Welcome to the Next Generation

by: Alex N. (@alexnz)

This is going to be quite an exciting year.

Tonight, Sony kicked off the next-gen arms race and gave us a glimpse into their future plans. After watching the livestream of their presentation, I came away very impressed and most importantly EX–CI–TED. Partly because my expectations were tempered after the Vita launch. Now it seems they’re heading on the right track and I’m interested how Microsoft will follow up.
There’s a lot to digest, but I’m going to quickly run through the more important bits.

It’s official, it’s called the PlayStation 4.

ps4-logoSpecs-wise, nothing concrete was announced aside from the 8GB of RAM, which will make LOTS of developers happy. They did also say that the CPU will be based on x86 architecture, which is what runs in modern PCs. This is great, because now developers will have an easy time getting the most out of an already familiar CPU architecture instead of learning from scratch like they did with the proprietary Cell chip that currently powers the PS3. Unfortunately the console itself was not shown and no price announcement. It’s likely that reveal will be left for E3.

ps4controllerThe only part of the hardware that was shown was the controller. Dubbed the DualShock 4, it looks pretty much like the DualShocks of old with some minor changes. Biggest of all is the touchpad that sits above the analog sticks. I’m curious how exactly that will be implemented in games. It looks a bit small and hard to reach. Because of that, I’m having a hard time seeing any practical applications for it.

Also of note, the Share button. Sony’s implementing social features at the very core of the OS. You’ll be able to share video from any game you’re playing, as you’re playing it. With this, friends will be able to peek at what you’re playing and leave comments on your screen. You can also open a public stream on Ustream. They also spoke of virtually handing off the controller to a friend watching your stream and have them take control of your game in progress.

ps4sharebuttonThere’s also a big light bar on the top of the controller. It sounds like its used to distinguish between players, I assume much how the Move controller works with its various colored lights. They also showed a picture of a Kinect-like camera sensor that looks like it will keep track of the position of the controllers, presumably for some motion control features.

Other improvements to the console include the new standby function. At any time during a game, you can basically put the console to sleep and immediately resume where you left off at a later time. No more waiting around for consoles to boot up and load a save!

They’ve also improved the way you download games. You can now start a game download, and once it’s downloaded enough of the game, you can start playing as the rest of the game is downloading in the background. Amazing.

Gaikai tech was also shown off allowing gamers to stream demos instantly. No need to download anything since you’re playing it from the cloud. They also shared plans of adding PS1, PS2, and PS3 games to the cloud streaming service since there won’t be any native backward compatibility on the PS4, but it sounded like it would be a while after launch.

But enough about the functionality, you want to see some GAMES. Rather than write about particle effects and all that sub-surface scattering, how about we just let the videos speak for itself.

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