Nearly a month has past since Sony officially unveiled their new console, the PlayStation 4 (PS4). While we weren't given a chance to see the final design of the console itself, Sony explicitly revealed the specifications that would be found inside.
...and it sure is exciting!
Sony execs insist
that the PS4 is "still a console made for gaming, with gaming at its heart", but official documents refer to it as a "supercharged PC". The meat of the hardware consists of an 8-core x86-64 AMD CPU, a "next-gen" AMD Radeon GPU, and perhaps most importantly to Sony and hopeful developers, 8GB of unified DDR5 memory.
Current generation consoles have access to approximately 512MB before operating system use. Nowadays, this can be extremely limiting to developers, and often impacts the quality of PC ports. With 8GB to work with, developers will be able to allocate the memory to each sector of the system (cpu, gpu, etc.) as needed. At present, very few consumer video cards are even capable of housing 8GB video memory, meaning the PS4 really will have the potential to outperform current PCs.
Another important feature of the PS4 will be the more developer-friendly and PC-like x86-64 processor. Much has been made of the hype and subsequent disappointment that was brought about by the PS3's Cell Microprocessor, and it appears that Sony have learned their lesson by listening to the devs.
While I am certainly no expert when it comes to the specifics of hardware components, it's clear that Sony have gone to great lengths to improve the architecture and tools given to developers, and that can only be good for everyone.
So what does all of this mean for PC gaming? No less than a golden age of high-quality PC ports and lead platform games, I would wager. Assuming Microsoft have the good sense to at least match what Sony have promised to deliver in their next console, PC gamers should be in for a real treat.
Recently, we've seen a resurgence in developers paying more attention and care to the quality of their PC games. Thanks to small studios like Nixxes (Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: HR, Hitman Absolution) and QLOC (DmC), and publishers' willingness to acknowledge and work on the nuances of a unique platform, we have seen some truly fantastic games emerge. Now just imagine how this might translate to the next generation of home consoles! Vastly improved graphical features, online capabilities, etc - areas that are, at present, constrained by ageing hardware. But with hardware that will closely match and even exceed that of the standard PC, publishers should be more willing to invest in the latter.
One thing is certain for all levels of computer and console gamers: we have a truly exciting period of gaming coming up ahead of us!