David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
The long-anticipated successor to the PlayStation 3 videogame console will come with vastly improved online video streaming capability for Netflix and other entertainment companies. PlayStation 3 is already Netflix’s biggest delivery platform, Sony executive Andrew House noted, but the PS4 has been designed and built to handle those tasks better. The console will also have built-in social-media sharing, video creation and cloud computing, all built on a powerful backbone that should keep costs down and improve user and content developer experience, or so Sony says. The company also announced new partnerships with Facebook and video-streaming company Ustream, and promised new or expanded partnerships with entertainment companies to deliver movies, TV shows and other, more-traditional content.
The PS4 uses what Sony calls “supercharged” version of widely available PC technologies, including a hard-disk drive, lots of internal memory, a “highly enhanced” standard graphics card and a central computer “brain” based on Intel chips. This approach should simplify game design and compatibility and avoid the huge up-front costs and barriers that significantly slowed adoption of the PS4’s predecessor when it arrived in 2006. The new console also will feature a beefed up PlayStation Network that will also allow much more sophisticated “spectating” — people remotely watching (and helping) friends play. Additionally the unit will be capable of playing older games from as far back as the original PlayStation although only via streaming them online to the machine.
Sony also has commitments from a wide array of game developers to create titles for the console. For more than an hour, Sony and many of its third-party game developers showed off a series of visually stunning, near-cinematic demonstrations of upcoming titles. Among the biggest content announcements came from Activision-Blizzard’s Eric Hirschberg, who said that “Destiny,” the striking and ambitious new title announced last week from “Halo” creator Bungie, would come to the PS4. For a decade, “Halo” was exclusive to Microsoft’s competing consoles, so its return to the Sony platform is a big deal. Subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment also announced a console-based version of its hugely successful “Diablo III,” another big deal given Blizzard’s huge financial and critical success.
The new system rolled out in a glitzy Manhattan event before a large live audience with hundreds of thousands of others watching a live stream online (it can be seen here: https://us.playstation.com/meeting2013/).
Sony competitor Nintendo recently rolled out its newest platform, the Wii U, to a modest response. Microsoft, whose Xbox 360 has largely dominated sales in the current generation of game machines, has made no announcements of plans for a successor. All three companies have delayed updating their consoles as the industry has undergone wrenching economic and technological changes. Facebook-based and other casual games on devices such as smartphones and tablets have attracted millions of players unwilling to spend large amounts on standalone consoles and expensive, disc-based titles.