PlayStation 4 absent from own launch party as next generation console revealed at Sony press conference

By Chris Higgins

Sony revealed the first official details of their newest PlayStation to fans via a live-stream from their 2-hour conference in New York City last night – but the star of the show was nowhere in sight.

The slick press event, held at the Manhattan Center, gave away morsels of information including the tech inside and the much-rumoured ‘Share’ button, but failed to show off the console itself.

The Japanese gaming giant also tantalised a worldwide audience with details ranging from a winter 2013 release window and name (unsurprisingly: PlayStation 4) to a mantra-like definition of what the next generation means to Sony.

In reality, “simple; immediate; social; integrated; personalisation” doesn’t sound like much more than a bulleted list from the Marketing Middle-Manager’s Handbook to Life, but several details announced by the project’s lead architect, Mark Cerny, shed light on the future of console gaming.

First up was the guts and, surprisingly, the console market appears to have recognised the power of PC, opting to style the next generation innards on a typical gaming computer set-up.

An x86 architecture CPU will deliver the power to support the dedicated GPU and 8GB of super speedy GDDR5 RAM will serve to enhance “the richness of content” on the system.

Next to be unveiled was the new controller, identical to the leaked reports of a classic Dual Shock peripheral with a front-facing touchpad, similar to the Vita’s back panel.

Also officially confirmed was the console’s social orientation, with a Share button on the controller.

The system is said to capture the last 15 minutes of gameplay (always-on with no loss of framerate) ready for the Share button to commit it to memory.

Once fully captured, the video can then be edited via in-built software, shared with PSN friends and posted on social media sites Facebook and twitter.

One of the night’s most impressive revelations was that the Share button could also be used to broadcast your gameplay, via live-streaming to your friends list, also allowing you to pass control to a buddy to get you through a tough segment.

This announcement, made by recent Sony acquisition Gaikai’s CEO David Perry, was not the only evidence of the live-streaming company’s involvement in the PS4.

Perry, speaking on backwards compatibility to play games from previous generations, deflected the question of whether emulation was possible by stating that a streaming service will allow you to store an online library of your old games and play them through a net connection.

This has somewhat angered fans as the implementation of a similar system on Nintendo’s Wii U has resulted in gamers having to buy games they already own but in a digital format.

Further uses for Gaikai’s streaming technology included Remote Play via the Vita, with Perry indicating that gamers could begin a session on the PS4 and then take it with them on the hand-held Vita.

The on-stage demonstration looked promising, despite some occasional screen-tearing, but Perry reassured attendees and fans worldwide that every game on the PS4 will be playable on Vita.

Exactly what will be playable when the shiny new console arrives was detailed by a parade of publishers who have signed up for exclusive launch releases, some faring better than others and a few unexpected guests taking the stage.

Titles revealed included Killzone Shadow Fall (prerendered scene of a cover-based FPS, fairly unimpressive), Sucker Punch’s new Infamous (more prerendered scenes, another notch in a mediocre franchise) and the first new IP of the night, Knack (a cartoonish goblin basher included purely to showcase the new hardware’s ability to handle lots of on-screen objects).

Interspersing the underwhelming was the unexpected, with appearances from Jon Blow (Braid) revealing that his new project The Witness will be a PS4 exclusive at launch, and Blizzard’s Chris Metzen to announce the studio’s dungeon-crawler Diablo 3 will be coming to the console (a year after its PC big brother).

Ubisoft also pitched in with their new title Watch Dogs (think Assassin’s Creed in the future, with hacking) and Square Enix popped up to tease at a new Final Fantasy to be announced at E3 this year, before showing the same Agni’s Philosophy tech demo from last year.

Bungie also popped up to show last week’s Destiny ‘sneak peek’ to round off the old news mingled with actual news.

In all, the conference seemed somewhat underwhelming, with a whole host of facts and videos that have been floating around the rumour mill for a good long while now.

However, the conference did serve to cement the gossip and sift out the chaff, while showcasing some interesting new directions for gaming to take.

The absence of the machine itself did make the conference seem a bit rushed, possibly indicating Sony pulled the trigger a bit early this time in order to get their foot in the door (worried of making the same mistakes from the PS3 launch, where Microsoft got the drop on them) but everything on show was very promising.

We’ll no doubt find out more at E3 this year, so let the next phase of the console wars commence. Your move, Microsoft.

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