After a couple weeks of buzz, the PS4 surfaced at Sony's February 20 press conference to no one's surprise. What did we learn?
A lot, but at the same time, not much.
A big talking point was the user experience in buying and downloading games. Not only will downloads be playable as they download, but the console will pre-download games it thinks the user may one day purchase.
Of course, the system is going to be chock-full of new tech. Sony confirmed 8GB of RAM and lots of other techie stuff, but despite that, gamers have been concerned that the graphical leap won't be comparable to what we've seen in the past from succeeding generations of consoles. And they're right, so the big focus was on features - social, mobile and the like. The biggest news on this front was the "Share" button on the front of the new Dualshock. This button will allow players to broadcast their play session at any time and even trim up footage constantly being recorded to be posted...somewhere.
The Bad and Concerning
We don't know where that somewhere is. Notedly absent from the conversation was the Playstation Network and where its headed. Recent leaks have expressed that we might end up paying for it a la Xbox Live, and for that not to be addressed is a bit concerning. It'll be interesting to see the kind of overhaul the network gets to support user video, a sort of RealID and integration on the mobile front that Sony dug at during the conversation.
Also missing was the hardware itself. We have no idea what this console is going to look like. It doesn't much matter, but we're curious to say the least. Predictably absent were price points and release dates, but we'll probably hear more at E3.
Big surprise - the console won't play PS3 games. The company suggested that they hope to stream PS1, PS2 and PS3 titles to the PS4, but we've gotten empty promises at these events before, so don't get rid of your PS3 quite yet.
Finally, the Dualshock has gotten some kind of overhaul. The 'Share' button is super cool, but tossing in a Move sensor and the touch pad will likely lead to features shoehorned into launch games.
On the note of games - we didn't see a lot of them. In the vein of new titles, we saw footage for a new Killzone: Shadow Fall and Knack, a third-person action game. Killzone looked pretty and gets me excited, but Knack was obviously a game designed as a tech demo and I don't expect much from it. "Look at how many polygons we can get on the screen and manipulate!"
A few other new titles from Sony studios were announced as well, including inFamous: Second Son and DriveClub. Capcom dropped a video for something called Deep Down, which served more as a tech demo. We also got some new footage from Watch Dogs, which was confirmed for PS4.
The biggest news on the game front for me, however, were from non-Sony studios. I've always felt that Sony's biggest advantage over Microsoft was their stable of games, and Sony is going full-court press. Blizzard confirmed Diablo 3 coming to both PS3 and PS4, although it's certainly possible we'll see this on Xbox 360/Nextbox, and we also got an announcement for Johnathan Blow's new title, The Witness, which Blow has suggested will appear on multiple platforms as well.
The real nail in the coffin is not only the confirmation of Destiny on PS4, but the announcement of exclusive content for it. This one will surely show up on Nextbox, but Bungie has gone from being Microsoft's flagship Halo studio to a multi-console developer. This could really dent Microsoft.
I don't think anyone is disappointed by what we saw tonight. We've got a long way until launch for more games to get announced, and unless the hardware is obscenely obtrusive, it probably won't turn the tides. The big thing to note here is that the pressure is on for Microsoft. We haven't heard a lot from them on the new console, especially concerning the social and mobile front that Sony stressed so much. Their ace in the hole at this point is Kinect, keeping Xbox Live ahead of PSN and Surface.
Kinect, unfortunately, hasn't seen massive adoption from the hardcore crowd. I will say that I'm excited to see what it can do with the full-room projection system we've been seeing patents for, and I can see this being a real focus for Microsoft as the Nextbox gets its own inevitable press conference.
And should that come to fruition, it'll be interesting to see the schism it could potentially cause. A product like that doesn't seem to compete directly with Sony's gamer-focused PS4, but at the same time offers way more than the Wii U, which has, as I predicted, been a pretty hard flop, not only in capturing the 'hardcore' crowd, but in selling at all.
This means keep a close eye on Xbox Live. More than hardware, each companies online and social services are going to be the bigger players.
So more questions than answers, perhaps. I think everyone will be keeping a close eye on all the offerings as we near E3. Drop your thoughts and anything I missed in the comments! I'm sure you have lots...