Sony's PlayStation 4: What you need to know

Sony revealed the PlayStation 4 last night, in what turned out to be a fulfilling and unfulfilling night. 

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc./PRNewsFoto/AP/FILE
Andrew House, President and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment, introduces PlayStation 4 for the first time.

Sony’s had a rough few years. The company has lost money across several industries; PlayStation lost many American gamers to the Xbox. But as of last night, Sony is attempting to get it all back. In a New York debut, Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4. Well, some of it.

In what turned out to be a rather curious night for tech fans and journalists, Sony announced the PS4 but never actually showed the console. It instead focused on the newest additions to the console, the re-vamped controller, and the games.

“Today we will give you a glimpse into the future of play,” Sony Computer Entertainment head Andrew House told the crowd Wednesday night.

Sony’s announcement of the PS4 comes months before the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the spring electronics show where the computer and video game industry shows off its upcoming products. Yet, Sony maintained some secrecy.

Sony kept mum on the console’s looks, the price tag, and a specific release date ­– mentioning a holiday-season release. According to CNET, this is an unprecedented move. Typically consoles are first exhibited at E3, with an almost-finished version seen the next year, which is then followed by the actual release.

So what is the PS4?

“It’s like a PC in many ways, but supercharged, “ says Mark Cerny, PS4’s lead architect and famed game designer. “The processing power of the system is an exponential leap over its predecessors.”

Mr. Cerny says that Sony's new hardware and software will allow gamers to begin playing downloadable games before the download is even complete. The PS4 will also attempt to learn a person's taste in games, reaching the point where the console will pre-download games according to the consumer’s preference. If the machine guesses correctly, then you can start playing immediately. The goal, according to Cerny, is to bring download times to an absolute zero.

A 3-D camera will work in tandem with a light bar on the controller, allowing for easier wireless and motion connectivity. The new controller also has a touch-pad as opposed to the traditional “start” and “select” buttons. Sony added a “share” button to the controller that offers feature beyond chatting and uploading clips. PS4 gamers will be able to share games with friends and have the ability to switch between the console and the Vita.

Critics of the PS4 are not necessarily happy about the new controller. Comments left on the gaming blog Kotaku revealed some disdain. “Share Button? Can I take a selfy with it?" writes user Police Prayer. 

Another Kotaku member commented that the touch-pad is “unnecessary gimmickry.” And Lovelypinksock says, “You're making a game controller. It should be as easy to use as possible, but seems they've kinda gone overboard with the looks and forgotten about the practicality.”

The conference last night didn’t stop at just the controller and new specs; Sony announced a list of games specifically for the PS4. And before you get excited, it appears that the PS4 will not be able to play PS3 game. However, Sony says that it plans on creating an online catalog that will allow PS3 games to be played on any of their devices via streaming.

Gamers also need not fret that Sony will make used games obsolete. According to Engadget, Sony Worldwide Studios boss Shuhei Yoshida put the rumors to rest that the PS4 will block used games. Mr. Yoshida told Eurogamer that the PS4 will, in fact, play used games. Gamestops everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief. 

For more tech news, follow Aimee on Twitter@aimee_ortiz

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