PS4

The PlayStation 4 has kept its appearance under wraps so far, but at E3 it's finally shown its face...and its price: $399, which undercuts Microsoft's Xbox One by $100.

The PlayStation 4 was originally announced at an event in New York City back in February, during which we heard lots of details about features and strategy but didn't glimpse the system itself -- just its new controller.

Now that it's been revealed, we know that it's: a black box. In fact, it not only looks like a PlayStation 2 on steroids, but it bears more than a passing resemblance to the equally portly and piano-black Xbox One.

Design About that design: the angled parallelogram design of the PS4 clearly conjures PlayStations of the past, most clearly the PlayStation 2. It's an attractive look, but it's boxy; it doesn't seem nearly as big as the Xbox One, however.

The PS4, revealed.

(Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment)

 

Also, box design really means nothing. But, hey, at least we know what it'll look like next to our television, and it's fine-looking without being obtrusive.

Used games: Yes The PlayStation 4 will support used games and won't need to be online in order to play games. Both of these issues have reared their head on the Xbox One.

 (Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment)

 

PlayStation Plus and PS4: Free games The PS4 will support the same PlayStation Plus service as the Vita and PS3, with no new subscription price increase: it's all folded together.

The PS4 will have its own Instant Game collection service; Drive Club PS Plus Edition will be the first free game at launch, with one free game a month after that. Titles will include Don’t Starve and Outlast.

Sony’s been smart to offer up free games via Plus, and you have to wonder if Microsoft is taking notice: a similar offering of free monthly games was announced for Xbox 360 owners subscribing to Xbox Live Gold.

 (Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment)

 

Video content and services Leading off the PS4 discussions at E3 was a mention of Sony's video efforts, seemingly aiming for a similar type of video-content approach with the console as Microsoft is with the Xbox One. Sony touted its studio strength and the eventual launch of exclusive videos coming only to the PS4, but it’s unclear what those are.

Video services like Video Unlimited, Redbox, and Flixster are some of the services launching on the PlayStation Network, but it looks like these services will be available on the PS3, too.

The big challenge with fronting content as a reason to buy a console is this: can game systems really become video networks? Microsoft and Sony seem to be betting on this direction, and it’s a dicey endeavor.

Gaikai and cloud streaming Gaikai cloud technology, acquired last year by Sony, was discussed back in February as a possible trial-based way of playing games before buying, working via streaming-game technology. Back then, David Perry, CEO of Gaikai, discussed the many ways that PlayStation Cloud services will potentially reinvent the back end of the PlayStation experience.

Gaikai technology will also be used to power the PS4's spectating experiences, and that aforementioned ability to continually one-button broadcast your game progress via Share. It's certainly the first time a home gaming console has entered this territory, although PC gamers have enjoyed similar types of functions and services (OnLive, for instance). The streaming/sharing technology will also work with Facebook and Ustream. ?It doesn't seem to be coming this year, though. Sony announced at E3 that the PlayStation’s cloud gaming service will be available in 2014, offering PS3 games streamed via the cloud. The service will start in the U.S. first. And, interestingly, Gaikai services won't be limited to the PS4; the PS3 and eventually the Vita will benefit from Gaikai as well.

New games Sony demonstrated games at E3 -- as you’d expect -- in a mix of new IP and sequels: The Order, Killzone: Shadow Fall, and Infamous: Second Son, and The Dark Sorceror. Some of these were teased back in February at Sony’s last event. It was hard to glean, just like before, what advantages the PS4 was offering these games that the PS3 couldn’t accomplish, but for the most part these games looked pretty.

Sony's also pledging massive third-party support, and a very easy process for independent developers to publish on the PS4.

More to come, but read below on details from the New York event. This post will be updated.

 

(Credit: Sony Computer Entertainment)

 

Hardware The PlayStation 4, as you'd expect for a seven-years-later follow-up, has impressively bumped specs:

An eight-core X86 AMD Jaguar CPU

1.84-teraflop AMD Radeon graphics engine (with "18 compute units")

8GB of GDDR5 memory

Hard-drive storage (not SSD)

Blu-ray drive

Three USB 3.0 ports

802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi

Ethernet, HDMI, Bluetooth 2.1, optical audio and analog AV out

 

The PS4 will use a hard drive for storage versus an SSD, but the included capacity in the box (and whether it'll be as easily swappable as the PS3's hard drive) hasn't been specified. The specs overall match that of a modern PC with integrated AMD processors and graphics, or so it seems. It's not a particularly stunning set of specs for a PC, but it's far ahead of any existing game console. It's just not as ahead-of-its-time on the hardware end as the original PlayStation 3 seemed to be.

Immediacy of response reducing lag time while accessing content is also one of the promised PS4 features (unlike the extremely laggy Wii U, perhaps). The PS4 will allow speedy background downloading, and Sony claims that games will even be playable as they're being downloaded.

 

 (Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

 

Yes, the PS4 will have a Blu-ray drive that can also play DVDs, although Sony curiously left any mention of that out of the presentation. According to Sony's press release issued after the event, the PS4 will also have three USB 3.0 ports, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Ethernet, Bluetooth 2.1, HDMI, Analog AV-out, and optical digital audio output.

What about PS3 games playing on the PS4? Sony has so far discussed PlayStation 3 gameplay on the PS4 under the same umbrella as playing PlayStation 1 and PS 2 games, via a digital library in a yet-to-be-determined PlayStation Cloud Service. Whether this would be accomplished via streaming, digital downloads, or emulation wasn't specified, but it sounds like Sony's answer to the Virtual Console.

 

The DualShock 4 controller.

(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

 

DualShock 4 and the new PS Eye: Touch and move The new DualShock 4 controller is one of the few parts of the PS4 that there are actual pictures of. Much like the advance rumors, it feels like a fusion of the PlayStation DualShock with some of the design philosophies of both the Vita and the Move. It has enhanced rumble, a touch pad, a "Share" button, a standard headphone/microphone jack that will accept standard headphones, and light-up bar that looks like a transplanted top of a Move wand. The two-finger touch pad with click, located right in the middle of the controller, has the same look as the pad on the back of the PS Vita handheld. The DualShock 4 also has a Micro-USB port, Bluetooth 2.1, and Sixaxis gyroscope/accelerometers.

The PlayStation 4 Eye has also been redesigned: instead of the single Webcam-like lens setup before, the new almost Kinect-like bar has stereo cameras, and works with the light bar for motion controls. It comes packed in with the PlayStation 4.

 

 (Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

 

Online: The new social sharing Sony promises that you'll be able to scan the last few minutes of your gameplay with the push of a "Share" button on the DualShock 4, uploading screenshots or clips, and even spectate and chat during other people's games like PC gamers already do. Many screens shown at the PlayStation event show what looks like a serious revamp of Sony's social gaming network, using what look like real photos and names for players. Whether or not video game footage-sharing is a feature with mainstream appeal has yet to be determined.

 (Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

 

 

PlayStation Vita and remote play Can the Vita and PS4 be best friends? Sony promises that the Vita will be very integrated with the PS4, and the two will be wonderful together using Remote Play game-streaming. It sounds somewhat like what the Nintendo Wii U enables on the GamePad, except in this case the experience will be translated onto a fully independent handheld device.

 (Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

 

If this works as promised, it could help make the PS4 and Vita a hardware match worth getting -- improved transmission times between the Vita and PS4, as promised, result in an experience as seamless as what Nintendo achieves on the Wii U GamePad. Sony's aiming to have most PS4 games be Vita-playable via remote play. No further details were given; apparently, that will be discussed "later in the year," too.

Cell phones, tablets...second screens, too? Whether phone, PC, or portable gaming device, Sony also made big promises regarding integrated gaming that will follow you wherever you go. What that actually entails -- an app, social gaming, or something like true game streaming -- wasn't clearly defined, either, but it sounded like Sony's continuing attempt to broaden PlayStation support via Sony tablets, phone, and electronics. It's important to note that other game consoles like the Xbox 360 already allow this type of integration via certain apps, and many games do as well.

The core social elements of the PS4 are being promised to work on smartphones, tablets, and the Vita as well -- on stage, the clean-looking social browser was shown on various devices, including streaming video of gameplay.