What we've learned about the PS4

Feature Ryan Lambie 21 Feb 2013 - 14:21

Sony officially launched the PS4 last night,so what do we know about the system now? Ryan takes a look...

With a blast of corporate, blue-toned fanfare, Sony officially confirmed the existence of the PlayStation 4 in a live press conference aired last night. The internet being the hive of rumours and leaked information that it is, many of the things that Sony excitedly told us about its forthcoming console had already been whispered about or sneakily photographed a few days earlier, which deflated the sense of revelation somewhat. But at the same time, the emergence of a new gaming system is always something worthy of a closer look, so what have we learned about the PS4 so far?

The controller

Sony's learned from past experience that the Dual Shock controller isn't something to be trifled with lightly, and the fourth iteration of the device is a logical evolution rather than a radical make-over. Looking just as svelte as it did in those leaked pictures from a few days ago, the Dual Shock 4 will add a touch-pad, a light bar with Move motion support, and an Xbox-style head-phone socket. There's also a share button, which will apparently allow players to share footage of their gaming exports with friends, which is nice.

The lingering question, though, is just how much one of these controllers will cost; at the time of writing, the price of additional Dual Shocks hasn't been mentioned.

The system

Recalling the unveiling of Nintendo's Wii U a few years ago, the actual system itself was talked about but never seen - making it the Harry Lime of last night's press conference. But given just how conservative Sony has been with the styling of the Dual Shock 4, it's logical to assume that the PS4's box will be black, slightly curved and emitting blue light from somewhere, so it's probably not getting too worked up over this particular detail.

Sony was more forthcoming about what's inside the PS4's box, though, and as we've already heard from tentative specs that were bandied around before the conference, the new console will use PC architecture - something the company hopes will make the system easier to develop for.  It'll use  an x86 CPU, a rather vague-sounding "Enhanced PC GPU", and will come with 8GB of unified memory - twice as much as was previously rumoured. Unsurprisingly, there'll be a hard drive, too, which will no doubt come in several different capacities.

Amid all the chatter about GPUs, CPUs and terra-flops, the bit that caught our attention was this: the PS4 will be able to save games to its RAM, meaning we'll be able to just boot the system up and resume play, without having to load the entire game again. We'll also be able to play games as they're streaming, too, which almost sounds like witch craft.

Multimedia and remote play

The conference contained much chatter about social networking and shared experiences, and Sony wants the PS4 to be a digital playground for all sorts of other devices and forms of entertainment. There'll be the ability to transfer games to and from the Playstation Vita, compatibility with smartphones and tablets, and the familiar range of streaming video services, too.

The PS4's ability to stream games has been a topic of discussion for some time, and Sony confirmed that, although the console won't be natively compatible with earlier machines, older games will be available via the cloud, which can in turn be ported over to handheld devices.  This is a function that probably won't be available at launch, however, but rather gradually rolled out within a year or so after release.

What we're happy to note, on the topic of downloading, is that Sony's addressing some of our moans about the PS3 with its new system; game downloads and updates can be performed while the system's off.

The Eye

Sony's answer to Microsoft's Kinect, The Eye will provide a familiar sort of facial recognition and motion-sensing support. It's not yet clear whether The Eye will be bundled with the PS4 or available separately. Expect lots of celebrity fitness games to line the shelves in around 12 months' time.

The games

The first PS4 game to be announced was Japan Studio's Knack, which was a quirky choice, given all the talk about next-gen graphics; a cartoon-like action game, which appears to be about a sort of robot troll who can make himself bigger by magnetically attracting bits of metal (like a less scary Tetsuo: The Iron Man). It looks quite fun, in a Rachet & Clank kind of way.

Guerilla Games' Killzone: Shadow Fall seemed like a more typical PS4 game, and true to form, it looks incredibly handsome. Other games annouced include PS4 versions of Bungie's social sci-fi shooter Destiny, Diablo 3, a driving game called Driveclub, Infamous: Second Son, Ubisoft's sandbox hacking sim Watch Dogs, and Jonathan Blow's indie puzzler, The Witness.

There's also a typically quirky untitled offering from Media Molecule, the creators of LittleBigPlanet. Another game with a creative bent, it allows players to sculpt their own characters with the Move device.

All told, it's an impressive line-up of games from a range of genres, from shooters to racing titles to unusual independent offerings. Some titles were conspicuous by their absence, though; Fumito Ueda's The Last Guardian - a game in development for so long, it's missed the PlayStation 3 entirely - wasn't even mentioned. Similarly, two of Sony's finest exclusive properties - Uncharted and God Of War - weren't in attendance, either. These particular jewels in Sony crown are, no doubt, being kept safely locked away for a dramatic reveal at a later date.

Prices and release

Sony were rather quiet about prices during the conference, but news from The Times suggested that the company might be thinking about a £300 price point in the UK. This would make sense, given that the PS3's £425 launch price was blamed for a relatively slow start for the console - it was after a price drop that sales really began to pick up. Going for a low price to begin with sounds like a sensible means of generating an early swell of support, and would certainly make it a competitive alternative to the Wii U, which retails at around £250 to £290 depending on which system you choose.

The question, though, is whether Sony will really be able to afford to sell a next-gen system for such a low price. We suspect that £300 will only buy us the basic model - one with the smallest hard drive, and possibly lacking the Eye device, while better-appointed models will cost more.

As for a release date, Sony currently has the PS4 scheduled for "Holiday 2013". Going on its earlier track record, this probably means a winter 2013 launch for Japan and the US, while those of us in Europe will have to wait until spring 2014. Sony may surprise us all and go for a simultaneous release for the first time ever - but we won't hold our breath.

Summing up

It could be argued that what we've seen so far from the PS4 isn't particularly surprising or outlandish - like that Dual Shock 4 controller, the PS4 is an evolution of existing ideas. But what the PS4 will offer, though, is a broad range of tools for developers to tinker around with; features which are scattered across three different systems in the current generation - touch pads, motion-sensing cameras, and so on - are all in one package here, and the introduction of PC architecture should entice more indie studios into the fold, too.

Perhaps the most encouraging piece of news arrived after the conference itself. In an interview with Eurogamer, Sony's Shuhei Yoshida revealed that the PS4 won't block used games, as had previously been feared. For many cash-strapped gamers, that'll make purchasing a PS4 a far more attractive proposition.

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Sony stil looked stupid not showing the actual console I'm more concerned with what an iPad does than how it looks but can you imagine apple not showing the product. it would be like Ford launching a new mondeo and only telling you how it drives without showing it to you.

As rightly pointed out in the article - it ain't gonna look much different and its probably in development and further reason to have another press conference & create more hype. Games look good & the being able to access old games is great news

Could someone please explain to me what was so exiting about this event (so many people are raving about it). To me anyway, we knew there was going to be a new ps4 and that it would be more powerful. Most of the tech information means nothing to me and came off as something more for the game developers (who must have already known the specs as they were part of the reveal) and the only way for me at least to get an understanding is to see a fully functioning game (something we didn't quite see, many were mock ups). I felt that everything was being held back for E3 and this event was only there to serve as marketing to get one up over Microsoft by generating customer awareness of the product. Not that there's anything wrong with that but for me it was a rather dull watch. Could people who enjoyed it post here and so I can see what they got out of it

I'll add that since Microsoft now know their release schedule, they will probably aim the 720 for an august september release after a launch at E3. Sony have pages and pages of press today that says nothing but the PS 4 is coming...in 10 months...maybe. no images for people to lust after nothing to provide a focus. Whoever organised that event last night should be fired. all this free press wasted for a company that badly needs it. So So stupid

I watched the whole thing. IT WAS SO DULL. Knack was created by one of the main players at Sony Playstation. It was indeed an odd choice. My theory is he demanded that he be allowed to develop a game otherwise he'd go to Microsoft! He was so freaky. Surprised you haven't really gone into Watch Dogs. Grand Theft Auto is dead to me after seeing the demo! Maybe...

Am sure anyone who watched it will tell you how dull it was. Show me someone who is raving about the launch format and presentations and I'll show you a liar!

Someone do something exciting please, I'm sick of these re-treads of old worn out things. Xbox evolves a lot quicker than PS, who mearly gets a facelift. Yawn.

I for one am very excited about the 'move' style controller.

I would assume this means we can now move the controller to drive a car/plane/space ship etc instead of the D-Pad?

So there will be many men out there acting like 10 yr olds in their living room making car noises as they pretend to drive a car.

Is there any way of making an announcement exciting? No.

It is simply there to let us know whats coming, and the specs.

The exiting part will be 23:59 the day before release! :-)

Didn't the Dualshock 3 have some kind of motion control in it? I bought Lair for the motion control of the Dragon, since then has it been used much? I believe the move feature will be similar, certainly the Move games I played were pretty rubbish barring Sports Champions OTOH if as is rumored the 720 will have Kinect as standard I can see that being huge.

Umm its a Playstation... its going to be a black box. They showed the controller which is more important since it is the thing that you actually play with. Considering they showed you the part you interact with, I don't think either of your analogies are accurate.

The mondeo is a car that works with a peddles and a steering wheel, the iPad is a screen, you don't need to see eother to see what they can do. My point is they had a product launch without the product. And secondly Sony are trying to make this a box for the living room and I can tell you now if the design isn't up to scratch, no matter how good the games are it won't be going in my living room. The first gen PS3 passable, the second and third no chance. The Xbox 360, not a hope in H**l of sitting under my tv as it looks like a box for a kids room.
These devices are moving beyond games and hope to be at the heart of your home. they need good design for that

The PS4 comes across as a development of existing ideas... that's true enough. Yet I'm sure they'll bolt on a full whack price for it, and we aren't even able to use the existing software we've purchased due to their alternative approach to backwards compatability (which by standards so far, will likely require you to pay for games you've bought in the past for a second time).

Secondly, I remember the days when the console was a thing you were proud to present in your living room... it acted as a focal point to compliment your television, rather than being an anonymous box lodged somewhere beneath it. It's bizarre we've moved away from that in these social times, and I think explains many peoples disappointment at not seeing the box, especially after the hype built up this past week - even my Nan knew this event was happening for crying out loud!
It just seemed slightly ironic to launch a product that makes a big deal about instantaneousness and a removal of waiting times, only to make us wait to see the thing in the first place.

I know the event doesn't paint a clear, total picture of what the PS4 will offer, but off the back of a conference that was geared at the widest audience a console launch has probably ever had, I do feel disappointed. Spending two hours to show us a controller that has leaked already, a logo that uses the same font as the current console and a line-up of games that were largely selected from the 'Hall of Launch Line-Up clichés' does not satisfy me when you're urging me to buy a product you're not even going to show me. It was a tease, but not a good one I'm afraid. The financial information around Sony today also suggests it didn't receive the response they were hoping for either.

Slightly unrelated, but is anyone else finding this promotion on DoG to be very annoying. Every time I click on a new page... "My sword can do many things!" O.o

Yes!! Forced to browse with the sound off lol

Just remember folks that Sony have a bad track record for lying their little asses off a launch events. With the PS3 reveal back into 2005, 4 out of the 8 games showed never launched, one that was meant to be actual gameplay, turned out to be a mockup. Gran Tursimo 4, which was spoke about at length, took over 4 years to hit the streets. Lets not even mention Playstation Home, another heavily revealed feature, that took years and then was a complete let down. Bring on the Xbox. With the PSn store currently charging up to £70 for a new release title, who really expects Sony to win many friends in the cloud gaming arena.

I don't have a man cave, and if the PS4 looks like the 2nd and 3rd gen PS3 or the current xbox then my wife won't let it in. sad but true. It's no longer just a device for gamers

Did you get your wife's permission to post that comment?

It would be nice if they were able style the new system so it goes with their current home entertainment system aesthetic. But if it looks too much like a boring old blu-ray player, there's less of a chance the kids will be pleading for mom to buy it for them for Christmas I think. They need to strike a balance, and that must be a terribly difficult thing to do.

xbox all the way tired of the old black box :(

I know! I could never have a matte black console in my house. How gauche!

It needs round edges and blue lights on the side

That was different, back then they didn't have the technology and people were easily pleased , now it's different , too much competition they have to be honest and also the graphics today are good enough , 2005 was Awesome' Sony lying about everything the ps3 could do LOL, loved It. The only thing I hated was that the getaway 3 was Canned

Matt Coloring is so 1999, nowadays it's all about he Gloss Shine , That's what I love about PS3 Fat. Even the new Xbox is nice and glossy , Ps4 will be an Like Large Mac-mini type thing

Oh SNAP...

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