Sony’s PS4 Conference

In an extremely anticipated event on February 20th, Sony finally revealed the PlayStation 4 to the public, along with some upcoming games for the system. The system is coming out for the 2013 holiday season, and sports impressive technical specifications and a modified DualShock 4 controller with extra features like a touchpad and a built-in speaker.

PS4 Logo

As I did for last year’s E3 conferences, I have prepared a comfortable bullet-point summary of the major announcements during the conference, in order of appearance.

PS4 Conference

  • Introductory talk about Vita’s and PSN’s future
  • PlayStation 4 announced, it’ll be more than a “gaming-only” device, but it’ll focus heavily on the gamer
  • Planning the PS4 started more than 5 years ago
  • Sony talked to developers about the desired specs of the PS4, and their needs were a primary concern when choosing the specs
  • PS4’s architecture will be very similar to the PC, making it very easy to develop on
  • PS4 will have an X86 CPU, enhanced PC GPU, 8 GB of unified memory (GDDR5, 176 GB/s bandwidth), HDD (capacity not specified)
  • DualShock 4 will have a touch pad, light bar, built-in mono speaker and “Share” and “Options” buttons
  • New PS Eye is also coming
  • Live Unreal Engine 4 demo running on prototype hardware
  • Live Havok demo
  • Trailer for Knack – upcoming PS4 title with graphical style reminiscent of DreamWorks’ animated movies. It’s about a war between humans and machines, and Knack is a shape-shifting robot fighting on humans’ side
  • Five key principles of PS4 architecture: simple, immediate, social, integrated, personalised
  • Suspend/resume option for games, no more long boot times
  • “Share” button on the PS4 controller broadcasts your gameplay directly to the Internet. Respectively, you can be a spectator to others’ games
  • PS4’s network services to use real names and profile pictures
  • PS4 will feature integration with smart phones, tablets, etc.
  • PS4 will be able to predict what games you want to play and highlight them for you
  • Gaikai service to allow gamers to stream anything from the PS Store
  • Partnerships with Ustream and Facebook regarding the aforementioned social aspect of the PS4 and the streaming of games
  • Remote play is built into the PS4 architecture – server-client relationship between PS4 and Vita based on Gaikai technology
  • PS4 to have Netflix, Amazon, Epix, NHL Game Center, MLBTV, etc.
  • Backwards compatibility to be handled by Gaikai – PlayStation Cloud initiative. Eventually, all PS1, PS2 and PS3 games could be playable
  • Developers talk about the PS4 – Tim Schafer, David Cage, Randy Pitchford. Developers are pleased with the system, it’ll allow them to create with no restrictions
  • Killzone: Shadow Fall trailer and live demo – FPS (of course), looks good, colourful, running on an updated version of Guerilla’s proprietary engine
  • Trailer for Drive Club – ultra realistic (down to the smallest details like material parameters) racing game by Evolution Studios – it’ll be about challenges, high social integration, asynchronous multiplayer
  • Trailer for InFamous: Second Son – features a character with super-human abilities (yep)
  • The Witness trailer – first-person puzzle-solving quest game somewhat reminiscent of Myst
  • Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls’ director David Cage talks about how the technology is so advanced developers are only limited by their imagination
  • Media Molecule’s Alex Evans talks about their next project – PS Move game allowing you to “record your dreams” – it doesn’t become clear what exactly it is
  • Third-party support for PS4 will be massive – many game developer logos shown
  • Yoshinori Ono talks about a new Capcom engine called “Panta Rhei” that’ll run on PS4
  • Deep Down trailer – Capcom game running on the aforementioned engine, fantasy genre, a battle with a dragon is shown, looks absolutely stunning
  • Yoshihisa Hashimoto from Square Enix presents a follow-up video to Agni’s Philosophy from last E3 – says that’s the level of quality Square Enix will aim for for its next-gen titles
  • A Final Fantasy for the PS4 is in development and will be shown at E3
  • Live demo of Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs – quite impressive
  • Chris Metzen of Blizzard talks about partnership between Blizzard and Sony
  • Diablo III is shown, it’ll be available on PS3 and PS4, will feature 4-player couch co-op
  • Activision will also support the PS4 with its blockbuster franchises, of course
  • Bungie’s upcoming MMOFPS Destiny will also appear on PS3 and PS4, with exclusive content for the Sony platforms
  • PlayStation 4 is coming out for the holiday season of 2013
  • After the conference, Shuhei Yoshida confirmed to Eurogamer that PS4 will NOT block used games
  • ~150 third-party companies on board

PS4 DualShock 4

PS4 specifications:

PS4 Specs

Source: http://www.scei.co.jp/corporate/release/pdf/130221a_e.pdf (the document also includes a list of third-party companies that will develop on the PS4)

PS4 DualShock 4 controller specifications:

PS4 DualShock 4 Specs

Source: http://www.scei.co.jp/corporate/release/pdf/130221b_e.pdf

It sure was an exciting conference, with lots shown. As a whole, I am cautiously optimistic about the PS4. PS4 footage looked absolutely stunning, a great upgrade from the current generation, despite all the nay-sayers in the past explaining about how graphics had reached a peak with the current generation. And these are early titles we’re talking about. I am also absolutely delighted with the specs, especially the 8 GB of DDR5 RAM. That’s amazing potential for the developers. I’m happy with Sony listening to the developers’ suggestions about the PS4 architecture. The DualShock 4 also has some potential with its improved analog sticks and trigger buttons, although I don’t think additions like the touch pad will be very useful. I’m just not a fan of gimmicks, I liked the tried and true means of controlling your games. I was somewhat thrilled with Knack, The Witness, Deep Down and the Square Enix video – the rest of the games aren’t really up my alley. I’m interested in the gameplay streaming capabilities of the PS4, too.

On the negative side, “PS4 will use your real names and profile pictures” was by far the most worrying. I don’t want my game console playing Big Brother on me, I like to keep my privacy. I think this will turn out to be mostly a misunderstanding, though, and people won’t be required to give away their private information. Backwards compatibility also didn’t sound well – like something that’s still far away in the future. Best to assume PS4 will have none of it at this point. But sacrifices had to be made in order to make the PS4 architecture developer-friendly (different architecture means bigger BC requirements). Of course, the fact that a price has still not been announced is also something to keep in mind – but I’m sure Sony have learned from their mistake with the PS3 and it’ll be nowhere near $599. One thing I simply don’t understand is people, including “professional” game journalists, complaining about the PS4 box itself not being shown at the conference. What a joke… When it comes to hardware, looks are far less important than what’s inside, and we got the more important part – the specs, which seem to be the bomb.

As a whole, PS4’s future seems bright at this point. Powerful hardware, developer-friendly architecture, massive third-party support guaranteed to develop high-budget, quality titles on such strong hardware. The rumours about the PS4 blocking used games were also not true (which means Microsoft won’t do it, too, as it’d practically kill their next console). As long as they don’t ask too high a price and don’t actually force the whole “Big Brother” thing on players, Sony are well on their way to have a massive hit on the market.

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