Sony had an event today and as expected, it introduced the PlayStation 4. The next-gen platform is designed to shift focus from the living room to the gamer, Sony said, and overall, PlayStation’s approach is meant to make it possible for gamers to play wherever they want, whenever they want.
PS4 lead system architect Mark Cerny talked about how the evolution of the PS4 came about, saying it began five years ago, earlier on in the life of the PS3. The PS3 was a first step, which was designed to connect to a variety of services, but it was limited because of how early it launched in that world, Cerny said.
“Much less value is found today in blast processing or a system-on-a-chip,” Cerny said. He suggested tech could interfere with design innovation. The tech remains important, he stressed, but the idea was to create a platform that was all about experience. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s a tune Apple and Steve Jobs started playing years ago when they realized the spec race was a nonstarter in the mobile phone world.
“By game creators, for game creators. It is a powerful and accessible system,” Cerny said on stage, suggesting that this time around there was a strong emphasis on ease of development, hence the use of a standard x86 PC CPU. The GPU is designed for use with “practical tasks,” he said, with the overall goal of making development a painless experience.
Essentially, the PS4 is an advanced, x86-based personal computer, which means that it should be easy for developers to build. All of this is clearly an answer to a major complaint from studios about the previous generation, which was infamously tricky to master from a software perspective.
Sony also unveiled a redesigned DualShock 4 controller, which has the Vita-style touchpad depicted in rumors, ad works with a 3D “stereo” camera accessory to track its movements in a loose approximation of what’s possible with Microsoft’s Xbox Kinect.
The hardware is clearly also borrowing some tricks from mobile games. It has save states that allow users to quickly freeze and resume gameplay, without having to save just by switching on and off the console. There’s also background downloading, which allows digital titles to be played before they’re even completely on your local drive.
Social is another key tentpole for the PS4, according to Cerny. He described a new function that allows you to quickly pause and upload gameplay videos as easily as you might have done with static screenshots in the past. There’s also spectator functionality for watching “celebrities” gaming, something which seems to have been borrowed from Twitter’s success with famous members. Networking will also be based around real names and profile pictures, instead of strictly on gamer tags and avatars, too, and all of this will plug into mobile apps to help gamers stay in touch.