PlayStation 4, The Future of Play – PlayStation Meeting 2013

PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 has officially been announced, and with its announcement next-generation gaming is quickly becoming this-generation gaming.

The PS4 has its release scheduled for the 2013 holidays, which isn’t really that far away. And before you go looking for any shots on this page, I’ll be frank:

There are no shots of the console itself.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s take a look at the specs we can look forward to.

The PlayStation 4 Console

  • PlayStation 4Processor: x86 32-bit CPU
  • GPU: PC GPU, 2 teraflops
  • Memory: 8GB GDDR5 Unified Memory
  • Storage: Hard Disk Drive

Analysis: At first glance the specs don’t look that great. Heck they don’t look that great after I’ve had a cup of hot chocolate and an hour to process the media event that unfolded tonight.

The system will be using x86 architecture, the same 32-bit architecture that limits Windows PCs to 4GB of usable RAM (the PS4 actually uses 64-bit architecture, see the update below), but the catch here is that while that looks weak, the system will be APU-based meaning that both the GPU and CPU are veritably linked, sharing the same resources. The system’s RAM specifications echo this, the PlayStation 4 will be using 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, basically really fast RAM that is usually just used for high-end GPUs. In fact, the CPU and GPU will be sharing this GDDR5. For comparison, my lightning-quick PC uses 32GB of DDR3 RAM.

The real downer here is that the PS4 will be using an HDD instead of an SSD. HDDs are reliable but they just don’t come close to the speed that SSDs offer (think 11 second boot time versus one minute boot time). Regardless, the PS4 is touted to come with instant on and off ability, effectively saving what you’re playing to the system’s RAM and quickly powering down the console in standby mode. Quick GDDR5 RAM might just make the HDD bearable.

Update: See the full technical specifications at the bottom of this article. Also, it seems that the system will be using 64-bit architecture. Good on you, Sony.

 The DualShock 4 Controller

DualShock 4It’s definitely weird, but I guess all controllers look weird when you are first introduced to them.

In my eyes, the controller is a mix of the PS Move and DualShock 3. It offers the same robust control scheme that the DualShock series of controllers has been known for since the original PlayStation but it also has some funky new features, most notably that ugly touchpad on the front of the controller. Here’s hoping that better controller designs or perhaps skins will be available for the controller.

According to the PlayStation Meeting, the DS4 will also have a lightbar on the end of it, which will serve two purposes. The first is to readily indicate which player is which (player 1 might have the blue light for instance). The second is to serve as a way for the PS4′s stereo depth sensor to understand how the controller is moving or being held. The controller will also sport the same SixAxis stuff that PlayStation gamers have collectively forgotten about.

The feel of the controller is also “tighter” according to Sony, with different triggers and the like. I didn’t get a good enough look at the triggers myself but they did look rounded off during the broadcast. The thumbsticks have a recessed area and a tactile lip in order to give thumbs a little more grip, an appreciated improvement there.

The Share Button

Killzone Shadow FallOne thing that was apparent during the length of the broadcast is how important a role the Share button will play in PlayStation’s brand strategy. According to Sony, the Share button serves as an important way of keeping the action flowing while still saving great shots and moments for friends or anyone who happens to care what you are doing in your free time. Hit the button and you pause the action, giving you the option to save a video recording of the last few minutes of gametime, trimming out the fat, perhaps in an effort to showcase how you reached a secret location in a level or how to defeat a particularly tricky encounter. This functionality was demonstrated live when a gameplay section was uploaded straight to the Killzone Facebook page.

Sony’s partnership with Ustream as well as its acquisition of Gaikai also give rise to the ability to livestream games as you play them. Presenters talked about the ability to broadcast your game to an audience, seeing their comments appear on your screen if you wished, with the added ability to give up the controller and let someone else play for you. Sounds pretty cool actually.

The PlayStation 4 will also be host to all the usual social bevy that we’ve become used to in the past decade. Sharing all sorts of stuff, probably some sort of Like button, as well as commenting. The activity feed/dashboard/whatever also looks like it’s derived its layout a bit from Pinterest. Profiles will utilize usernames as they do now as well as real names. Expect heavy Facebook support. Oh and trophies will be making a return. They weren’t mentioned but they did show up in many of the PSN screenshots.

The PS Vita is Repurposed

Along with quick news at the top of the broadcast that the PS Vita will be introduced to the living room (streaming or playing through TVs will finally be possible I guess), Sony revealed a subtle plan for the Vita that keeps it in line with the marquee next generation console.

PlayStation 4 will come off the assembly line with Remote Play support with the PS Vita. Now before you roll your eyes, be happy in knowing that Gaikai is in charge of the networking code here. Instead of laggy inputs that you may be accustomed to through the PSP’s Remote Play option or the current iteration with the PS Vita and PS3, the PS4 solution will have a client-server relationship. The PlayStation 4 will be more optimized to serving a lossless experience to the PS Vita. At least, we all hope so.

There’s also mention of the PS Vita serving as the PS4′s second screen, maybe in the same way that the Wii U GamePad serves as a seamless second screen for the Wii U.

The Interesting Bits..

PlayStation 4The ability for the system to predict your game decisions was also expressed at the event. If your console reasonably expects that you will enjoy the latest Dynasty Warriors game because you happen to have save files from the last 3, you may find the game pre-downloaded to your console before you even hit the buy button. Of course, you’ll still have to buy games though. Yes this is a little scary to us too. Speaking of the PlayStation Store, it’s been revealed that it will be noticeably snappy, even so far as allowing players to play games as they are being downloaded instead of waiting the whole hour before they can start playing their impulse purchases. The store will also have a ‘try before you buy’ option where Gaikai serves a sampler of the game to you bereft of actually downloading a demo. This is great for anyone who fears disk space commitments.

Along with that, the PlayStation 4 will have instant-on or sleep capabilities akin to the PSP Go or PS Vita. Now your gaming cravings will be just as impulsive as mobile phone gamers.

Though the Gaikai representative wasn’t making any promises, he divulged that their team was looking to make all PlayStation brand games available on the PS4 system through a cloud-based solution. “Everything. Everywhere.” is the touted eventual goal.

Further Thoughts

PlayStation 4

The PlayStation 4 has got a lot it’s trying to do. Time will tell if it’s truly the next big thing or if all this cool technology goes underutilized by third party developers. We’ll have another post detailing the games that were revealed during the event along with a feature piece taking a closer look at how the new console may perform. Stay tuned.

Update: Full technical specifications from Sony

Main Processor
Single-chip custom processor
CPU : x86-64 AMD “Jaguar”, 8 cores
GPU : 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon based graphics engine

Memory
GDDR5 8GB

Hard Disk Drive
Built-in

Optical Drive (read only)
BD 6xCAV
DVD 8xCAV

I/O
Super-Speed USB (USB 3.0) 、AUX
Communication Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth® 2.1 (EDR)

AV output
HDMI
Analog-AV out
Digital Output (optical)

Mentioned games: