Oh Yes, The Sony PlayStation 4 is Now Official!

Has it really been seven years since the last time Sony launched a major gaming console for the living room? You betcha it has, which means if you were 11 years old when the PlayStation 3 came out, you're now old enough to join the military, buy lottery tickets, and stand trial as an adult if you run afoul of the law. Or maybe your son or daughter was 11-years-old when the PS3 came out, and is now off to college. Whatever the case, this is Sony's longest lapse in between PlayStation consoles, but friends, the wait is over. After months of rumors, Sony today ended all the speculation by finally introducing the world to its PlayStation 4 (yes, it's called PlayStation 4!). Was it worth the wait? Should Nintendo be shaking in its boots? Is your PlayStation 3 suddenly obsolete? So many questions, let's get right to the answers.

Sony PS4 Slide

The launch event started with Sony Computer Entertainment President and CEO Andrew House taking the stage to talk about today's gaming landscape. He talked about the gamer being the focal point of gaming efforts, not the living room. Sharing content is also a point of focus, and sometime later this year, Sony will expand the PlayStation Vita's capabilities to the living room (you didn't really think Sony would get through a press event without a shout out to the PS Vita, did you?).

That's all well and good, but what everyone's really interested in is the PS4. Though it's just now being announced, Sony actually began developing its next generation console in the early days of the PS3, about 5 years ago. From then until now, what they decided on was a PC-like architecture. The PS4's processor is an x86 chip, an 8-core Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), to be exact. Sony didn't provide specifics, such as clockspeed and cache, but we now know it's an AMD chip that should excel at multithreaded tasks.

The PS4 also features 8GB of high-speed unified GDDR5 memory. Yes, the same GDDR5 memory that's "typically reserved for high-end graphics cards." It will have local storage (a hard drive) for storing games and content. Oh, and rumors of Sony ditching its DualShock controller? Negative.

Sony DualShock 4

Sony introduced a new DualShock 4 controller just as previously leaked. There's a touchpad in the middle, a share button, headphone jack, a lightbar on top so it can identify other players, and 3D camera tracking. The bottom line is, you don't have to learn a new controller -- phew!

Still on the topic of hardware, Sony infused a secondary custom chip to manage background processes, such as downloading and uploading content, and sharing that content with other users. You'll be able to watch live streams of your friends playing games as part of a "highly integrated" social network, and jump into online games your friends are playing. In addition, the PS4 will allow you to browse videos remotely from your smartphone, tablet, or Vita.

PS4 KillZone
Screenshot from KillZone Shadowfall for PS4.

One of the coolest new features of the PS4 is the ability to play downloaded games almost immediately. Using technology from Gaiki, the PS4 will download a chunk of the game initially, which allows you to begin playing it, and then proceed to download the rest in the background.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to pop your PS3 titles into the PS4, as it doesn't support previous generation games natively. If you want to play PS3 (and PS2 and PS1) titles, you'll have to stream them from the cloud -- boo!

PS4 Diablo III

Blizzard made a surprise announcement at the PS4 launch event to announce a partnership with Sony to "take over the world," or something like that. On a slightly smaller scale, Blizzard is planning to release Diablo III for the PS3 and PS4 in the coming months.

Sony PS4 Slide

So, when is the PS4 coming out? It's slated for a Holiday 2013 release, around the same time Microsoft's Xbox 720 is rumored to launch, setting the stage for a console showdown this holiday season. All that's left for Sony to announce is pricing information, which it didn't do at the press event, and to show us what the PS4 actually looks like. Hopefully Sony will reveal both in the days/weeks ahead.