Figuring Out the PlayStation 4 Puzzle

(Ping! Zine Issue 57) – Some may describe Sony’s announcement of the PlayStation 4 in February as more perplexing than actually informative. Missing from the press conference was the actual console hardware itself – although Sony did display the device’s controller. Also missing were a firm release date and price.

So why hold a press conference if you’re going to withhold such key information? Being vague could help Sony receive leverage as it awaits Microsoft’s expected announcement of an Xbox 360 successor. For example, why name a price before you’re aware of what your primary competitor will charge?

And as rumors continue to pop up regarding specifics not made available by Sony just yet, here’s what we do know about the PlayStation 4:

The Hardware: The new PlayStation will feature a Supercharged PC Architecture, X86 CPU, enhanced PC GPU along with 8GB of unified memory – pretty powerful tech components that should satisfy many enthusiasts.

Release Date: No specific release date was made available. However, the company did note the product would be ready for purchase by 2013’s holiday season.

The Controller: The PlayStation’s Dual Shock 4 controller features a touchscreen, a color-coded sensory bar and a share button.

Downloading: Sony is implementing personalization to help makes things a heck of a lot faster. In a press release, Sony explains it this way: “The long-term goal of PS4 is to reduce download times of digital titles to zero: if the system knows enough about a player to predict the next game they will purchase, then that game can be loaded and ready to go before they even click the “buy” button.”

Social: While a lot wasn’t showcased, something Sony did get into a great deal was new social networking functionality that the device would carry. Users will notably be allowed to link their Facebook and PlayStation Network accounts – providing for things like “cross-game chat” and co-op play.

Uploading of gameplay is also something you’re going to hear a lot about. This will be provided for through what Sony describes as “video compression and decompression systems”. A “SHARE button” is included on the PS4 controller, allowing users to quickly edit, tag and upload videos to social networks.

And forget past time. Enter real time. With the PS4, users will be able to live stream gameplay via Ustream – a network of live channels. “During live broadcasts, friends can make comments on the streamed gameplay and, if a gamer gets stuck on a challenging level, friends can also join the game in completely new ways. For example, friends can offer health potions or special weapons when a player needs them most during actual gameplay,” Sony previously stated in a press release.

Old Games: A different approach is being taken to allow users to play previous titles. Older PlayStation games will be made available through cloud services and streaming at a future date, although details were scarce here. Cross compatibility with the PlayStation Vita and PS4 is provided too.

Cloud Gaming: Sony fully intends to harness the power of its PlayStation Network to provide more capabilities via the cloud. In July of last year, the company purchased cloud-based gaming provider Gaikai for the amount of $380 million. Not surpisingly, that’s an investment Sony made to pave way for cloud functionality on the PS4. “In the future, when a gamer sees a title of interest in PlayStation Store, they can immediately start playing a portion of the actual game — not a stripped down version of the game. With Gaikai and PlayStation Store, gamers will be able to experience appealing games and only pay for the games they actually love,” stated Sony through its announcement press release. In addition to that, the company will also build up its Music Unlimited subscription service for the platform.

Pricing: Game fans will have to wait to find out the device’s price – something else that wasn’t revealed with the press conference. However, some are guessing on what may make sense for the market. In an article from Forbes.com, Billy Pidgeon, analyst for Inside Network, provided insight on Sony’s sales price strategy. “I’d like to see maybe two models, one under $300 and one under $400 would be ideal. $299 is the magic price point. I think this current generation took way too long to get there. It has to be under $400 and honestly if they could subsidize it further and take more of a hit, it might be worth their while in the long run,” Pidgeon stated, according to Forbes.com.

Game Lag Reduction: Sony has found an intriguing way to reduce game lag with what it calls “suspend mode.” Game sessions are able to remain active all while the PlayStation 4 is kept in a low state of power. Interestingly enough, game titles can also be downloaded even while the console is in stand-by.

Compatibility with Other Devices: If you’ve heard of Xbox SmartGlass, you shouldn’t be surprised that Sony is taking a similar approach, allowing users to sync game data to other devices including smartphones, tablets and the PlayStation Vita. To make gameplay syncing possible for the Vita, Sony is relying on what it calls “Remote Play.” For making game data available via mobile devices, Sony will rely on a new app simply titled “PlayStation®App.” “Once installed on these devices, users can, for example, see maps on their second screens when playing an adventure game, purchase PS4 games while away from home and download it directly to the console at home, or remotely watch other gamers playing on their devices,” explained Sony in a press release.

 

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