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Sony's Playstation 4 announcement and what it means for Microsoft and Xbox

Here at Windows Phone Central, we are focused on Windows Phone and other Microsoft platforms. We also like to keep our eyes on the competition, such as the upcoming HTC One Android smartphone. To that extent, the Xbox 360 and its successor will have a new competing videogame console later this year in the form of the Playstation 4. Last night, Sony officially announced the console, which is due for a holiday 2013 release.

Read on for our impressions of the Playstation 4 and how it will affect Microsoft's next Xbox console!

Sony’s new social focus

Playstation 4 social streaming

The PS4’s social features are arguably its most impressive innovation. Some people just don’t get social stuff – generally the same individuals who play online games without a headset and think the free Playstation Network is somehow equivalent in quality to Xbox Live, if you ask me. But most gamers like playing and sharing games and content with their friends, which is an area that PS4 could potentially have a leg up on over Microsoft’s next console.

The new Share button on the PS4 controller acts as the gateway to the console’s expanded social functions.  One such function is enhanced friends list support. PS4 will allow users to add friends via social networks like Facebook. Those friends will appear with their real names and profile images, which should be handy for people like me who often forget just who many of the people on their Xbox Live friends lists are.

If you’re a Windows Phone 8 user who finds the ability to take screenshots exciting (I sure love it), the PS4 will blow your mind. Users can share gameplay clips online and even stream videos during gameplay, which others players can then view and discuss together. Apparently friends will even be able to take control from another player and help him or her through difficult situations. That sounds a bit too farfetched to be universally supported across all games, but I certainly wouldn’t mind if it ended up ubiquitous.

Some PS4 features will also be accessible from phones and tablets, such as buying games and messaging friends. Xbox Live users have enjoyed those benefits from PC for years now, but virtually all Playstation Network features have been locked to the PS3 console itself. This smartphone and tablet integration seems to borrow from Microsoft’s SmartGlass concept, though the extent of in-game integration has yet to be revealed.

A next generation controller

DualShock 4 front bottom

In the current generation, each console’s controller has its strengths and weaknesses. The Xbox 360’s d-pad is the worst of the three consoles. The transforming controller’s d-pad shows some improvement, but a design flaw makes that same d-pad snap off after extended use. As for the Playstation 3 controller, its d-pad is better but somewhat rigid on the thumbs, its trigger buttons work better for racers than shooting games, and the analog sticks are convex for no apparent reason.

The DualShock 4 sports a smoother d-pad as well as twin analog sticks with a raised outer section that should increase their grip and comfort. All four shoulder buttons have been redesigned and look downright cozy to use. Home, Start, and Select have been replaced by PS, Share, and Options buttons. Following Microsoft’s lead, the controller now offers a headset jack and a more Nintendo-ish speaker so that folks without headsets will still be able to hear other players.

Most uniquely, a Touch Pad occupies the middle of the controller. The Touch Pad could well prove useful for menu navigation and web browsing. It should also allow certain smartphone games to show up on PS4 without radically altered control schemes. We’ll have to see whether developers embrace the Touch Pad, but I’m sure of its potential.

Kinect competitor

Playstation 4 Eye camera

The new Playstation Eye will make use of dual cameras contained within a single strip in order to better sense the position of multiple players within a room. The camera functions at 1280 x 800 at 60 FPS, and lower resolutions at increased FPS. Instead of requiring a separate Move controller, the Eye now detects the positions of standard DualShock 4 controllers via their built-in color-coded lights.

The tracking of regular controllers should make motion-control and camera support much more common than it was on the PS3. However, Sony didn’t actually confirm whether the Eye will be included with all PS4 systems. Packing in the camera is the only way to ensure its long-term success – especially since the next Xbox console is rumored to include the Kinect 2.0 as a standard feature.

Specs check

DualShock 4 top

The Playstation 4 specs fall in line with previous rumors:

Main Processor

  • Single-chip custom processor
  • CPU : x86-64 AMD ‘Jaguar,’ 8 cores
  • GPU : 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon based graphics engine

Memory

  • GDDR5 8GB (shared between system and graphics)

Hard Disk Drive

  • Built-in

Optical Drive (read only)

  • BD 6xCAV
  • DVD 8xCAV

I/O

  • Super-Speed USB (USB 3.0), AUX

Communication

  • Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
  • IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
  • Bluetooth® 2.1 (EDR)

AV output

  • HDMI
  • Analog-AV out
  • Digital Output (optical)

Interestingly, Sony didn’t list the clock speed of the CPU. Still, the hardware should be a significant leap past today’s consoles in several key areas.

Consider RAM: the PS3 has 256 MB of system RAM and 256 MB of video RAM; Xbox 360 has 512 MB of shared RAM, and the Wii U has 2 GB of RAM with 1 GB dedicated to system functions. PS4 sports 16 times the RAM of the 360 and PS3 and four times as much as the Wii U (but likely more than 4x in practice thanks to that 1 GB reserved for system functions). We expect the new generation Xbox will also have 8 GBs of RAM.

Games

The bulk of PS4 games, including its launch lineup, will be announced at E3 this year. But Sony and its partners did announce several titles.

Exclusives

  • Drive Club (Sony and Evolution Studios)
  • Infamous: Second Son (Sony and Sucker Punch)
  • Killzone Shadowfall (Sony and Guerilla Games)
  • Knack (Sony Japan)
  • The Witness (Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid)

Non-exclusives

  • Destiny (Bungie, creators of Halo)
  • Deep Down (Capcom)
  • Diablo III (Activision and Blizzard)
  • Final Fantasy (Square-Enix’s unnamed title, no new footage shown)
  • Watchdogs (Ubisoft)
  • The Witcher 3 (CD Projekt Red)

We’ll learn more about what games will come to PS4 and the next Xbox in June. The bulk of both consoles’ launch titles will be multiplatform, much like the Wii U’s launch games last year.

Unanswered questions

Playstation 4 dashboard

The PS4 dashboard

Sony neglected to announce the PS4’s release date or price – not surprising given how early in the year it is. Nor did they explainwhether the system’s ability to stream PS1, PS2, and PS3 games from the cloud will require users to rebuy older games in order to play them. Plenty of time for all that down the line.

The real surprise/letdown is that the Playstation 4 console itself wasn’t shown at all during the presentation. I understand the desire to focus on the new controller and system features, but refusing to reveal what the console looks like is downright unusual. Could it be the look of the hardware hasn't been finalized yet? Because we can't put an image to it, the PS4 remains nebulous and ethereal in most gamers’ minds.

Microsoft’s court

Major Nelson tweets about Playstation 4

Xbox spokesman Major Nelson’s response to the announcement

We only have rumored specs of Microsoft’s next console to go by at the moment, but it will likely be on-par with the Playstation 4 in most ways. The PS4’s camera and motion controls will likely lag far behind the new Kinect in the area of body tracking, but I suspect they will work much better for actual gaming than the historically imprecise Kinect. Hopefully the Kinect 2.0 allows a combination of motion control while holding a regular controller, which would greatly expand the new Xbox’s motion gaming capabilities.

After Sony’s announcement, the area I’m most concerned about Microsoft falling behind is social features. Yes, the Xbox 360 has always excelled over PS3 as far as communication goes, but Sony will be making some serious strides with the PS4. The DualShock 4’s built-in speaker alone is a big advancement as far as enabling headset-less players to understand their teammates during gameplay (Xbox 360 chat is largely inaudible when piped through TV and surround speakers). I expect the new Xbox will allow for some form of screenshot or video sharing online, but who knows if it will allow group chat while watching gameplay?

Sony has fired the first shots in the next generation console war. Now it’s Microsoft’s turn to act. Will the big MS wait until E3 to announce the next Xbox and try to steal the thunder from whatever Sony has in store for the Expo? I hope not, as that would afford Sony several months to hype the Playstation 4 without competition. Perhaps Microsoft will announce its own next generation reveal event within the next month or so. As Xbox enthusiasts, we’re all eager to know what’s in store for us next.

Paul Acevedo is the Games Editor at Windows Central. A lifelong gamer, he has written about videogames for over 15 years and reviewed over 350 games for our site. Follow him on Twitter @PaulRAcevedo. Don’t hate. Appreciate!

188 Comments
  • Pfft, what is a new console without a new version of dynasty warriors? anyways, looking good! I have both a Lumia 920 and psvita, so I really don't know what do pick
  • I have two ps3s, two 360's, PS vita, 2 psp's, win 7 and a win 8 phone. No need to choose, get both platforms and enjoy what each has to offer.
  • i own ps3 xbox win8 winphone kinect surface and have been a huge halo fan since the original xbox, ill probably get both but the xbox will deffinately be my preferred console. i dont need any social aspects on my console besides group chat which ps3 failed miserably on.
  • Some of us choose for the sake of continuity. I honestly don't want a PlayStation AND an Xbox, as I like having all of my friends and Achievements in one place, and I'm backed up on Xbox games to play as it is. That, and the PlayStation's exclusives aren't in the genres I like, at least the better ones (like Infamous and Uncharted).
     
    It's not worth it for me to spend ANOTHER $500 or so simply to see if I even LIKE The Show and to maybe play a couple of other games. It's not for everyone, especially people who don't have loads of time to play games--or those who want to stick to a single multipalyer game at a time.
  • I made this mistake last gen. I had an xbox 360 first, and bought a PS3 for a couple exclusives. I think, in total, I've played 3 games to completion on my PS3, it is pretty much a glorified blu-ray player / media streamer. Everyone I know plays on an Xbox, so there is no draw to the PS3 anymore. I will probably end up getting the PS4, but it won't be anywhere near launch.
  • We can't afford that. I had to save 3 months to afford a 360 when they were released. I will be doing the same again so multiple platforms is not an option moneybags.
  • You can always buy the alternate console down the line, after the price has dropped. They needn't all be bought at launch.
  • do i have to get a pair of each plattform or is one enough to enjoy it?
  • I will be getting two of each
  • I know what you guys are saying that is true. I have only beaten two games on my ps3 and halos exclusive to Xbox I will be getting that. Maybe if its worth it down the line I'll get a ps4 but as it stands if specs are on par I'll stick with Xbox for the simple reason that I prefer stable online gaming much better socializing on the Xbox.
  • Lol
  • +1
  • Totally agree!
  • I love my gaming. I am super excited for both ps4 and the new Xbox. Sony was very smart with the social integration.
  • And for those who struggle with a 1~2 mbps connection like here in Egypt will never buy such a console... :)
    BTW Egypt was the biggest PS3 market in the middle east, they're just loosing lots of sales by such thing !
  • Just because the console has great online features, that doesn't mean you can't still buy disc games and enjoy them like with previous consoles.
  • Really dumb reply... glad not all egyptians are stupid like that.
  • Should be worrying less about Sony and concentrate on sorting xbox and WP out!
  • I definitely don't play games with a headset or care to play online or don't care for achievements and I fancy myself very knowledgeable about social media. And I don't know if MS has much to be worried about right now being, as was pointed out, there was no actual console shown. I say that as really no diehard fan of either brand (though I do own a 360). Its amusing to see fancy new social features and graphics. But I want to see actual hardware (aside from the controller).
  • The actual console is literally the less important thing. It's going to be a box with ports for a bunch of accessories, with a Blu-Ray drive and an on/off button. You aren't going to take it arround with you so who cares if it looks great or not so great. The good stuff is inside and that was already shown yesterday. Games, social features and online features, new controller, etc... We even know that it's going to be released this year. We have the most important stuff that we need for now. The rest was saved for E3.
  • As a long time gamer, I've always looked forward to the look of a console. Sure, what's under the hood is obviously more important. But the controller did nothing to excite me. The social features did nothing for me (maybe because I don't game online very much and I do enough social media outside of gaming). The graphics are nice (though I am more about great gameplay in the end). It just would have been nice to have seen the actual console
  • I'm with you on this.  I'll never be able to un-see the PS3 George Foreman grill comparison or that god-awful boomerang/banana controller.
  • I forgot about that horrible looking controller.
  • Microsoft definitely have the leg up. Seeing what Sony did. Plus the unified underbelly being Windows 8 across the board will be unmatched.
  • Well you say that but MS are failing in many ways. Just look at WP and how they've completely botched their ties to the Xbox brand with weeks and weeks without releases and only casual games on offer that iOS and Android had for aged. On the console side, devs are finding it more and more difficult to work with MS, especially smaller dev studios and they lack any draw for exclusive games with only Halo, Gears of War and Forza. MS are moving away from gaming. The Xbox is now a Netflix box that plays games sometimes and it's been apparent where they were going since they showed of the Kinect and every E3 since.
  • I'll gladly take Halo, Gears, Fable, Forza, Dance Central over that boring generic Killzone, inFamous, LittleBigPlanet DriveClub crap that Sony demoed yesterday. 99% of Sony first party games are garbage.
    As far as Indie devs running away... Minecraft has sold over 5 million copies on XBLA already. That game is going to make more money than most boxed games. XBLA is where the money is at for Indie devs. Look at the huge success of Castle Crashers too.
  • Minecraft has sold like hotcakes, but there is actually a growing contingent of indie devs who are either displeased with XBLA and Xbox Live or have openly moved away from it. It's a real problem that Microsoft doesn't seem to have acknowledged as of yet.
  • Oh yes, I completely forgot about Fable because those past couple of games were complete shit and I couldn't care less about the Dance Central games because I don't want to spend over £100 on a camera for 1 game although you're welcome to enjoy the likes of DBZ, Seseme Street and Steel Batallion for exclusives. The most generic game you listed there has to be Killzone but Halo 4 didn't exactly raise the bar either. InFamous is actually a pretty fun game with a really interesting story and to call LBP generic, you're just crazy.
    I clearly like Windows Phone otherwise I wouldn't be on this site but you need to remove those bias glasses man, they're not good for you. MS did very well for XBLA for the first few years but now that they dominate, devs aren't happy with all the certification BS they have to go through. Just see what Phil Fish, Brad Muir or Jonathon Blow have to say on the matter.
  • Well said.
  • Hey man, I'd gladly take Halo, Gears & Forza too.
    But you are 99% wrong, because SONY's first party titles are far from garbage. Sounds like you haven't even played them. Your missing out.
  • Agreed. Sony's lineup of exclusives is very strong on the whole.
  • I think Microsoft will be the better of the two this time. Not that last time the Ps3 was better of course. The xbox has always been easier to program and I don't see that changing. Xbox live should be free though.
  • Xbox Live Gold will never be free. But MS does need to remove the Live Gold restriction for Netflix and other apps.
  • This.
  • That would be for the best, yes.
  • Agreed!
  • I'm inclined to agree, thinking a Silver account should be sufficient...but then perhaps they should just mitigate the console purchase with a mandatory Gold subscription..? Like that $99 purchase deal at Microsoft stores...no? =[
  • I don't really care about it not being free for games, but I hate having to pay to be able to play my music in my living room since I'm already paying for the Xbox Music Pass! So I never listen to music in my living room instead, grrrr. So that need to be free! Right now, for the price of two years of Gold to get music on my TV I could instead buy new speakers where I could plug in my phone and play music from there, and it'd probably sound better than on my tv anyway... But... Anyway... I don't want to buy new speakers, I just want to access my damn music on my Xbox!
  • But Sony admitted yesterday that the cell chip really didn't work out for them and for the PS4 have switched to a more traditional x86 structure that'll be much easier for devs to use. Onto XBL however, don't ever expect it to be free. MS have seen good success with the subscription model offered in their stores and I'd likely see them do it from day one with Durango and millions of people are willing to pay for XBL even though I don't really see the value in it as a Steam user.
  • The PS4 has been confirmed to run used games.
  • Thanks, I just caught that. Fixed.
  • Yeah, that's going to be decisive to me. If the Xbox doesn't run used games, I'll be buying a PS4. 
  • Still 8-9 months for launch, sony effectively osborned the PS3 with this announcement
  • Osborned..? O_O
  • Osmosis Jones ^_^
  • I doubt the PS3 got "Osborned" by this announcement. If Sony notices a dip in PS3 sales, they can bring the price down to convince people the PS3 is still worth buying.
  • i think the new xbox will have win 8 or RT or something like that which will use the NT kernel and hence have a lot of social features and apps to go to but it might prove a hinderance in backward compatibility for xbox 360 games but then again sony ps4 also doesn't have it
  • I'm impressed with ps4, but as my ps3 gathers dust and my family all enjoy the Xbox, I'm not sold as an early adopter
  • i have to say me either i just got a ps3 and planning on selling it for the new xbox if only to take the price down just a little. prolly sell my 360 but my game portfolio is huge.
  • Does anyone else feel like Microsoft may just blow this out the water?...
  • All rumors indicate the next Xbox will be very similar to the PS4 in specs, so they'd really need some amazing new features to blow it out of the water.
  • Which is good. The move to x86 in the PS4 is going to make games in general higher quality because porting across platforms will become easier. 
  • Current rumors say the next Xbox will be less powerful, I think only 1.2 teraflops.
  • Actually no, I think the PS will beat the Xbox. Spec wise the rumours for the Playstation have been on the money. Which means that the Xbox is a fair bit behind. I think the Xbox runs the risk of looking dated much sooner.
  • Eurogamer says sony ps4 will be able to play used games:
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-02-21-sony-tells-eurogamer-playstation-4-will-not-block-used-games
  • No, it means sony ps4 will be able to play used PS4 games, not ps3...
  • What?
  • I just found it odd that a company promoting all their new streaming services, couldnt live stream one event without issues.  The audio dropped and at one point the stream became unawatchable.  I checked my home networking settings and my my bandwidth was open at 13mbs, nothing taking up my bandwidth, then I read everyone was having the same issue.  If you goal is to promise streaming games, I would think this is a major issue.
  • Sigh, once upon a time this would have had me jumping for joy but I just can't get that excited. I was a huge fan of the PS1 and 2 but the PS3 ruined it for me. Now I'm looking forward to the next Xbox more than this, which is funny because I hated the original Xbox and the massive controller that I couldn't get my hands around. Also, I have to disagree about the d-pad for the 360, I love it far more than my chintzy-feeling PS3 one.
  • We'll have to agree to disagree then. The 360's d-pad is extremely inaccurate, making it wholly inappropriate for fighting games or anything that requires precision directional presses.
  • The d-pad on the 'pro' controller (the one that flips between 8-way and 4-way) is much better, hopefully they will adopt that as standard for the next xbox.
  • Problem is that d-pad lacks durability. I've had two break off already. The shape is good but the engineering needs work.
  • MS already has a great online infrastructure. Take that and blow it out and make Sony look cavemen.
  • Underwhelming. Move did very well for Sony...riiight. Sony is blowing smoke.
    $5 says MS new system is called XBOX. Also the 360 has proven it didn't need a bluray player and charged for online content. The social share isn't a new concept. EA has done this with Madden and Burnout. I'm sure there are others. In terms of a friend helping through a rough spot, I would have to see how this is done. Pause, friend signs in, has to have the game too, obviously, they unpause, get me killed. I don't think it will take off. I'd use it to troll and hop in holes and such.
  • Sony DID announced PS4? I thought that comtroller IS PS4!.........
  • They didn't show the console, just talk and console "parts".
  • I'm a W8 and WP8 supporter, having a W8 PC and a Lumia 920. I don't like Apple but I've an iPad4 (because it's the tablet on the market that gives me all the apps and a stable experience). I don't like Google or Android but I have a Gmail account. When it comes to gaming I'm all for PlayStation because in my opinion it is the console with more and better exclusives. PS4 is looking amazing and I really want to play the new Killzone.
     
    Yesterday when Sony talked about integration with tablets and smartphones they actually showed images of their Android tablets and smartphones but also of their W8 tablet, so I hope there is going to be a PS4 app for W8 and maybe even WP8 but that's probably asking for too much. Anyway, if there isn't any support for Windows I will be ok because I still have my iPad. It's the advantage of having a bit of every world.
  • You nailed it! I do hope they make a nice app for Windows 8/Rt since I can use my laptop with Windows 8.
  • By the way, having a Windows 8 Pro tablet is like having a bit of every world. There is an Android emulator (BlueStacks I think...) so you can run over 750 000 Android apps on a Win8 tablet, but you can install the millions of apps available for Win7. I don't see how the iPad has more apps. Your way to see it is that it's better to have a little of every company. Personally I think it's easier to choose your company and stick with it. That way you're sure your phone talks to you computer and to you tablet and gaming console. And one app you buy for the Tablet can also be used for the PC...
  • But, Halo
     
    /thread
  • Same here. Windows and Windows Phone, but when it comes to gaming I'm all PlayStation. Microsoft just has a lackluster offering when it comes to actual games, which is what most people buy a console for... Microsoft needs to learn to allow creative freedom to developers instead of forcing them to make a sequel to whatever will sell the most.
  • So far I'm expecting MS to win this one. I'm not amazed by the social features and they didn't show any exclusives that would make me want to get one.
  • From what I heard, The Witness isn't exclusive in the sense that it's never coming to other platforms.  It's exclusive in the game's launch window, similar to how COD map packs are exclusive to Xbox for the first month.  I fully imagine this game will end up on PC/Xbox at  some point (possibly Wii U - if Watch Dogs is why not?)
    The other things I found interesting...
    -It plays used games, but we don't know what this means exactly.  Will online activation codes be required?
    -No backwards compatibility out of box.  Not a dealbreaker, but this sucks.  Also PSN games will not transfer.  Ouch.
    -8GB DDR5 RAM (!) is huge, but shared.
    -Games looked "meh" to me.  They were nice graphically, but Killzone and Infamous just don't get me excited.  The Square-Enix reveal of a plan to start development of a Final Fantasy game was silly.
    -Social features look like they could be pretty cool, although a lot of it looked very early and I doubt much of it is "real" at this point.  The Gaikai streaming/backwards compatibility thing made this clear...they'll roll things out in phases.
    Overall, I was a bit letdown by the conference.  I'm an Xbox guy at heart, but have and enjoy a few exclusives on the Playstation consoles (and came from the PSOne/2).  I wanted more because I want Sony to push Microsoft to innovate and bring it.  I'm interested to see how Microsoft responds to this and how Nintendo can position themselves with a weaker system (again) that doesn't have a sure-fire sales gimmick.
  • You forgot to mention no backward compatibility to ps3 games.
  • There won't be any for the Xbox (720) either, unless they build an emulator or stream online, which I highly doubt. The next Xbox will probably move to x86 architecture too and the games on console talk almost completely to the hardware. The APIs will most probably be much of the WinRT, making them even more different.
  • That's a lot of speculation with so little info to go on. Let's just be patient and see what Ms brings to the table.
  • it looks pretty cool but my only problem is the entire share contorls with a friend, if they go with trophys still, it would ruin the entire system as oh I can't beat this part going for the trophy just get my friend to do it or I need todo this speed run get my friend to do it kinda sucks
  • Well they can just make it so that the trophy is only unlocked if YOU do it. Just like hoe you can't edit a document someone shared with you on SkyDrive unless you sign in. Permissions and access controls
  • I just hope the new Xbox is released as a subscription model. Imagine brand new next Gen console for $200. With you being locked into Xbox live for 3 years. Microsoft wouldn't be able to keep up with demand!
  • How about this Xbox next generation console under $500 and free Xbox live no more paying for it
  • Now youre just asking for too much ;)
  • I have n