On Wednesday night, with all the Apple-esque fanfare that now seems like a prerequisite for any new tech product, Sony announced its new flagship console: The PlayStation 4. It's been seven years since the PS3 was announced way back in 2006, when the world still hadn't heard of the iPhone, books were only available in paper form, Michael Jackson was a living punch line, and the global economy wasn't being held together by duct tape.
Indeed, the world is a very different place now. Consumers are pickier with their money. Most video games are 99 cents or less and fit in your pocket. And that's why, despite the uphill battle ahead, makers of the next generation of consoles are pulling out the all the stops to compete for a spot in your cabinet. Yesterday, we previewed a few features we really wanted to see in the PS4. Now that the console has arrived — although we still haven't seen the device, and no release date or price were announced — here's what we like most about the PS4:
1. Incredible visuals
Yeah, yeah. Including next-generation graphics on a "things to like" list is almost a no-brainer. As expected, Sony crammed a lot of processing power into the PS4: "PC-like" architecture, x86 CPU, enhanced PS GPU, 8 GB of unified memory, etc. But I mean, look at it. Check out the impressive attention to detail for Watch Dogs at the 0:36 mark below:
2. The new DualShock 4 controller
Sony thankfully stayed true to the spirit of the DualShock line, which has all the usual thumbsticks and triggers gamers are familiar with. But the new DualShock 4 has a few key innovations worth noting. First, it has its own gyroscope to detect player movement (the trick Nintendo pioneered with the Wii). There's a 3D stereo camera that can sense things like depth and gestures (think the Xbox's Kinect), a touchpad for navigating onscreen menus, and the PS4 also has a share button that lets users broadcast their game live to friends or upload videos online. "All of that should make for more compelling play for the hard-core gamers at the heart of the PlayStation market," says The New York Times.
3. You can play while downloading
Whenever a PS4 owner downloads a new game from the PlayStation Network, they won't have to sit around idly for an hour; they can start playing a title as soon as its download begins.
4. Remote play on the PS Vita
Much like the way Wii U's GamePad can be used to play games anywhere in the house over a WiFi network, PlayStation 4 owners can use their portable PS Vita — which they'll have to buy separately — to continue games when they're not near the TV. Sony says new technology acquired in the $380 million purchase of cloud-company Gaikai "effectively makes [the PS4] a game server." In other words, you'll never have to hit pause for a bathroom break again.
5. Add a second screen with your iPhone or Android
Sony plans on adding a new PS4 app that let's iOS or Android owners use their phones or tablets to add a second screen. Imagine calling your secret plays in Madden on an iPad, or watching your friend broadcast his or her 30+ Call of Duty killstreak while you're in another game. That sort of stuff's now possible.
Sony announced a new partnership with game developer Blizzard to bring Diablo III to the PlayStation 3 and the PlayStation 4. That in itself isn't huge news, but it portends a new era of possibilities between the two companies. Blizzard, for better or worse, has spent the past decade dominating the PC gaming industry. Could World of Warcraft or StarCraft II be next? Is the lack of a keyboard a dealbreaker? Guess we'll see.