On February 20th, the highly anticipated next-generation video game home console Sony Playstation 4 was announced to the world. It was the second new-gen console to be revealed following the launch of Wii U on 18th November last year.
Much to the disappointment of diehard PlayStation fans around the world though, the announcement didn’t seem to say enough about the new console (heck, they didn’t even reveal the casing design!).
To be fair, the revelation of some of the new features and powerful specifications did give us a heads-up on what to expect from future PS4 unveilings. In particular, the development of the new console seems to revolve around cloud-gaming, the sharing of game experiences and new methods of game interaction.
Here is a summary of 10 things you need to know about PS4 so far:
1. Spruced Up Hardware
Sony had only given a brief summary of what hardware specifications the PS4 will entail:
- A custom-designed single-chip processor by AMD
- An eight-core “Jaguar” 64-bit x86 central processing unit (CPU)
- 8GB of dedicated GDDR5 system memory that gives the system 176GB/second of bandwidth.
- A next-generation AMD graphics processing unit (GPU) Radeon-based graphics engine
- The console also comes with a built-in storage hard disk drive and the most recent USB 3.0 ports.
- The entire set looks set to wow gamers with promises of high-fidelity graphics and a performance comparable to most gaming PCs on the market.
If you haven’t got the slightest idea what these details mean, have a look at the amazing games such high specifications are able to develop. Here are a couple of trailers and gameplays from what some believe to be the launch titles: Destiny, Watch Dogs, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Deep Down, The Witness, Knack and Drive Club.
Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs
2. No Price Tag Yet
Since Sony has yet to showcase the PS4’s full hardware specifications, they are also keeping mum over the exact pricing of the gaming console. The only clue they offered is this comment made by their president, Mr Shuhei Yoshida:
“The architecture choice we have made this time around has allowed us not to invest to create dedicated factories and conducting factories and things like that — so that helps in order for us to provide an affordable price to consumers."
Playstation 3 was selling for US$500-600 when it was first launched in 2006, but such pricing for PS4 is likely to deter sales. Casual gaming on smartphones and the fierce competition that PS4 is expected to face from other next-gen consoles such as the recently released Wii U (US$300) in November last year and the next Xbox console (presumably the Xbox 720), Sony is probably observing the situation before it determines the final price tag.
3. Swipes, Lights and Sharing
One of the most discussed features of the PS4 is its newly upgraded controller, the DualShock 4. At first glance, the most obvious design upgrade is the longer and more rounded handles and the addition of a touchpad just above the two toggle sticks. The latter is a two-point capacitive pad that features a click mechanism. Players can expect a new form of gaming interaction by swiping on the touchpad.
A light bar at the top of the controller shows three LEDs, indicating multiplayer modes. The differently colored lights are for easier identification during gameplay and for indicating statuses, i.e. health status of in-game characters. The lights are also expected to interact with built-in cameras (PlayStation 4 Eye) of the console to produce motion-sensing capabilities, just like the PlayStation Move. The new improved six-axis sensor (3 axis accelerometer and 3 axis gyroscope) is probably incorporated to the controller for the same purpose.
On the top right, is the Option (merging Select and Share options), and on the top-left the Share button (more on that later). The new controller also comes with a built-in speaker and a stereo headset jack at the bottom to generate quality sound effects from both the TV and the controller.
4. Enhanced Motion-Sensing Controls
It appears that the next-generation of gaming will be focusing on motion-sensing controls, what with the popularity of earlier devices like Wii Remote, Xbox 360 Kinect and PlayStation Move.
This time round, the newly developed camera device for PS4 comprises of a pair of high-sensitive cameras with impressive wide-angle lenses of 85-degree diagonal angle views, capable of determining the depth of space of the players reliably.
The high-end cameras also made possible the use of face recognition to log in to the console. Apart from that, four microphones are embedded to detect sounds and their sources accurately. These two awesome features will get players more engaged with the gaming experience by means of body movements and voices.
Not only does the PlayStation 4 Eye support the PlayStation Move controller, it also detects the latter’s motion much more acutely and accurately than its predecessor, the PlayStation Eye for PS3. This includes the newly installed lights on the controller as well for better positioning of the players.
5. Play While You Update
Just like your smartphone and tablet, PS4 enables gamers to resume his or her last game session exactly where they left off, making “immediate gameplay” possible. The “suspend mode” (a low power state) cuts down the time it takes to boot the console, load the game and finally assess your saved game. All you need to do is hit the power button again and you can continue playing from there.
This ‘immediate gameplay’ also means that the game can be updated while you’re playing it, enabling new features to be incorporated instantaneously after they have been downloaded and installed in the background. To further sweeten the deal, gamers can start playing the game after it has been purchased even before the digital title has been completely downloaded.
6. Second Screens
It looks like I was right about secondary screens for gaming in Future of Gaming: 5 Exciting Emerging Trends. PS3 was linked with PlayStation Vita through Cross-Play, and players are able to stop playing the game on one device and resume on the other.
With PS4 though, an entire game can even be streamed from the console to PS Vita over Wi-Fi networks. Sony had in fact indicated their goal of making most PS4 game titles playable on PS Vita (except perhaps those exclusively camera-based games). The capacity for “remote play” is made possible with Sony’s acquisition of Gaikai cloud technology as a game server.
Also a new update is the development of the new “PlayStation App” for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets. Players can use their handheld devices as secondary screens to supplement their gameplay.
For instance, you can be navigating your character from a first or third-person perspective on a TV screen, but using your smartphone to display your in-game map. Other possible uses include purchasing game titles on-the-go and getting them downloaded into your console at home and watching real-time gameplays of other players online.
(Image Source: The Verge)
7. Cloud Gaming
Gaikai, a cloud-based game service was recently acquired by Sony last July, leading many to believe that its upcoming PS4 will incorporate cloud gaming capabilities. True enough, Sony announced on Feb 20 that their PlayStation Network (PSN) will be integrated with Gaikai’s cloud technology.
Leveraging on the latter’s ability to render high-end games on their remote servers before streaming them to internet-connect devices, gamers are now able to play high-end games of their interest from the PlayStation Store instantaneously without needing to consider the hardware limits of their device.
Such service offers players unprecedented freedom to try out top-notch games before purchasing those that they really want from PS Store. A friend’s game can also be streamed and you can even take over too! In theory, you can essentially stream any games you want with the only catch being that you have a fast enough internet connection. This includes older games from previous consoles. It’s probably good to note that we should be mindful of Sony’s pricing plans.
8. No Backward Compatibility
Unfortunately for existing PS3 owners, you cannot play your current PS3 games on the the new, it doesn’t support backward compatibility, at least in the native sense. Your current game discs or downloads you’ve purchased can’t be played on the new console. But these games can’t be emulated on the PS4 console or Cloud (streamed via Gaikai).
Sony had indicated their vision of setting up a PlayStation library through Gaikai with an extensive catalog of more than 3000 PS3 titles. This plan is to even extend to PS1 and PS2 games in the long-run.
9. Games in Digital Format
Following the steps of PS Vita, every PS4 game will be available in digital downloads to diversify their pricing strategy i.e. subscription models, varying membership levels. To do this, Sony is leveraging on their new Gaikai cloud-streaming technology to eventually provide gamers with unique subscription packages. We may not have the details of how these packages will be like, but one thing is likely to happen: physical disc-based products will one day become obsolete.
10. Sharing Made Simple
With the new Share button on the new controller, players can easily press it to record the last few minutes of their gameplay and upload it on social networking sites like Facebook for their friends to see. The entire process is non-intrusive: you can still continue with your game while the uploading takes place in the background.
No more having to go through the hassle of recording your moments of victories with your own recording device, compressing and decompressing the video format before successfully sharing it.
Other than Facebook, live Internet-streaming services like UStream are also integrated with the PS4 to allow for social spectating. Gamers can broadcast their gameplay and stream it in real-time to their friends; commenting is possible via live chats. If they see that you’re in trouble, they can even join in the game and assist you. At the most extreme, a ‘hand-holding’ feature allows a remote user to take control of your game (with their own controller) to get you through a challenging level!
There are still many questions unanswered, including the pricing of the console and online services, confirmed launch game titles, the exact release date, the final look of the console, etc. With PS4 scheduled to be released by the end of this year, it’s just a matter of months before all the crucial facts are publicized.