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The PS4 is a thing that will change gaming — we just don’t know how

Posted by on February 20, 2013 – 10:08 pm
PlayStation 4
Today, Sony announced what everyone knew anyway: that PlayStation 4 is coming for the 2013 holiday season. The next-generation console is packed with promises of how it will change gaming forever, but there are still a load of questions. Mainly, it was important for Sony to strike while Nintendo is struggling to gain footing with the Wii U and get out ahead of Microsoft’s expected Xbox 360 successor announcement at E3 in June.

The DualShock controller will evolve to include sharing buttons, a motion sensor and a central touchpad. (Anything to jack up the pricetag, right?) Real names may take the place of gamer handles with Facebook baked into the console. And streaming is the name of the game — playing games while they’re still downloading, streaming gameplay footage to your friends (something that may finally go mainstream?) and streaming legacy titles from the cloud (shades of Nintendo’s Virtual Console, one of the few things that company has done right online).

Seamless integration with the PlayStation Vita was inevitable — Sony’s been inching that way for a while — but while the ability to stream a game from the PS4 to the handheld is cool, a multiplatform mobile approach seems more foreward-thinking. Only time will tell if anyone cares about Vita interaction. This may be Sony’s Waterloo, or is that Wii U — tying itself to a specific peripheral, a la Nintendo’s bulky and irreplaceable Wii U GamePad –could turn out to be a costly mistake.

Sony also is promising a friendlier experience for game creators, but it’s doubtful the highest barrier to entry — expensive development kits — will be going away anytime soon.

Speaking of costs, what will the PS4 set you back? What exactly does it look like? Who knows! But we are promised beastly specs that more closely resemble decent gaming PCs, and a customizable experience that learns what you like and lets you sample almost any game instantly. There’s not a lot to argue with here — there’s just not a lot to go on other than blind faith. It seems odd that in this go-anywhere cloud world, so much emphasis still is being placed on hardware.

Your move, Microsoft.

(Check out our friends’ rundown of the PS4 game titles announced so far over at Geek News Network.)