Gaming's not about a console now, says Sony, announcing PS4. It's about the best places to play
by Jon Jordan 21/2/2013
Product: Sony news
Publisher: Sony Europe
Format: Android, iPhone, PG.Biz, PSP, iPad, PS Vita
In the six years that could be described as 'the PlayStation 3-era', the console industry has changed immeasurably.
Starting the hype-wagon rolling for PlayStation 4, Sony Computer Entertainment president Andrew House spoke about some those changes.
But 10 months before the new console is released, Sony's presentation was light on detail.
It knows the game has changed, though; it was light on details that once upon a time would have held us spellbound.
Past hype concerning exotic architecture such as the Emotion Engine and Cell CPU was been replaced with the news that the PlayStation 4 is like "a super-charged PC".
That sort of talk would have got you sacked back when Ken Kutaragi was Sony boss.
With an eight core x86 CPU design, PlayStation 4's GPU will be "highly enhanced" but no one's going to get excited about 8GB of unified RAM, even if it is extra special GDDR5 RAM.
Instead, House attempted to reposition the PlayStation brand, beyond being a console. At one stage he even stated, "We didn't build a box".
And, significantly, at no point during the presentation was a PlayStation 4 actually shown.
Does it even physically exist? Is it an unconsole?
"The living room isn't the center of the PlayStation experience, the gamer is," House continued.
Saying, PlayStation 4 was "a bold step forward for us as industry leaders", he stated Sony's focus was about making access to its content more simple and more streamlined.
And connectivity between devices is key to this.
"These experiences can happen on a console or a handheld device," House said.
In this context, there was a surprising focus on the as-yet failing PS Vita, which will be positioned as the favoured second screen for PlayStation 4.
Gamers will be able to seamless switch between playing games on their PlayStation 4 and TV, direct to the Vita via the Remote Play function.
"PS Vita is the ultimate companion device for PlayStation 4," House said, although Sony will have to reconsider its Vita pricing strategy for that to mean anything in the world of smartphones and tablets.
Still in the pocket
In terms of support other devices (notably PlayStation Mobile), he was much less specific.
"It's not about a box or a console, it's about the best place to play, about powerful opportunities even when you're away from the main console," he said.
"Whereas once we changed the gamer, now the gamer is changing us."
He explained this impacted across Sony's "our entire portfolio of products".
"We must give gamers the multi-dimensional experiences they deserve."
Again, we await more details.
Another element of this approach can be seen with the new touchpad control area on the Dual Shock 4 controller, which also has a Share button so gamers can send video clips to their friends on PlayStation Network, Facebook and the like.
This is supported by a dedicated video chip in the PlayStation 4.
Lead system architect, Mark Cerny, also pointed to the value of companion apps for PlayStation 4 games; something filled out by Matt Southern of Evolution Studios, when talking about its new team-based racer Drive Club.
"You'll be able to fire up the Drive Club app on your phone or tablet, pick cars and tracks, set a challenge time, and send it around the world," he said.
Something old, something new...
The presentation then degenerated into the usual queue of developers and publishers - Activision, Capcom, Ubisoft, Square Enix, Media Molecule, Quantic Dream, Sucker Punch etc - hawking their games, some of which have already been announced (for PlayStation 3), and, in the case of Blizzard's Diablo III, already released for PC.
Of course, with ten months to go - and E3 in May - Sony was never going reveal too much information about the console, and more importantly its ecosystem, in terms of its spectrum of physical discs, game streaming, digital distribution etc.
In a mark of this control, David Perry from cloud-based gaming service Gaikai (bought by Sony in 2012) came to the stage and managed not to mention 'the cloud' once.
//Update: Perry actually announced PS Cloud. I was having livestreaming issue during that portion, obv!//
So more questions than answers, then.
But, at least, the sort of questions we now want to ask Sony are the right sort of ones.