Sony yesterday unveiled preliminary details of the successor to the PlayStation 3 (PS3) at an event in New York’s Manhattan Center, including the news that it will go on sale in time for Christmas.
"Cloud gaming" will form a core part of Sony’s new device, allowing consumers to stream games from previous generation consoles and play them instantly. The technology that drives this has been developed by Gaikai, a company Sony bought in 2012.
The console will be significantly more powerful than the current PS3, with hyper-realistic graphics and hardware features including a controller bearing a touchpad and reflector strip to allow users to interact via motion-sensing with the console’s Eye camera.
Industry observers said these tactile elements of control have been driven by the growing popularity of touchscreen devices such as the iPad and Sony-manufactured Android-powered devices.
DuBose Cole, a strategist at Mindshare UK, said: "The social functions of the PS4, including the dedicated 'share' button for game video clips, Ustream multicasting and live 'spectator' modes all treat gaming as something to be celebrated, shared and viewed by others."
But he stressed that PS4’s new social functionality might be merely preaching to the converted.
He said: "The social functions link] directly into video elements of gaming already found in social media like YouTube.
"But it raises the question if it will increase the amount of people who frequently share gaming content. For those that would already watch a video of someone beating a game or pulling off an amazing feat, these features are incredibly useful, but the risk remains that it won't scale to foster wider sharing behaviour on the level the hardware integration anticipates."
Third-party games publishers expressed enthusiastic support for the new console, with launch games to include Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs.
But stiff competition is set to come from rival console-maker Microsoft, which itself is gearing up to unveil its Xbox 360 successor, which games industry observers expect will occur at the E3 Show in Los Angeles in June.
The PlayStation 3 went on sale in 2006 and to date has sold around 75 million units.