Pilieci: Playstation 4 marks first salvo in potential gaming console deathmatch

Pilieci: Playstation 4 marks first salvo in potential gaming console deathmatch

As product launches go the one for Sony’s Playstation 4 was a pretty empty one.

As product launches go it was a pretty empty one.

Still, with the promise from Sony Corp. that consumers will see the PlayStation 4 on store shelves in time for Christmas, the next generation of console gaming is right around the corner.

And this generation will likely be one of the last.

Though Nintendo Inc. hit stores first with its Wii U, that machine was arguably more about playing catch-up with current-generation consoles than about getting a jump on competitors.

It offered little by way of next-generation innovation. Though it employs an innovative controller that uses a large touch screen as an input mechanism, Sony showed at its press conference on Wednesday night that feature is easily duplicated.

But the PS4 showcases where video game consoles are heading.

The PS4’s controller will contain a built-in touch-sensitive pad that can be used to interact with games on-screen through gestures. It will also have a high-speed Blu-ray/DVD reader, which will address one of the biggest drawbacks of the PS3 by allowing faster reading of discs so users don’t have to install on the hard drive every game they want to play.

It will incorporate a few obvious features that should have been implemented in consoles long ago, including an instant boot-up, thanks to a “sleep mode” that basically pauses the computing activity of the entire system until the player resumes operations, meaning players will no longer need to search frantically for a save point while their significant other waits for date night to begin.

Social-media connectivity has been built into the PS4’s software. For the nerdy, the system can broadcast a game as you play it. The player can invite others to watch or, presumably, make the stream available publicly. The PlayStation Vita, Sony’s hand-held game player, or a tablet computer can be used as a second control screen, turning those other devices’ into the equivalent of a WiiU gamepad.

Then there is the console’s guts which, like the PS3 at its launch, are brag-worthy. The PS4 will basically be a supercomputer disguised as a gaming console. Sony boasts that when launched, the PS4 will have eight gigabytes of system memory, an eight-core 64-bit processor with built in graphics processor running at a whopping 1.84 teraflops of processing speed.

Most people have computers running at less than half that processing power.

Now, we have to take Sony’s word on all this stuff because at the launch in New York City on Wednesday, very little was actually shown off. In fact, the console wasn’t seen at all. Which is telling about the current state of the video game industry.

Sony fired this opening salvo in order to jump ahead in the public-relations war against Microsoft Corp. It’s widely believed that Microsoft will reveal its new Xbox console at the E3 video game show in June. Sony was late off the mark with the PS3, launching more than a year after Microsoft’s Xbox 360, and the company doesn’t want to be caught flat footed again.

Announcing the PS4 now gives Sony months of attention in the spotlight where it can tell the world about its forthcoming console, even though it may at this point only be half-baked, with pricing and an exact release date yet to be announced.

But getting attention right now is crucial, as chances are the video game industry will get a lot smaller after this generation of consoles finally launches.

In 2012, sales of video game consoles plummeted 12 per cent in the United States — more than $4 billion U.S. — as consumers found new ways to play games, particularly on tablet computers and cellular phones.

A study released Thursday by Ipsos Reid suggests that trend will only accelerate as more than 47 per cent of Canadians now own a smartphone capable of playing games, as compared to the end of 2011 when only 34 per cent of Canadians owned such a device. The report also said 21 per cent of Canadians now own a tablet computer, up from 10 per cent last year.

Read more:ottawacitizen