I wanted to be as excited as everyone else. I really did. I was nervous and tense and excited all rolled into one before the conference started, and while I was unable to watch it (thanks, Internet!), I did keep tabs on it via Twitter, since all but maybe 3 feeds were tweeting non-stop about what was going on. By the time it was over, I was left pleased yet disappointing, excited yet confused. Let's break down all the key announcements so I can explain my thoughts and feelings on it all better.
- RELEASE DATE - They announced it at the end as being released during the "Holiday of 2013." Most likely they will shoot for before Black Friday, the busiest day of retail in the US all year. But will it be before the impending new Xbox, after or - god forbid - at the same time? No one ones, and maybe Sony doesn't even have an answer until Microsoft pokes their head out into this arms race and declares its intentions. Still, expect plenty of these systems to be put under Christmas trees this year.
- PRICE - Yeah, well, Sony didn't really announce a price, at all. There are rumors circulating of two different SKUs for two different models, running at about $430 and $530, but a lot can change. Sure, that seems adequate (yet still pricey for the average gamer) for the specs that the PS4 has included in it. I have to think Sony is holding their cards close to the vest on this one to see what Microsoft plans on pricing their machine at. They absolutely CAN NOT make another pricing mistake like they did with the PS3, or they are toast. Not announcing a price yet is fine, especially if that means they are planning on being competitive with the competition. If you're planning on buying both, expect to pay upwards of a grand for both systems total ... JUST FOR THE SYSTEMS. Let us not forget what pricing is going to look like for accessories, controllers and games. Can those get any higher?
Editors note: Sony just announced that games will be anywhere from free-to-play, to starting at $0.99 and going up to the standard $59.99 MSRP - so there's that.
- THE TECH SPECS - I won't bore you with all the exact specifications they announced, just the important ones. For starters, it's packing an 8-core processor, and 8 GB of memory. 8 GB OF MEMORY! Do you know how crazy that is? Because of that, Sony is promising the ability to play games as they are downloading. I'm hoping that applies to lengthy installations and system updates, as well. If so ... well done, Sony.
- DUALSHOCK 4 - So with any new console, there is a new controller to go along with it. Sony pulled out all the stops with the new DualShock 4 controller, that's for sure. The analog sticks are located in the same spot, not offset like the Xbox controller that "real gamers" prefer. They are now concaved, instead of the typical Sony sticks of controllers past. To no one's surprise, the symbol buttons are the same. The Start/Select buttons are now merged into one "PS" button, similar to the one the Vita has, that will suspend game play and allow you to multitask, also like the Vita. There is also a "Share" button, allowing you to, of course, share stuff.
The front of the controller has a light bar sensor, which is picked up by the dual camera that comes packaged with the system, which oddly enough looks EXACTLY like a Kinect. The color of the LED in the light bar of each controller change to indicate independent gamers or teams, and can even be used as a game play gimmick, like being a flashing red light to indicate seriously low health. Speaking of gimmicks, there is a touch pad on the front of the controller, again, just like the Vita has on the back of it. I expect some interesting control options for this touch pad, but also a lot of gimmick game play mechanics as well. Can't wait to literally slice through more jungle shrubbery in Uncharted 4!!! (No, it was not announced, but c'mon ... we all know it's happening, right?) Basically, this controller has the Move controller built in to it, which oddly enough, they will still be supporting with this new console.
All this might be just future proofing the newest controller, just like Nintendo did by putting NFC in the new Wii U GamePad controller, which I might remind you, is still not being used for anything. Speaking of the Wii U, Sony borrowed from it and installed a speaker in the controller, for extra audio output. Also, a tidbit that totally got swept over is the headphone jack in the controller, which you can use your headset for that comes packed in with the console!!! Seriously, audio overload!
Bad news, however, is that the old (well, still current but soon to be old) DualShock 3 controllers will not be compatible with the new PS4 system at all. Bummer. More plastic hardware to the graveyard.
- STREAMING - A while ago, Sony acquired the streaming company Gaikai, with no real indication of why back then. Well, they finally revealed the answer to those questions: for the PS4. They are promising seamless, perfect digital media streaming for games. This will be heavily implemented for the PSN, but also for remote-play with the Vita. This would be an amazing feature for the PS4 ecosystem for sure. If this works as it should, and damn does it look good on paper, then this will be a HUGE win for Sony in this next-gen showdown.
- SHARING - Sony all but said in their press conference that "sharing is caring." Seriously, the sharing philosophy that Sony crammed down our throats was almost nauseating. They really want you to have a lot of digital friends, but more than that, to share with your digital friends ... a lot. The PS4 has a built-in function and dedicated CPU to record all of your game play, all of the time, in 15 minute increments. You can access this (with the "Share" button of course) to review, edit and, you guessed it, share it with your friends. You can watch your friends play games, even if you don't have the game they are playing. You can also allow a friend to play your game if you get stuck or something horrible like that, even if that friend doesn't have the game you are playing. This is all because of the Gaikai streaming. But seriously, how is that even possible? My mind can't wrap around that. There are also Facebook-like pages set up as your gamer profile, where you can "share" any and all info about yourself. The PS4 will also have the ability to learn and recognize your game play patterns and tendencies, which will effect your experience somehow, they just didn't elaborate how. I'm sure they will much more to "share" on that later. Ha! Anyway, Sony wants you to not only be creepy and feel creepy, but to just "share."
What if you aren't big on playing online with other people, and would rather just be a one man wolf pack? Will all these features just make you feel incredibly lonely, like going out to eat by yourself on Valentine's Day? Boy, I can't wait for that feeling!
- GAMES - So not to make the entire two hour press conference too nerdy and tech-orientated, they pulled back the curtain on some games currently in development for the PS4. It is actually quite surprising how many games they showed off, to be honest. While some of the game's mentioned were just that, mentions (I'm looking at you, Final Fantasy game that has been in development for a decade), there were others will full-fledged preview videos to show off what the next generation in gaming will look like. Watch_Dogs (yes, with underscore in the title) was shown off as being a PS4 game, which was rumored but never confirmed until now, as well as the massively ambitious project from Bungie, that many assumed would only find its way to the next Xbox, called Destiny. Sony didn't stop there, however, unleashing some pretty epic Sony exclusive titles, such as Knack, Deep Down, DriveClub, and more importantly, the next games in the inFamous and Killzone franchises - Killzone: Shadow Fall and inFamous: Second Son.
Above is a screen shot from the Killzone game. How breathtaking does that game look? Sure, the textures and all are great, but look at the lighting, look at the depth of the scenery. One thing is clear. The graphical jump from current systems to the next ones might not be as amazing as other console upgrades in generations passed, but the improvements might be so close to capturing reality that it's just that hard now to actually distinguish these as games anymore (if it wasn't for all those sci-fi components, of course). I am definitely excited for the games coming with the PS4, and with word that all of Sony's first party studios are currently developing PS4 games, I have to think that Sony has a lot more to announce in the coming months.
- BLIZZARD - Speaking of games, I could have mentioned this in the previous section, but come on, let's be real for a second. The fact that Sony had Blizzard come out to announce something caught EVERYONE off guard. And what did they announce, you ask? Well, they will be bringing Diablo 3 to the PS4. No word if they will venture on to the next Xbox or not, but this is huge news. Diablo 3 on a console. Everyone said it couldn't be done, and well, here it is. I am especially excited for this because I have wanted to experience D3 since it came out, but because I'm a non-PC gamer to the max, I haven't even touched it. So now, I get my chance to play what everyone else has.
- USED/OLD GAMES - Making an announcement they most certainly didn't want to do, they came out and said that the PS4 will totally not be backwards compatible with PS3 games "natively." A lot of "experts" out there are saying that it is no big deal, and who cares about backwards compatibility, but to them, I say ... me, damn it. And everyone else who hasn't had a PS3 for six years, who has a decent backlog to work on and most likely will still have games to play by the time the PS4 comes out. Sure, I can just not get a PS4 on launch day, or just keep both systems hooked up, but to me, that seems like an unnecessary alternative. It would be one thing if they stopped making any good PS3 games for a year before the new system came out, like Nintendo did when they all but forgot the Wii existed for a year while they concentrated on getting the Wii U out. But that's not the case here. I mean, Grand Theft Auto 5, easily the most anticipated game possibly ever, is being released in SEPTEMBER, which is on the doorsteps of that "Holiday 2013" window. Also, all the downloaded titles you have now on your PS3 won't transfer or work on the PS4 either, so say goodbye to those for now (until the maybe, hopefully figure out a way to get them back on the PS4 down the road).
Good news for everyone who enjoys buying used games and not supporting the industry with your wallet, and for all GameStop employees, is that used PS4 WILL work on the system. So calm down, Internet.
- PS VITA/MOBILE APPS - Sony is promising that the Vita will be a huge part of the PS4's ecosystem when it launches, with remote play promised out of the gate for every single PS4 game, where you can stream the PS4 game right to your Vita instantly. Also, I have to think there might be some chance of the Vita being used as a secondary controller of some sorts. Of course, the obvious question about the Vita being used to play PS4 is HOW, as it is missing two shoulder buttons. Sure, they have run into this with the PS3 now, and just make touch screen controls to replace the missing shoulder buttons, but there are so few games that use this feature that no one notices. Of course, if no one buys in to the Vita by the time the PS4 launches, maybe it still won't matter. And with Sony announcing there will not be a price cut for the Vita here in the states, I have to think that it will continue to struggle. Especially with people already starting savings accounts for the PS4.
Also, Sony announced they are developing iOS and Android Apps to allow you to interact with your PS4 from your smartphones or tablets, going as far as to say they will act as a second screen experience. Now, this can be just as successful as the Microsoft SmartGlass that was the hottest thing for a while before people realized it didn't do much of anything, or it could be a huge additional feature to compliment the PS4. It remains to be seen for now, but all I can say about it is just don't get too excited just yet.
- SLEEP MODE - One of the coolest features I picked from the whole conference was the fact that the console had a sleep mode of sorts, where you can just "turn it off," but when you turn it back on, you are right back to exactly where you left off within seconds. No more minute-long start ups that take you to the main menu where you have to go through all the steps all over again to get back to where you were when you turned it off. How cool is that?
FINAL OPINION (FOR NOW)
Was I blown away by the announcement of the PS4? No, not exactly. I am so deep into still experiencing everything the PS3 has to offer, that I don't feel like I NEED anything new, although the promises made of how this system will run is exciting. I don't like the "share" function being forced down my throat as a mostly 1-player gamer, but I am in the minority on that one and I can appreciate that. The graphical and technical power of the PS4 look damn impressive, and there is no arguing that. I am not happy about my PS3 collection of games being obsolete once this thing launches, but I am saying that from my perspective now. By "Holiday 2013" that could drastically change. All in all, I think I am being sold on potential, and that potential is promising. Will I be getting a PS4 on launch day? At this point, unless it is more that $500, I am pretty confident that I will, if only so that I don't get behind in experiencing the generation of systems. And hey, as long as my trophies migrate over, I'll be kosher with it all. Now I can't wait to see what Microsoft has up their sleeve, as I can't even wrap my head around what new features they can possibly show off or brag about at this point.
Man, what a year for gaming this is shaping up to be.