Sony comes out swinging and hits homerun with approaching PS4 launch

Box or no box, the PS4 (thus far) proposes to be everything gamers and the industry have been waiting for. Console announcements are typically dull affairs, revealing only what catches the eyes of mainstream media and current or prospective shareholders. Lengthy discussions of minimal hardware specs, monetary non-gaming initiatives and generic pie-in-the-sky hyperbole are the norm. Sony instead came out swinging with game after game, feature after feature and innovation after innovation.

A slew of “next-gen” games were run in what promised to be real-time, (and looked fantastic) a new, Xbox-inspired controller with a front-mounted touch-pad was revealed, promises of Gaikai cloud-based gaming, and a slate of specs equating, more or less, to a top-of-the-line PC with an astounding amount of high-speed memory.

With many best-case scenarios projecting “some” concept footage or tech demos to arise from the conference, the company’s willingness to showcase games in-engine was shocking and spoke volumes about Sony’s take on this round of hardware. Sony is no longer operating under a “build it and they will come” philosophy, but creating a platform for gamers and for game developers.

Throwing gamers a bone in showing them that which translates the best, actual gameplay, and via the likes of a new Mark Cerny IP in Knack, Capcom’s Deep Down, Jonathan Blow’s The Witness and another peek at Watch Dogs, is a fine and exciting gesture, but is just that – a gesture. Sony backs this up ,however, with small innovations such as the elimination of lengthy boots into games and the potential of a well-integrated “share” mechanic and cloud management of PSN products and demos (and the even more aspirational “entire Playstation library target”).

They’ve laid out a system that tosses aside the complex cell processors that complicated past development for PC-centric hardware, capped by 8 GB of unified GDDR5 RAM, with an unheard-of-amount of memory capacity and speed ideal for next-gen development. Beyond this, the apparent lack of arbitrary exclusive requirements, be it through the continuation of typical Blu-ray, Bluetooth and USB support or the usage of Ustream in their social hooks, is promising. The meat of the system is near perfect.

This, however, will come at a cost. The mass of memory and power behind the machine, by all estimations, will skyrocket the system’s price above the console norm, (frightening to say the least, considering the premier PS3’s initial $600 price tag). Given their consumer-friendly demeanor thus far, another attempt at a hefty launch price will prove surprising and again costly. Deferring the price via contract plans similar to those provided by cell phone companies have been rumored for both upcoming next-gen systems and may be another solution, unless Sony is willing to take the PR and production hit of removing some memory or power from the system. The plausibility of Gaikai functionality will also remain a concern until it proves us otherwise.

Despite these concerns, Sony’s announcement was a home run. Microsoft may struggle to compete in the gamer-space if it continues a more family-oriented and universal platform style of marketing and development. But, with the stakes raised and potential console market shrinking, it would be shocking if Microsoft’s eventual 720/Durango announcement doesn’t take a few cues from Sony. One way or the other, this sudden explosion of speculation and potential competition will result in gamers winning and an exciting next generation.

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