that PS3 games won’t be available on the PS4 at first.
Does Sony stand a chance with its PS4? Will it be too late? Is it innovative enough?