On Wednesday at a big media event in NYC, Sony unveiled its next-gen console, the Playstation 4. Details are still just coming out, but here are a couple of quick thoughts:
Not surprisingly, the console has a whole lot of processing power under the hood, though it looks like Sony avoided the costly processor development it undertook for the PS3, for which it dumped a reported $400 million into developing the Cell Processor with IBM and Toshiba.
With the PS4, it has moved to
Intel Architecture x86/AMD architecture, and it will be using a custom die that incorporates 8 CPU cores and a GPU engine. While some custom ASIC work is still being done, using Intel architecture x86/AMD architecture means that not only is the company likely realizing how expensive it is to develop a custom processor, it also probably is recognizing what many developers have said for years: developing for the Cell is difficult.
With the acquisition of Gaikai last year, it was clear that Sony was going to beef up its cloud-gaming offering. With the reveal of the PlayStation Cloud, it looks like it has gone all in. It’s also a sign that Sony is finally putting its addiction to physical media — which was part of the problem with the Blu-ray centered PS3 — to bed.
The features of the Playstation Cloud gaming platform are impressive, such as instant play of demoes, virtual game session handoffs, and even director mode. This sounds great, but let’s not forget the hype that Sony put into Playstation Home, which came in the wake of the huge popularity of Second Life and other virtual worlds. Sony is known to chase trends and, at times, not very well. That said, Gaikai had significant traction prior to its acquisition by Sony, and it looks like it has kept the team intact. If it can indeed pull off what it is promising with the Playstation Cloud, it will be a huge upgrade over the PS3 in terms of online and cloud gaming services.
It looks like Sony will have all the standard fare, such as Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, and others. That said, the fact that it made these services available and didn’t emphasize a custom-built Sony video aggregation hub is a plus.
My gut feeling based on details coming out of New York is that Sony chose to create a game console that had less technical hurdles, moving away from the traditional Sony adherence to exotic architectures and formats that have killed so many efforts in the past. The company realizes the PS3 has been a disappointment (particularly after killing all comers with the PS2), so it is looking to get back to basics with a simplified but powerful machine that has a heavy focus on cloud and online gameplay.