PS4: 10 things you need to know about Sony’s new console

Feb. 21, 2013 | 5:57 a.m.
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Eric Hirshberg, Chief Executive Officer of Activision Publishing, talks as Sony introduces the PlayStation 4. Credit: Emanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty Images

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Video game designer Mark Cerny talks as Sony introduces the PlayStation 4. Credit: Emanual Dunand / AFP/Getty Images

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Video game designer Mark Cerny talks as Sony introduces the PlayStation 4. Credit: Emanual Dunand / AFP/Getty Images

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Christopher Vincent Metzen of Blizzard Entertainment announces "Diablo III" for the Playstation 4. Credit: Emanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty Images

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French musician, writer and video game designer David Cage, head of game developer studio Quantic Dream, talks during the PlayStation event. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images

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Video game designer Mark Cerny talks about the social features of the Playstation 4. Credit: Emanuel Dunand / AFP/Getty Images

PS4 is finally here. Sony delivered its next-generation console plans to the world Wednesday, debuting the PlayStation 4 during an event in New York City.

Broadcast worldwide, with an admittedly shaky feed, Sony spoke about its new hardware, new games and new plans for the future. The event ultimately lasted about two hours, and there remains much to dissect.

So let’s run through the biggest announcements, and absences, from Sony’s major conference.

Release date: At the very end of the event, Sony revealed a vague launch window for the console — “Holiday 2013.” Whether that means October or December remains to be seen, but at least there’s confirmation that the PS4 will launch this year.

Controllers: Remarkably similar to the leaked prototypes reported on by The Times last week, the new Dualshock 4 controllers have a touchscreen in the center, a share button and feature color-coded sensory bars, which will interact with a light bar to determine depth, location and more.

Social as a priority: There were rumors that Sony would pursue a significant social infrastructure in the PS4, and they were right. It appears to have been built from the ground up with social in mind, integrating real-world identification, Facebook and dynamic real-time sharing. Players will be able to not just quickly cut clips of recent gameplay footage, but stream live game sessions to friends, thanks to Sony’s dealings with Ustream.

PHOTOS: A look back on the PlayStation

Blizzard!: It’s been forever since Blizzard, the company that has dominated PCs with “World of Warcraft,” “Starcraft” and “Diablo,” has released a game for consoles. But that’s all changing with the release of “Diablo III,” not just on PS3, but on the PS4 as well. What the game looks like on console hardware, and what the reconfigured interface looks like will be unveiled next month at PAX East.

No backward capability…yet: The PS4 won’t be able to play PS2 or PS3 games, it’s true. But Sony’s stated hope is that eventually, by utilizing the cloud and the PS4′s existing streaming abilities, that emulation of the entire PlayStation line’s library of games will be possible at some point.

Remote play: What’s good for Nintendo is apparently good for Sony. Announcing remote play between the PS4 and PlayStation Vita, Sony leapfrogged one of the competing Wii U’s selling points: the ability to take a full-fledged console game off the television and onto a mobile device. Utilizing Gaikai’s streaming software, the PS4 will act as a server, and the Vita as a client.

The ultimate goal, according to Gaikai Chief Executive David Perry, is to make “every PS4 game playable on the PlayStation Vita.” How PS4 games, which use a controller with more buttons than the Vita has, will work with such a transition remains unknown.

More from the PS3 stalwarts: “Killzone” and “Infamous,” two series that released a couple of titles apiece on the PS3, return for new installments on the PS4. “Killzone Shadow Fall” was displayed with more than seven minutes of real-time gameplay demonstration, looking to maintain the series’ FPS fundamentals. “Infamous: Second Son,” teased a storyline apart from the first two games, featuring what may have been a new protagonist with the same projectile and mobility-based superpowers.

The hardware specs: The PS4 will feature an X86 CPU, enhanced PC GPU, 8GB unified memory, local HD and GDDR 5 system memory. What that means in layman’s terms is that the PS4 will be significantly more powerful than the PS3, but don’t expect the same graphical leap as was experienced between the PS2 and PS3. Given the demos on display during Sony’s debut, it’s likely that all but the most hardcore PC gamers will be impressed by the console’s initial graphical displays.

Online purchasing: Sony promised that downloadable games would be playable the moment they begin downloading, with the game forcing the downloads into the background initially. What wasn’t mentioned in the event was whether Sony would continue its current PlayStation Plus system, which provides basic online gameplay and functions for free while putting a cost premium on additional features, or if it would move toward something like Xbox Live, which puts a paywall on pretty much anything worthwhile.

But where’s the console? And the price?: Two crucial questions remain in the wake of Sony’s PS4 announcement. What does the console actually look like? And how much will it be? Perhaps Sony learned from its PS3 announcement, which featured fans recoiling from its $599 price point, but if Sony can’t bring the price down to something manageable, E3 or another press event will bring more of the same.

-Morgan Little

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