NEW YORK — Sony unveiled its next-generation gaming system, the PlayStation 4, and promised social and remote capabilities. Wednesday’s announcement gives the struggling Japanese electronics company a head start over Microsoft and an Xbox 360 successor.
The new PlayStation’s updated controller closely resembles the PlayStation 3 controller but adds a touchpad, motion control and a “share” button. The Japanese electronics giant said the console will be part of a new ecosystem focused on hardware, software and “the fastest, most powerful gaming network.”
The PlayStation 4 will be Sony Corp.’s first major game console since the PlayStation 3 went on sale in 2006. Microsoft Corp. is expected to unveil the next Xbox in June at the E3 video game expo in Los Angeles. Last fall, Nintendo started selling the Wii U, though it plays catch-up in some respects in bringing the ability to play high-definition games.
Although the Xbox 360 came out a year before PlayStation 3, Microsoft’s game machine has been more popular, largely because of its robust online service, Xbox Live, which allows people to play games with others online. The original Wii has sold more units since its launch than both its rivals, but it lost momentum as the novelty of its motion controller faded. Sales of the new Wii U have been slow.
Underscoring the importance of a new PlayStation and the U.S. market, Sony is holding its announcement event in New York rather than in Japan, as it had in the past. The event is at the Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan.
Here’s a running account of the PlayStation event, presented in reverse chronological order. All times are EST. Presenters include Andrew House, president and group chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.; Mark Cerny, lead architect for the PlayStation 4; and David Perry, co-founder of the Internet game company Gaikai, which Sony bought last year.
Among the offerings planned: “Drive Club.” An executive from Evolution Studios says it’s been a concept for a decade, but made possible with the new machine. The game will be about driving the best cars in the world in the best locations in the world, using 3-D models of engines built by the development team.
The event continues with demonstration of games that can be played on the new PlayStation.
Like Nintendo and Microsoft, Sony is trying to position its device as an entertainment hub that can deliver movies, music and social networking as it tries to stay relevant in the age of smartphones and tablets.
The PlayStation online network will have access to Sony’s video and music services, as well as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon — as long as you have subscriptions to those services. You’ll also be able to access Facebook.
Perry talks about Gaikai’s vision of letting people explore any game in the PlayStation store for free. The idea is gamers will then buy what they like.
He says PlayStation 4 will allow for virtual spectating. With one button, you can broadcast your game play so friends can “look over your shoulder virtually.”
It will have a feature called remote play, in which you run the game on the PlayStation, which then sends the video to your handheld PlayStation Vita device over the Internet so you can play remotely.
Cerny says the new PlayStation will have hardware compression so sharing video of game play will be easier. You can browse live game video of games your friends are playing.
Adopting Facebook’s philosophy, Sony will transition to an online game network based on real names, even as people will also be able to keep their aliases.
Cerny appears in a plaid shirt and jeans as he touts the ease in which computer programmers will be able to write games for the new system. He says that with so many devices around, the value of having a powerful computer on a single chip has diminished. Instead, Sony is building the new PlayStation on top of a traditional PC architecture, and in doing so, game creators will have an easier time developing games.
Just before announcing the PlayStation 4, House refers to “a moment of truth and a bold step forward for PlayStation and the company.” He says Sony is looking to offer powerful opportunities to connect and play, including on mobile through a companion PlayStation Vita released last year.
The PlayStation event begins with a light and video show at the storied Hammerstein Ballroom in midtown Manhattan. In attendance are analysts and journalists representing news organizations around the world.
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