NEW YORK -- Sony Computer Entertainment ended weeks of speculation and unveiled its next generation PlayStation 4 Wednesday at a presentation at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom. Calling it the “most personalized experience available today,” Sony highlighted the increased mobility, decreased download times, and strong social-networking component of its new device.
The PS4, the first new PlayStation available in seven 7 years, will be available commercially in time for the year-end will holiday season, 2013, marking an unusually fast turnaround of less than a year.
The announcement marked an important step for the Japanese consumer electronics giant. Its original PlayStation, released in 1994, was the first game console to sell more than 100 million units, and the second iteration, the PlayStation 2, became the best selling console of all time.
But console growth has not been robust in the last few years, and Sony has faced increasing competition from devices such as Microsoft’sXbox, Nintendo’s Wii U, and from games delivered directly to computers and other hand-held devices.
Before an audience of more than a thousand invited guests, 1200, Andrew House, president and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment, declared that “today marks a moment of truth and a bold step forward for PlayStation.” The new device, House said, will be “consumer-centric, developer-inspired, and characterized by an unwavering commitment to phenomenal play experiences”
Lead architect Mark Cerny outlined the specifications of the new system, describing it as a “supercharged’ PC with eight gigabites 8 GB of unified memory and HDD storage.
Sony put a particular emphasis on the social aspects of the PS4. The new DualShock 4 controller is equipped with a headphone jack and a “share” button, both designed to increase social interaction.
Players will be able to broadcast their play in real time, comment on each others’ activity, and even ask friends for help. The system’s interface will also be customized to individual gamers and will feature news, updates from friends, and new game recommendations based on user preferences.
Usability is also a major selling point of the console. A sudden sleep mode will make it possible to instantly suspend and resume play at the press of the power button. Users , and users will also be able download and update while playing, and to instantly play games while they are downloading.
In partnership with Gaikai, the online gaming company it acquired last year, Sony also has plans to build what executives they touted as the world’s fastest gaming network, but did not provide further details.
Executives also did not provide a price point for the new controller, though published reports have put it between $400 and $500.
Gaikai’s cloud technology will also enable users to instantly resume play on the PS Vita portable device after suspending activity on their console. “The living room is no longer the center of PlayStation eco-system,” House said.
The presentation also included sneak peeks at the many new games that will be available on the new system, including a “Drive Club,” an automotive team-racing game from Evolution Studios, and “Killzone: Shadowfall,” a combat action drama from Guerilla Games.