It’s PlayS­ta­tion faux

Sony’s an­nounce­ment of its PS4 re­vealed lit­tle and left many ques­tions unan­swered, writes Rod Ch­ester

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FOR all its gam­ing knowl­edge, Sony’s lat­est move in the con­sole wars is more of a ‘‘ present arms’’ than a killer blow. Sony an­nounced the PlayS­ta­tion 4 in New York last week, but in a two-hour long demon­stra­tion failed to of­fer specifics on when gamers would get on it and how much it would cost.

Many an­a­lysts say Sony is keep­ing its pow­der dry. Mi­crosoft is ex­pected to an­nounce an Xbox up­grade, prob­a­bly in June.

But the chal­lenge the con­sole games maker faces is pitch­ing its de­vices as ‘‘ en­ter­tain­ment units’’ to those be­yond the core gam­ing mar­ket when the ex­plo­sion of smart­phones means that for many peo­ple a game is some­thing to buy for $1 and play wher­ever and when­ever they want.

Re­search from firms IDC and the NDP Group shows sales of con­soles are on the de­cline, although both Mi­crosoft and Sony can ex­pect a boost when they re­lease their first new con­soles in years.

A lot has changed since Sony and Mi­crosoft last went head to head.

There are new threats coming from out­side the tra­di­tional Sony-Mi­crosoft­Nin­tendo mar­ket, not the least of which could be game­play­ing el­e­ments with Ap­ple’s long-ru­moured iTV and Google’s TV sys­tem.

Although it is easy to crit­i­cise Sony for ‘‘ launch­ing’’ a games con­sole with­out ac­tu­ally show­ing a con­sole, there were many things at the Sony launch that ex­cited fans. One was the demon­stra­tion of games with a new level of graph­ics that makes faces al­most look real.

The made-ready-for-PS4 games un­veiled in­clude Drive­club, Kil­l­zone: Shadow Fall and Des­tiny.

Sony Com­puter En­ter­tain­ment pres­i­dent and group CEO An­drew House al­luded at the launch to the chang­ing face of the con­sole war.

‘‘ While we once changed the gam­ing land­scape, now we can see how it’s chang­ing us, from mo­bil­ity, to multi-for­mat play to greater com­mu­nity en­gage­ment as well as plat­forms that are de­signed to en­able ac­cess to en­ter­tain­ment, so­cial me­dia and more,’’ Mr House says.

Weonce changed the gam­ing land­scape, now we­can see how it’s chang­ing us

Sony is bet­ting in­creased so­cial net­work­ing and link­ing to hand-held de­vices is the key to keep­ing con­soles rel­e­vant.

In­ter­ac­tive Games and En­ter­tain­ment As­so­ci­a­tion chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ron Curry says the an­nounce­ments at the PlayS­ta­tion 4 launch are a sign con­soles and mo­bile games will con­verge. ‘‘ The ecosys­tem is ex­pand­ing and we are see­ing a sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween all the play­ers,’’ he says.

WHATWEKNOW

The Sony PlayS­ta­tion 4 has a X86 CPU and 8GB of me­mory.

Gamers will be able to share video clips of their gam­ing prow­ess. Those with a Sony Vita will be able to use their hand­held de­vice to play PS4 games. If you have a smart­phone or tablet, you will be able to watch your friends play.

The DualShock 4 gam­ing con­troller has a light panel, which has a colour se­lec­tion to iden­tify play­ers, a built-in touch­pad and a ‘‘ share’’ but­ton.

There will be ways to share gam­ing videos to Face­book and stream them over Us­tream.

WHATWE­NEED TOKNOW

The price and avail­abil­ity. Some an­a­lysts be­lieve Sony will not re­veal the price un­til af­ter Mi­crosoft an­nounces the new Xbox. The ini­tial an- nounce­ment that the PS4 would be avail­able by the 2013 hol­i­days might mean a much later date for Aus­tralia.

WHAT’S IN THE BOX?

The spec sheet Sony re­leased af­ter the launch made no men­tion of a Blu-ray player nor the size of the unit’s hard disk.

Sony in­di­cated the unit even­tu­ally would have back­wards com­pat­i­bil­ity with ex­ist­ing ti­tles through the cloud, but such a gen­eral an­nounce­ment leaves a gamer with more ques­tions.

WILL THE PS4 SUP­PORT 4K TVs?

It’s a moot point now, as the su­per-res­o­lu­tion TVs are priced above the range of an av­er­age user, but given the shelf life for a games con­sole is six to seven years, it’s an is­sue to con­sider.

Game on: Sony’s An­drew House in­tro­duces PlayS­ta­tion 4.

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