PlayStation Preps for Round 4

Sony officially unveiled their next-generation video game console, PlayStation 4, at their live “Future of PlayStation” press conference in New York City last Wednesday. The console is expected to be released this holiday season.

The system will be the first new home gaming console released by Sony since the PlayStation 3 launched back in 2006. Sony representatives stated that the console was to be the “most powerful platform ever” released by Sony, and it will have a strong focus on social networking in gaming. Currently, there is no official confirmation regarding price from Sony.

Andrew House, the current president and Group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, said that the PlayStation 4 will offer the kind of multi-dimensional experience gamers deserve, and will “unleash imaginations to create next generation experiences that will surpass gamer’s wildest expectations.”

The announcement follows weeks of strong speculation after a teaser video popped up on Sony’s Facebook and Twitter page on January 31, which stated that “the future” of PlayStation would be revealed on February 20 at 6:00 pm eastern time. This was followed by a number of retrospective videos released by Sony chronicling the history of their previous consoles, as well as leaked information regarding the systems new controller design.

According to Mark Cerny, the lead system designer of the PS4, the console had been in development since 2008. The goal in developing the system, according to Cerny, was for it to be, “a consumer focused yet developer centric in its design,” with the hopes that the console would, “unleash the creativity and innovation that would result in a true next-generation experience.”

Regarding the consoles hardware specs, Cerny described it as being “like a PC in many ways, but supercharged.” The console features an X86 CPU chip – the most common in game consoles – an Enhanced PC GPU, and 8 Gigabytes of unified system memory, which dwarfs the PS3’s 256 Megabytes.

Although the physical console itself was not shown, Cerny did reveal the systems new controller, the DualShock 4. The controller strongly resembles previous DualShock controllers, but features a touch pad, a share button for online streaming, a headphone jack, and a light bar, which will work hand-in-hand with a stereo camera that tracks the 3D positioning of the controller.

Cerny described the consoles five main pillars as “Simple, Immediate, Social, Integrated, and Personal.” The PS4, according to Cerny, will deliver a number of new features and experiences to address these, including a more streamlined, user-friendly interface and increased social media features, including Facebook-like profiles for users and the ability to share videos and pictures of gameplay sessions through the PS4 interface and social media sites.

The PS4 will also be able to adapt to individual gamers interests, as the system will be able to learn what kind of games players are interested in and have them ready to download for players as they are released. The system will also feature a new download feature that allows players to upload and download games while the system is off, and will even allow users to play games as they are downloading, Cerny said.

During the conference, David Perry, CEO of cloud-based gaming service Gaikai, announced they would be powering the PlayStation Cloud Service on the PS4. According to Sony, Gaikai is “the fastest and most powerful network for gaming in the world,” and will allow the console to stream games and downloadable content faster than ever before.

Despite previous rumors stating otherwise, Sony executive Shuhei Yoshida confirmed after the conference that the PS4 will be compatible with previously owned games. However, Yoshida also confirmed that the system will not be able to play both physical and digital PS3 games.

Aside from hardware specs and console features, the event also showcased a number of upcoming titles for the PS4, some of which have never been announced to the public before the event, while others have been known to be existing projects.

The first of these games to be announced was “Knack,” a colorful, cartoony action/platformer in the vein of the “Ratchet & Clank” games. Cerny, who is the lead director behind the game, said that the game is meant to bring back “the joy of play I remember so well from the early PlayStation days.”

Along with new IP’s, a number of sequels to existing PlayStation franchises will be making their way to the PS4. This includes “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” the newest addition to the popular shooter franchise developed by Guerrilla Games, and “Infamous: Second Sun,” the latest in the open-world superhero series, “Infamous,” developed by Sucker Punch. Both of which were announced at the show, complete with gameplay footage and trailers.

Sony also took some time to shine the spotlight on the indie game world, as Jonathan Blow, creator of the acclaimed puzzle/platformer Braid, announced his latest project, “The Witness,” as a PS4 exclusive. Blow describes the game as a very compact open-world experience, saying, “Players will have a very dense experience that will give them the best use of their time.”

Major third party developers Capcom and Square Enix also made an appearance at the conference, each revealing a trailer for their new respective PS4 titles. Shinji Hashimoto, the director of the Final Fantasy brand, also hinted that a new Final Fantasy game would be revealed at this year’s E3.

A few major third party titles that were previously announced were also confirmed for release on the PS4 during the show. These titles include Ubisoft’s hacker-oriented action title “Watch_Dogs” and former “Halo” developer Bungie’s new first person shooter “Destiny.” This will be the first game Bungie has released since going independent from Microsoft in 2007.

Another company experiencing firsts is Blizzard Entertainment, who is pairing with Sony to release last year’s action/MMO “Diablo III” on the PS4 and PS3. Known more for PC games like the massively successful “World of Warcraft” franchise, Chris Metzen, Blizzard’s senior vice president of story and franchise development, said, “Blizzard and Sony have entered into a strategic partnership through which we will take over the world.”

House said that there will be more titles and announcements regarding the PS4 to be made in the months leading up to its Holiday 2013 release, including an official release date and a price confirmation.