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Sony held an event Wednesday at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City to unveil its PlayStation 4 — and while it declined to reveal a specific launch date, price point, or even images of what the new console will look like, its gaming partners promised the powerful new console would provide immersive hands-free gaming experiences that rival Hollywood blockbusters.
David Cage, founder of Quantic Dream, worked with actress Ellen Page on Beyond: Two Souls, an upcoming PS3 action adventure game, and said the new Sony console opens up the types of special effects — like 3D depth of field and translucency — which have previously been reserved for Hollywood CG movies.
“We’ve reached a point with the PS4 where you can see subtle emotions in a character’s face and look into his eyes and see his soul,” said Cage. “Game creators can forget about technology limitations and focus on game experiences that will take you to places you’ve never been before, and feel emotions you’ve never felt before [in a game]. We are now only limited by our own imagination.”
The company expects to ship units for this year’s holiday season.
Sony demonstrated the potential of the PS4 hardware, which features a high-end GPU and an 8-core CPU on the same die, with 8 gigs of DDR5 RAM, more processing power and memory than any other console available today. While Sony didn’t show the actual console, it did showcase a new DualShock 4 controller, which features a light bar on the top with three color LEDs.
The light bar illuminates to match the color of characters in a game to offer a simpler way to identify players, even when playing side by side, and includes a sensor pad for touch controls and a headphone jack. The addition of a Share button will allow players to instantly share gameplay experiences through Facebook, UStream and social networks.
Sony also debuted the PlayStation 4 Eye, a newly developed device that incorporates two high-sensitivity cameras with wide-angle lenses sporting 85-degree diagonal angle views that can recognize depth of space. This allows the image of the player to be cut from the background, or to grasp players’ position in space. Four microphones also detect sound and where it came from, and users will also be able to log in to their PS4 with face recognition.
All that hardware means new frontiers for developers to cross. Exclusive PS4 games like Guerilla Games’ first-person shooter Killzone Shadow Fall, Evolution Studios’ racer DriveClub, Sucker Punch Prods.’ action sequel Infamous Second Son and Mark Cerny’s platform action game Knack were among the titles that were given some quality time during the two-hour press conference.
While Sony currently offers Hollywood movies and television programs through its PlayStation Network on PS3, Sony focused on gaming at this event rather than exploring the new entertainment opportunities that PS4 will open up for Hollywood studios. The new PlayStation 4 Eye camera does bring with it the potential for entertainment and gaming experiences like those Microsoft has been exploring with its Kinect for Xbox 360.
“Today marks a bold step forward for PlayStation,” said Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment. “The living room is no longer the center of the gaming ecosystem, the gamer is. We’ve created a platform for consumers’ changing behaviors and enhanced sense of play.”
David Perry, co-founder and CEO of cloud gaming company Gaikai (which Sony purchased last year for $380 million) said a full library of PlayStation titles dating back to the original console will be gradually rolled out and accessible for purchase and download. In addition, every PS4 game will be available to download and play for free before gamers decide they want to purchase the title.
“We believe in the second screen gaming experience, and through Remote Play, gamers will be able to play PS4 games on their PS Vita portable gaming device,” said Perry. “It’s the ultimate companion device. You can start a game on your big-screen TV, pause it, and then pick up the game on the PS Vita.”
Perry added that gamers will be able to instantly share their gaming experiences with friends and open up a spectating mode so other players can help them through difficult parts of a game. In addition, a player’s friend will be able to jump in and take over the controls to help get through a tough spot — even if he or she is playing from a different home. PS4 has also been designed to allow anyone to instantly live-stream gaming, which has become a big part of the burgeoning eSports scene.
The press conference also allowed game developers to share what they have in the works.
Ubisoft co-founder and president Yves Guillemot announced that the online action game Watch_Dogs will debut on PS4.
“Watch_Dogs blurs the line between the real world and the virtual world more than ever before,” said Guillemot. “Ubisoft has been working on PS4 to make gaming experiences that are more connected and more immersive. We’re creating games that will be played anywhere, anytime, across many different devices to brings friends and communities together.”
Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg introduced game developer Bungie to announce its new first-person shooter, Destiny, will have exclusive content for both PlayStation 3 and PS4. This will be the first Bungie game for a Sony platform, as it previously was owned by Microsoft. Hirshberg said this new universe has been designed with a 10-year transmedia plan.
“When we became independent, we were excited to explore new platforms and connect with the PlayStation community,” said Harold Ryan, president of Bungie. “Destiny is an innovative game, and it’s a perfect fit for the PS4, with its online connected experience and the ability to access the content you love from multiple devices. We’ve designed Destiny to entertain you for years to come.”
Blizzard Entertainment developer Chris Metzen announced that the best-selling PC fantasy RPG Diablo III is coming to PS3 and PS4 with new four-player co-op full-screen gameplay.
“We want to move the gameplay experience from the home office to the living room,” said Metzen.
Square Enix developer Shinji Hashimoto announced a new Final Fantasy game will be coming to PS4 and will make its debut at E3 this June.
“I think the announcement now is smart because it gets mainstream media attention, and the specs were impressive,” said Michael Pachter, video game analyst for Wedbush Securities. “Sony didn’t talk much about features, and there really were a lot of features, so I’m looking forward to elaboration over the next few months. The social features are especially interesting, and the game lineup was fantastic. I think they probably need to talk a lot more about multimedia functionality, but understand that this was a gamer-focused event. I’m sure we’ll hear more in the next few weeks or months.”
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