aNewDomain.net — Sony announced Orbis in New York City today. Kind of. Orbis was the code name for the hotly-anticipated Sony PlayStation 4. But the Sony PlayStation news event left a lot to be desired. A whole lot.
The Sony PlayStation 4 product specs and demos revealed on February 20 in New York sure looked slick. And my takeaway — inferential — is this: The Sony PlayStation 4 will be out by the end of 2013 and probably cost under $500 or $600, which is what the original Sony PlayStation 3 came out at back in the day, according to subtle exec hints.
Still, I’m intrigued. The demo trailers — regardless of whether they were canned or really showing off the powerful specs — were riveting. Sony revealed new games from game makers and from its own gaming division that, as you see below, were beautiful. But they were, in the end, just demos.
Sony president and group CEO Andrew House did most of the talking about the specs — or the lack thereof. Other Sony execs talked around the specs they did release — a seriously equipped AMD eight-core CPU-based system with a graphics processing unit (GPU) capable of 1.84 teraflop throughput on board.
But execs hedged when pressed why they couldn’t reveal the essential details beyond planned specs for a box 10 months or more away. They dodged the meaty details to an embarrassing degree. The one thing they did show in detail was a new controller, another device that begged more questions than it answered, as I’ll explore below.
So why the funky spec-oriented and dev-oriented event? That’s not clear. But Sony execs had this to say about why they were mum on key details.
“There’s a big story to tell here, and it’s going to take between now and the holiday season to get all the details out there,” Sony’s Jack Tretton told the Associated Press in an interview. Really? What’s the story? Where is the box? Why the big event and super-sized trailers but no real answers?
Sony exec David House at the Sony PlayStation 2 unveils the Sony PlayStation 4 news and specs on February 20, 2013, in New York City.
Image credit: Ant Pruitt for aNewDomain.net
As for the specs, Sony continues to use an x86-compatible processor, but this time it is an eight-core AMD chip — with 8GB of RAM. A more powerful and efficient CPU coupled with a large amount of RAM and an AMD graphics processing unit spells beautiful graphics with amazing performance and smoothness, one would think. But we don’t know. It’s still all demo. We’ll have to see it for real to make that call.
Check out the full specs Sony released below.
Sony’s David House delivered a keynote wrapped around four bullet points: Simple, personalized, immediate and social. Let’s examine that and try to get below the level of the marketese we saw here.
- Simple — House says the intent is to design a user interface that’s simple and elegant — and viewable on your hi-def TV. That’s easier said than done. It’s key, though. A clean aesthetic is what the Sony PlayStation 3 needs first and foremost. The UI that showed on stage did look clean. We’ll need to bang on it and put it through its paces when the system finally comes out late this year — or maybe even early next.
- Personalization — This we expect. Hardcore gamers tend to have a separate identity online versus other aspects of their lives. The ability to further personalize your gaming identity does nothing but boost a gamer’s ego — and Sony will play into that for its new console. Allowing for custom icons and logos will come in handy when it’s time to brag about pwning another gamer.
- Immediate – When it’s time to get on your favorite game, there’s nothing worse than having to wait on boot times and loading. Sony execs say designers plan to implement tech to allow a faster boot up of the console — and allow for suspended play. More firmware, basically. Suspending play — as in suspending progress in RAM and on the hard disk when you leave off a game — is a must-have. The PS4 will store the current progress in RAM as well as the hard disk. Doing this allows resuming playback to be much faster than before, execs said. That’s a decent promise Sony likely will deliver on. But we’ll see.
- Social – The PlayStation 4 will be social. Gamers will be able to hook into social networks, share game play and even share video and live feeds. There’s a Share button on the new PS4 controller — the only hardware we saw today. That controller, at least, is real and apparently working. It’s called the Dual Shock 4.
Sony demoed Drive Club and its social component. The game looked awesome. Drive Club is based on building a team of drivers from your friends network and squaring off against other teams online. This is similar to how first-person shooter games have clans that compete for online supremacy.
The Dual Shock 4 has the traditional button scheme of previous PlayStation generations, but also adds the following: an audio-out jack for game chat, a light sensor which connects to the PlayStation sensor bar similar to the Wii, that share button for dialing in gameplay and videos, live and recorded, over your social nets and to your PlayStation Network (PSN) friends and, finally, a touch pad interface similar to the Sony PS Vita device.
I don’t quite understand the use or need of such a small touch pad on the Dual Shock 4. Gameplay on certain titles is already too complicated with multiple key combinations. Now there’s a touch pad?
Why? Why is the sky blue? Why do hummingbirds fly backwards? When is this thing coming out? All metaphysical questions at this early stage in the game. That was disappointing.
On the plus side, in the two-hour demo, there were some amazing demo game trailers Sony partners showed. Even if canned, they caught gamers’ attention. They had to. Check out the trailer at the end of the story — it was gorgeous. But remember, it was just a demo.
That said, the demos did look great. The graphics showed beautifully with buttery smooth playback. Lots of explosions, head shots and melee combat action. Gamers will love that.
As I watched the live stream, I could even see striations in the carbon fiber shown on the race cars. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Check out this trailer.
The event went a little long for my taste. In two hours, you’d expect to see at least some actual hardware — and execs slipped up big time by refusing to talk price, release date or even show a dummied up prototype of the box at the big event today.
So why was Sony so cagey about the details we wanted? Price flux is probably a factor. Check out these comments from Jack Tretton, a Sony Computer exec.
I don’t know that the box is going to be something that’s going to have a dramatic impact on people’s feelings about the game. It will be a color and a size fairly comparable to previous consoles.
Another question: Will the PS4 be ready before the next Call of Duty release? That’s usually around November each year. I would hate to buy the PS3 version of the beloved franchise and then weeks later the PS4 version is released.
Below is the live stream as Ustream recorded it today. Watch it and tell us: Were you disappointed, drooling or somewhere in between? Let me know. I’m Ant Pruitt and this is aNewDomain.net.
Scroll to the bottom of the page to check out the announcement they passed off on reporters and just make up your own mind.
We don’t typically post releases, but this one is so … curiously devoid of real meaty details.
Overall, I’m impressed with what Sony showed from a hardware spec standpoint, even if it was just aspirational specs and fakie demos. That’s because the demos were knockdown gorgeous. Feel free to connect with me on PSN. My id is Physique8384.
Don’t worry, I’m a total noob.
Read the press release with PS4 specs below.