The PlayStation 4 - What you need to know
As predicted, Sony unveiled its PlayStation 4 yesterday, revealing a range of new features and some stunning games footage – although the device itself was nowhere to be seen.
Sony representatives dispelled some long- standing rumours about the PS4. One confirmed to Kotaku that PS4 games will not need an always-on Internet connection. There will be an off-line gameplay capability.
But its connectivity was perhaps the biggest talking point. Sony will give it the ability to play games as users are downloading them, thanks to a special background processing chip. They will also be able to broadcast their gameplay in real-time, and upload recordings of themselves playing. Users will be able to integrate their Facebook profiles to the Sony PlayStation 4.
Sony is touting the idea of ubiquitous connectivity for gamers. It has partnered with cloud-based gaming company Galkai to make games stream of all to its PlayStation Vita, in a feature that it is calling Remote Play. This effectively turns the PS4 into a game server, and gives it second-screen functionality, which promises to be a big thing for consoles in general. Like Microsoft with SmartGlass, Sony is also working on a mobile app that will provide second screen functionality for Android and iOS devices.
This remote play will also enable gamers to buy new games on the road, having them ready to play on their PlayStation when they get home. And the console will also track users’ habits, personalising their experience and downloading some games that it thinks they might like before they buy them.
Still, there are some potential shortcomings. Interviews with specialist gaming titles suggest that, while the new console is capable of pushing out a super-high definition 4K video signal for playing movies supporting that format, the games currently under development for the PS4 are not 4K-ready.
Probably the biggest drawback is backwards compatibility. Engadget confirms that current generation PlayStation Network titles and game saves won’t transfer to the new console. PS3 games will not be compatible, executives have said, primarily because of the different architecture of the PS4. There will be some form of emulation going forward, but just as with the PS3 trying to play PS2 games, it will be limited.
In the future, we could see games from these 'legacy' platforms streaming to the Vita via the Galkai network, but that's a long way away.
Sony also faces another challenge, and it's the same one faced by Microsoft, which will probably release its Xbox 720 later in the year. People are increasingly switching to mobile and social gaming, and the vast, slow-moving console market is flattening out. Sony executives hope to see micro-transactions and free to play games, in what will be a dramatic shift in the gaming business model. This could well be key to its survival, especially as these consoles have to last between five and 10 years before a major refresh. That's a long time in the gaming world, and technology is evolving at a breakneck pace.
So, if you buy the still-invisible PS4, it'll blow your mind, but it won't play your existing games. Will you hand over the cash for one?Danny Bradbury, MSN Tech & Gadgets