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Entertainment, IT

Sony reveal PS4

Okay, you got the email. You maybe stayed up to watch the announcement. now we know.
Playstation 4 is on its way.
But what does that mean?
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Let’s see what we know…

Introduction:

The PS3 has been around for quite some time now, the PS2 even longer and the original, well back from the days of yore. 2006, 2000 and 1994 respectively. The production of new PS2s was stopped only last month, which show how good and lasting some consoles can be. This 6 year cycle was widely mooted to continue last year but 2012 came and went with no PS3 replacement announced. Indeed the release of a revamped PS3 (called the Super Slim, with top loader) at the very end of the year quenched thoughts of a rapid PS4 exposé.
So press, members of the blog community and members of PSN (Playstation Network) signed up for announcements all received notification of an event to be held on the 20th February 2013. “Be the first to know” was the slogan. Well, with the announcement at 23:00 GMT, I decided not to hang around and to catch up the next day. Today in fact.
What could we expect?
Well, important questions include:

  • Innovation
  • Styling
  • Eco System
  • Peripherals
  • Performance
  • Backwards Compatibility
  • Future Proofing
  • Release Date
  • Cost

Announcement:

On the 20th we finally got the all bells and whistles. Or nearly. A huge surround projection system was used to show the many pluses Sony believe they have created within the PS3 environment. Game sequences, devices and controllers, whizzing graphics all merged, mangled, flashed and flew around the auditorium.

Standard intro stuff but a little overkill (IMHO). Nowadays this is becoming patronising and perhaps a better approach is to do a proper resumé, similar to the last Apple announcement? Perhaps not.

Still, after the shpeel we finally got down to business.
As with most of these events the order is muddled by the fact that this is a marketing exercise so I’ll summarise the order of events and then go through each of those salient points mentioned above.
Key Points:

  1. Handheld potential
  2. Less about the living room
  3. Playstation 4 is the next evolution of Playstation consoles
  4. Bit of background on evolution of PS3
  5. PS4 Specifications
  6. Dual Shock 4 is the next evolution of Playstation controllers
  7. Demonstrations and Innovations
  8. Extended functionality in remote play and cloud computing
  9. Game Demonstrations
    • That go on…
    • And on…
    • Blizzard included (but hold that thought)
  10. Release Date
  11. Close and Detailed Specifications

There’s a reasonable amount to cover there so here goes.

Innovation:

This Sony would like to be the big clincher in the console battle. Indeed, whoever shows they can “lead” best in the sector will gain ground fastest. Unless they price themselves out of the market.
So we now know that the Processing (bother central and graphics) will be quite astonishing. As with the PS3 the CPU will be 8 core, this time from AMD “Jaguar” and custom built. The actual speed of the cores isn’t directly referenced but if history repeats itself the cores will be massively over powered for the gaming/content currently available and the eco-system will grow to utilise it effectively over time. These cores are the same style that are common in current bleeding edge Super Computers.
The GPU working hand in glove with those 8 central cores will be a monster. An unbelievable 1.8TFlops available via the 18 core AMD “RadeonTM” based “next generation” graphics system. This kind of power would set you back more than £1,000,000 ten years or so ago.

The power in home computers is massively understated and TBH under utilised the vast majority of the time.

Blu-Ray gets a speed-up too so those games are going to load and render so so quick.
But this is evolution rather than innovation. And not all by Sony either. this is the hard work put in by AMD (as far as the CPU/GPU are concerned anyway).
But on top of this we get 8GB of ultra quick GDDR5 RAM. That is twice what most speculation placed in the box. The PS3 came with 256MB main memory and 256MB graphics memory. Not sure how the GDDR memory on the PS4 is split (if at all) but there are some innovations such memory apparently allows.
Sony state that you will be able to halt the system mid-game and simply start the system again “in seconds” right back into the game – where you left it.

A bold claim and one that requires a fair few tricks and tweaks in the background, “under-the-hood”, I’d imagine.

Add the two new peripherals in, PS4 Eye and Dual Shock 4 and perhaps we have a few more innovative ideas.
One interestiing idea was that none Sony devices such as Android and iOS systems could be connected to a PS4 as second screens. these could show you an in game map or a communications console etc.

I like this idea.

The massive power of the system will also allow users to take “video” of the last few minutes of game play and share it. If they also allow direct screenshots, I’ll be happy. Always wanted to do that!
And lastly the innovations that are driven by the cloud. PSN is going to grow and this was Sony‘s main point. More below under “Eco System”.

Styling:

Absolutely nothing that can be said here.
Sony have not produced a “shell” yet for the world to see so we just need to give them our ideas.

Some like the new top loading on the PS3 Super Slim, others prefer the slot loader.
Hopefully there will be more than two off the mooted USB3 ports.
Slim at styled but not too plastic looking please.

Eco System:

Here is where Sony have a lot to do. None of my PS3 chum use any premium PSN (Playstation Network) services. None of them use online multiplayer. Why?
Well, broadband services in the UK are still shockingly bad. Speeds of 1.5Mbps are common and some of my friends are locked down as low as 0.3 – 0.5Mbps. that makes modern web browsing, let alone gaming, painful.

So they need to add stuff to entice us. One thing they mention is making games “free to play” via their newly acquired cloud services. Thus you like it, buy and download it to get the “real deal” – I guess.
The cloud will also provide users with the ability to ask a friend to take control – remotely – of their character (or even game controller itself) and guild them through tricky parts of a game.

None of this is likely to entice me in but some users already with decent broadband and well into the PSN eco system may like to move to PS4 sooner to get the gains here in.

The involvement of Blizzard in the announcement intrigued me. Momentarily. Alas rather than an extension of their hugely popular WOW, World Of Warcraft, environment they announced a wholly new evolution of Decent onto the PS4.

Disappointed, I continue.

Peripherals:

PS4 Eye looks good on paper. I’m not a fan of the human motion games myself but the resolution that a duel “stereoscopic” camera set offers is intriging. Face recognition for signon for example. Using you as an avatar in a game by cutting out the living room background – in real time (making use of all that GPU/CPU/RAM mentioned earlier) could allow greater “depth” or involvement in games or content. Perhaps (speculation) a third person Blu-Ray movie with you actually in the movie?
Perhaps this will allow the PS4 to move into the casual gaming sphere where the Wii has been dominant for some time.
Dual Shock 4 is intriguing too. A light on the unit allows the PS4 to track it’s movements directly as well as the now standard accelerometer, gyroscope etc. That might see an interesting effect on us fidgetters when playing games. Sony have also added a two-touch touch pad to the controller. Haven’t figured out how that will work in practice, 16 buttons, two joysticks and all the motion stuff are frightening enough.

Two nice items I’d like to see are easier external storage options (requires more USB 3 ports please) and support for external Blu-Ray drives, for when the internal one dies that inevitable death.
Nothing new here though.

Performance:

Having reviewed this extensively under “Innovation”, I don’t think anyone will be complaining for a good few years after release. The PS4 looks over specified, as was the PS3.
The announced specifications do dramatically outstrip the rumours for the Microsoft Xbox 360 replacement (monickered Xbox 720).

Backwards Compatibility:

Really big downer this one. PS3 games will not be supported on the PS4.
Eventually they will allow the use of versions from the cloud but when that might appear is anyones guess.

The same decision was made with the move from PS2 to PS3 and I guess they feel they made enough out of both selling concurrently (see “Introduction”) that the same model can be applied successfully again.

Future Proofing:

See all of the above.

I’m am confident that unless a major change occurs in the gaming market elsewhere, which currently looks highly unlikely, this box will run at least the project 6 years. The PS3 doesn’t touch the PS4 in terms of hardware and that is still a perfectly reasonable system (even with the restricted memory). Perhaps an option to have “pluggable” core components would have been nice. Upgradable GPU, CPU, Memory, HDD etc. Still I doubt that will happen – I’ve wanted it too long.

Release Date:

Umm, “Holiday 2013“, but my guess is that will only be for the US and Japan. EU/UK etc. should expect to see the console launched Q1 2014.
So we have a long drawn out wait.

Cost:

Hmm. No figures given see we’d have to guess.

The new PS3 Super Slim is £260 (or £220 subsidised by offers) so looking into my crystal ball I’d expect PS4 to have an entry level version at £350 and a extended hardware version (bigger disks perhaps) at £450 perhaps higher.
That would make the device too expensive for most, especially without the PS3 backwards compatibility.

Summary:

Very promising specification for the CPU, GPU and RAM. Perhaps word on hard disks, more external ports would be helpful.
The lack of backwards compatibility means most will wait at least a year before purchasing.
Dual Shock 4 and PS4Eye have novelty value but could, if utilised effectively, be game changers. Literally.
Cloud functions seem tacked on and aren’t that important to me. For a very mobile gamer though, heavy plus points here perhaps.
No style or price information means it’s hard to real judge the initial impact that it can make to a very active market.
The device is very interesting, but probably not a bleeding edge purchase for most people, I think.
In the UK I’d expect most to wait until Christmas 2014 or later to see how it settles in.
Which means a wait of almost another 2 years.
If Sony massively subsidise the box, they could get more take up. But with the PS3 still performing well it might be a long drawn out game for Sony to make any huge gains, either in the market or with respect to profits, with the PS4.
The PS4 will probably win any battle with Xbox 720 but slowly.

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About harlekwinblog

"Thoughts of an idle mind." Information Security professional.

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