New York — After much speculation, Sony Computer Entertainment launched the PlayStation 4 next-generation gaming console at a gala event in the Hammerstein Ballroom, here, Wednesday night.
Despite the live globally linked event, Sony was surprisingly sketchy on the details for the new system, saying it wasn’t just another console but rather a device that will bring game play out of the living room to wherever the player happens to be.
Andrew House, Sony Computer Entertainment chief executive, said the PS4 will have the ability to link with the recently launched PS Vita handheld gaming system to stream games directly to the PS Vita. He added that the Vita will play big role in the PS4 ecosystem, though more details on that are to follow.
House added there will be similar synergy between all Sony devices. This would include Xperia handsets and tablets, Bravia TVs and Blu-ray Disc players.
Sony said the PS4 can be powered down mid-game and then switched on again in seconds to pick up the action where it left off.
“Our vision for the future is consumer centric and developer inspired,” House said, adding that Sony will encourage “new business models that enable more flexibility including episodic and free-to-play.”
The new system was designed “by developers and for developers,” said Sony’s lead PS4 system architect Mark Cerny, adding that system architects took a lot of insight into the system’s final design from the developers who will actually deliver many of the games that are played on it.
Sony never showed the gaming system itself, and didn’t disclose pricing or the exact delivery date other than a holiday time frame.
Sony also didn’t disclose if the system will be able to up-scale video to the new 4K Ultra High-Definition format that Sony Electronics and Sony Pictures have been championing since last year.
What Sony did say was the PS4 will replace the Cell chip from the PS3 with a more powerful AMD single-chip processor and GPU using x86-64 AMD Jaguar CPU cores, and Radeon-based graphics engine with 1.84 TFLOPS of processing power.
The PC GPU offers 18 GCN units with 18 processing clusters, with 64 cores each. It also includes 8GB of GDDR5 memory.
Sony will also place a hard drive of undisclosed size(s) in the system for storage.
During game play, applications, including a web browser, will be able to be booted, and titles can be downloaded or updated in the background. Digital titles also will be playable while they’re downloading, with only a fraction of data required to start a session.
The PS4 will not be backward compatible with native PS3 games, but certain PS3 games may be adapted for Cloud-based play on the new system.
Game play is executed using new enhanced DualShock 4 controls with a Vita-like central touchpad. The controller has the classic PlayStation design but includes upgraded vibrations and enhanced motion sensors.
Also announced was a PlayStation 4 Eye stereo camera system that utilizes two high-sensitivity cameras equipped with wide-angle lenses and 85-degree diagonal angle views.
Using the cameras, the image of a player can be cut out from the background, and they can differentiate between players in the background and foreground to enhance game play.
Users will also be able to log in and play games using facial recognition, voice and body movements.
The PS4 was also developed to leverage social interaction and game play, including the ability to “spectate” and watch over the shoulder as a player engages a gaming title.
Gamers will also be able to easily capture video of onscreen action and share it over social networks, as easily as grabbing a screen shot is today, said David Perry, co-founder of the Internet game company Gaikai, which Sony bought last year .
“What we’re creating is the fastest, most powerful gaming network in the world,” Perry said.
At the event, Sony brought out a long lineup of game developers and distributors that will be supporting the new platform. Among the titles demonstrated were: Guerrilla Games’ “Killzone: Shadow Fall,” Sucker Punch’s “Infamous Second Son,” Jason Blows’ puzzle game “The Witness,” Bizzard’s “Diablo 3,” Ubi Soft’s “Watch Dogs,” Evolution Studio’s “Drive Club,” and Sony Japan Studio’s “Knack,” among others.