It's official: the PlayStation 4 is coming in fall 2013.
Sony's much-publicized PlayStation Meeting offered up the first details on what the company's plans are for the next hardware generation, the centerpiece of which is a new PlayStation 4. The console is built on PC architecture as opposed to the Cell processor that beats at the heart of the PS3. The PS4 also sports significantly more memory than its predecessor -- 8GB -- and an unnamed, high-end graphics processor.
The switch from Cell to x86 architecture and the memory boost were both informed by early R&D interviews that Sony conducted with its development partners. The PS3's design has proven itself to be a bit of a stumbling block for multi-platform devs, so the PS4's "supercharged PC" is meant to address that.
The PS4 also packs in a second, completely separate CPU that will be dedicated to handling secondary processes. This includes features like background downloading of system and title updates. Certain games will also be playable while they're still downloading.
Along with the PS4 comes a new controller, the DualShock 4. The shape of the new gamepad has been re-worked from the DualShock 3, with longer handgrips on the left and right sides for added comfort. The DualShock 4 sports the same SIXAXIS motion sensitivity that its predecessor did, but it's further bolstered by some new bells and whistles, including a two-point touch-sensitive surface (much like the PS Vita's rear touchpad) and a new Share button that ties into some of the console's planned social features.
The controller also features a built-in light bar that allows it to communicate with a dual camera attachment, essentially an EyeToy 2.0. It's not quite Kinect, but the idea is the same. The dual camera setup allows for the device to map out movement and depth in your playing space. How that will factor in on the gaming side remains to be seen. The camera also features built-in microphones.
The presentation covered many of the planned social features for the PS4, though it's not clear which of these are intended for launch and which factor in as more long-term efforts. Your user profile will be changing, and while you'll still have your PSN ID for in-game purposes, there will also be the option of associating your profile with your social identity on the Internet. Clip sharing and live streaming are also planned.
Sony confirms that the PS4 won't be backwards compatible with PS3 games. Gaikai's technology is expected to help with bringing legacy content to the new platform. The feature won't be available at launch, but the plan is to allow for the streaming of PS3 (and earlier) games.
Gaikai also features into Sony's plans for the PS Vita. Remote Play for all PS4 titles is planned -- though it's a long-term plan, so don't expect a lot at launch -- with the Vita serving as a client tapping into the server that is the PS4. It seems that the Vita will also be able to double as a controller, bringing the same sort of second screen features that you get on the Wii U with your GamePad. Sony is planning a lot of second screen support in general, with tablets and other mobile devices due for apps that will work with the console and its games in unspecified ways.
Stay tuned for more as we hear it, and let us know what you think of Sony's plans for next-gen!