PS4 release date, specs & price rumours
PS4 release date, specs, news & price rumours - we breakdown the big announcement and try to fill in the big gaps
UPDATED 25/02/13: Standby, suspend and resume section updated
The big reveal is now over - read PS4 console announced by Sony - and looking back it's pretty incredible that Sony took two hours to tell us so little.
The event was more developer showcase than console announcement, and though you could argue that 'it's all about the games', a little more substantial information regarding the hardware would have been nice. What we did see was impressive though, there were some polished-looking games, and the hardware (in some respects) is even better specified than the rumours had led us to believe.
We're not going to get too hung up on what shape the inevitable black box will be (though we are hoping for something larger but quieter, rather than slinky and whiny), but neither pricing or a UK release dates were confirmed. Basically, we didn't get to see anything we didn't expect to see.
The name 'Orbis' can now safely slink away, it's the PS4
It's still gripping stuff for PlayStation fans, and not all the demos are online in full. So if you missed out you can still watch all two hours of it at us.playstation.com/meeting2013. Or for a more condescended version you could just watch the video below.
We may be impressed but we're still be clamouring for more details. In fact the only question that has been unquestionably answered is the name - it will be called PS4. Below we'll summarise everything we do now know with everything that we still only suspect.
PS4 RELEASE DATE
The official PS4 release date is currently pencilled in for 'Holiday 2013', which most-likely means in time for Thanksgiving in the US, so a mid-November PS4 launch date. However, for us in the UK things are far less clear, and the big question is whether we will get the PS4 before Christmas this year, or be left crying into our Turkey while Japanese and US gamers post huge quantities of next-gen loveliness onto social networking sites.
UK journalists at the event did try and get a firmer date out of Sony's top brass, a worthy but ultimately doomed endeavour. Tom Bramwell at Eurogamer tried to appeal to the better nature of Shuhei Yoshida, President of Sony Worldwide Studios, but he would only go as far as saying "For us, Europe is an enormously important market. That's no question. So I hope European consumers can play PS4 as soon as it's available somewhere, but I'm not making promises."
Don't get too excited that date may not be intended for us Europeans
In addition, we recently heard that the PS4 could be delayed until 2014 in UK. An unnamed developer talking to Edge magazine said that stock issues meant the launch would have to be staggered across the regions. This would be bad news for UK fans, who would then have to wait until after the crucial Christmas period - missing out on numerous holiday hours for playing games.
Our gut feeling on this front isn't a good one, and although the PS4 is first out of the gate, whoever can get hardware to gamers first could take a big lead.
PS4 PROCESSOR AND GRAPHICS
It's been widely-known for some time that the PS4 would be based around AMD technology, both for its CPU and GPU elements – as is the remarkably similar Xbox 720.
AMD hardware was confirmed last night, though the precise architecture wasn't discussed in as much detail as some of the previous leaks, what was revealed confirmed those leaks - with one exception.
Hardware details were thin on the ground
Even what proved to be the most reliable leaks said that the PS4 would have 4GB of system memory. It was theorised that use of a single pool of fast GDDR5 memory would more than make up for the (rumoured) more fragmented 8GB memory system of the 'Xbox 720'. However, when the reveal came, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the PS4 will have a whopping 8GB of superfast memory.
It's possible that this was due to Sony telling developers to develop launch games within a 4GB limit. Final hardware wouldn't have been finalised when development started, and Sony would know exactly how much memory overhead the PS4's cloud gaming, video capture and operating system would have. So giving developers a smaller limit to work within would have been a safe move. Pure speculation, but it does make sense.
The eight-core Jaguar AMD CPU and the powerful 1.84TFLOPS AMD GPU were both confirmed. There wasn't any details about the architecture of the latter though, an area where hardware leaks, from the largely-reliable http://www.vgleaks.com, have pointed to a significant advantage for the PS4.
Quantic Dream showed what was possible with the PS4 hardware
The PS4 GPU is rumoured to have 50% more compute units than the Xbox 720. As suspected, and confirmed in the reveal these can be used for more than just graphics though, with Sony showing off an impressive Havok physics demo, with thousands of objects bouncing about – largely managed by the GPU.
Console comparisons aside, the bottom line for a next-gen console is fairly obvious. It should be able to run graphically detailed games at 1080p and 60fps, and preferably also cope with the processing overheads of 3D as well. The PS4 looks well equipped to do this.
While powerful, the gulf between top-end PC graphics cards and consoles is definitely growing - mainly because the best PC cards become more-and-more expensive (the new Nvidia GTX Titan costs the best part of £900. No console would sell at these prices, so it's hardlt surprising that the PS4 Unreal Engine 4 demo isn't quite as spangly as its PC equivalent - as pointed out by Reddit user Polypunk.
Here's the official listing of the PS4 specification, released after the event.
Single-chip custom processor
CPU: x86-64 AMD 'Jaguar' 8 cores
GPU: 1.84 TFLOPS, AMD next-generation Radeon™ based graphics engine
Hard Disk Drive:
Optical Drive (read only):
I/O and communication:
Super-Speed USB (USB 3.0)
Ethernet (10BASE-T, 100BASE-TX, 1000BASE-T)
IEEE 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth® 2.1 (EDR)
Digital Output (optical)
We've already discussed the CPU and GPU, but it's worth noting that Sony are claiming both have been integrated onto a single chip. This APU (accelerated processing unit) to use AMD's terminology has been seen for PCs for some time, with chips such as the AMD A10-5800K, but even this top-end chip has nothing near the graphics power of the PS4.
It's not clear whether this is a single die, or whether it's a pair of dies side-by-side on the same chip. It's more likely to be the former, at this stage, with a fully integrated single-die chip coming along in later revisions once chip yields have improved – in much the same way as the Xbox 360 started out with two chips, then integrated them onto one and finally moved to a single die with the quieter and cooler Xbox 360 S.
When it comes ports, connectivity and video output there was very little space for manoeuvre, and the PS4 is equipped as expected. A HDMI output, built-in Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port are all most people need, there's also an S/PDIF output for older surround sound hardware. Bluetooth remains of course – and continues to be used for all controllers.
It wasn't mentioned during the announcement, but after the event Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida confirmed that the PS4 would support 4K resolutions - but only for video playback. This isn't a surprise, as playing 4K video isn't taxing for a next-gen console and HDMI 1.4 supports the resolution required – up to 4,096×2,160p at 24 Hz - the same as in digital cinemas. The big question is then how such content would be supplied?
Sony is keen enough to sell 4K sets it is giving away content on a hard disk with them to watch
HDMI 1.4 will also bring support for Ethernet channel, so it would be possible for your PS4 get a network connection from your AV Receiver, cutting down on cabling - presuming of course you have the right kit.
STANDBY, UPDATES AND CONTROLLER CHARGING
One of our biggest complaints about the PS3 was the size and regularity of its system updates. We'd often turn on the console for a quick game of something, only to have to wait for ages for a massive update to download and install. With the PS4, Sony claims to have solved these problems, with downloads and updates occurring in the background, even when the console is in its 'Standby Mode' so it should always be ready to go.
The Standby Mode has other uses too, the console will now be able to charge the new DualShock 4 controller (via Micro USB) while powered-down - and will probably be able to charge your phone or tablet too, which is handy.
More playing and less waiting, sounds great
The PS4 will also be capable of going into a Suspend Mode mid-game, which means that tedious boot-up and game loading times should be a thing of the past. Simply go into standby when you want a break, and be able to resume from where you left off at a push of a button when you're ready. This is fantastic news, cutting down on waiting time and increasing playing time.
You'll also be able to start playing demos and downloaded games before they fully download. Essentially, the PS4 will download the core game code and the first level, and then download the rest as you play. Again, less waiting, more playing.
We don't have any cold boot times, boot from Standby times, or power usage figures for the PS4 as of yet. But we'll keep you updated as we get more information.
PS4 STORAGE AND BLU-RAY
The specification only mentions a built-in hard disk, with no capacity or type specified. We'd love to have a super-fast SSD drive in our PS4, but that seems unlikely given current prices. A traditional hard disk is almost certain, we just hope that Sony continue to provide the option to swap drives as you wish, with compatibility for standard 2.5in models.
Blu-ray is a must for PS4, the PS3 came a little too early for Sony to comfortably include the hardware, but it still pushed ahead with it at great cost. These days, Blu-ray is one of the defining parts of the PlayStation brand and essential for delivering huge amounts of data for top-end games.
Blu-ray wasn't mentioned at all at the event, we're guessing that was just to keep things centred on games; it is in the specification though and the good news is that read speeds have risen from a measly 2x to a more respectable 6x. This will hugely speed up game installation times.
PS4 CLOUD GAMING AND SHARING
With its purchase of Gaikai last year, Sony was always likely to be pushing cloud gaming on the PS4. Still we're impressed how much the company has achieved on PS4 in just seven months, since its acquisition in July 2012. It goes well beyond just being able to play demos without downloading them too, with the PS4 able to connect with other devices, and your friends, in ingenious ways.
For starters, the PS4 has built-in video compression hardware, which constantly records your gaming as you play. Using the new Share button on the PS4 controller, you can instantly grab a section of gameplay using simple edit controls and post it to say your PSN profile or Facebook. Live streaming is also possible through the popular Ustream sevice – so you'll be able to stream constant footage to you fans – presuming you're some kind of pro gamer.
It goes one step further though, allowing others to join in your gaming session, from which they can talk you through difficult parts or even (with your permission) take over the controls to help you out directly when you get stuck. We're not sure how popular this will be, but games developers might be able to spin it into something far more intriguing – possibly even central to a clever indie game – where you have to help out other players by taking temporary control of their characters.
The cloud gaming system looks impressive, with the ability to instantly share and stream video, as well as allow a friend to take over the controls to help out
The PS4 can also stream video to a Sony PlayStation Vita, in much the same way as the Wii U can stream video to its tablet-like controller. This will allow gamers to play when the TV is being used for other purposes. It wasn't stated what range such a feature will have, but you might be able to play games remotely (presuming a quick enough broadband connection) when away from home. This would of course mean you'd need to be able to turn the PS4 on-and-off remotely. Dave Perry of Gaikai said it was an aim of there's to have every PS4 game playable on the Vita, though we think the number supported will depend on Vita sales and developer support.
Other devices will be supported, but we don't know to what extent you'll be able to play PS4 games on them
Gaikai's tech also allows you to do more traditional streaming from Sony's servers. As expected, you'll be able to play demos from the PlayStation Store without having to download them first. Beyond this, the store will have a TiVo-style style system that will automatically download demos and games in the background based on your gaming preferences (such as trophies won in other titles).
The new PS4 interface looks to modelled after the latest update to the current PlayStation Store on PS3
More content to be added shortly
PS4 DRM AND USED GAMES
Second-hand sales are a serious problem for the games industry - in some ways, even more so than piracy. Strictly speaking, none of the money from a second-hand sale goes to the publisher or developer, but it's impossible to predict how many less games consumers would buy if it was impossible to recoup some of the cost by selling them on. By blocking second-hand sales, Sony thinks that a good percentage of those who would have purchased the game second-hand will instead pay full price.
Sony filed a patent late last year that could mean the PS4 won't play used or second hand games. The patent, US Patent Application 20130007892, describes "a game playing system [including] a use permission tag provided for use in a game disk for a user of a game, a disk drive, and a reproduction device for reproducing the game." Essentially, this means that a device similar to an RFID or or near-field communication (NFC) tag built into the game disc would tie it to a particular console or console user.
Who will decide on DRM, Sony or its publishers, our guess is the latter
Many current generation games come with single-use codes that let the original owner download extra content, while digital distribution services like Steam, Xbox Live Arcade or the PlayStation Network tie purchases to a single user account.
Sony's proposed system goes significantly further: once a game disc is inserted into a console featuring the patented technology, it would be permanently tied to that user or console. If the disc is sold, the game could either be a demo version limited to a specific section or a pre-set number of plays and requiring the purchase of a code to unlock or - if Sony goes the whole hog - simply not work at all.
[UPDATE 21/02] Despite the rumours it looks as if Sony may not be taking such a draconian line on second-hand games. In an interview, Sony Worldwide Studios President Shuhei Yoshida said to Eurogamer that "… used games can play on PS4." Though it was hardly the most detailed and unequivocal answer – and we suspect that the final decision will be left in the hands of publishers.
PS4 CONTROLLER - DUALSHOCK 4
After seeing many leaked pictures of the new controller, it was hardly a surprise when we saw it onstage. The final controller, though, is a far more refined version than the prototype that's knocking about with development kits. It's nicely sculpted, has what appears to be a grippy underside, and every facet is redesigned, while still keeping the iconic layout largely intact.
The new PS4 DualShock 4 being officially unveiled
It has a small touchpad above the analogue sticks and a coloured light on the front. In this respect it includes functionality we've seen on both the Vita (which has a rear touchpad) and in Sony's motion-based Move controllers. A speaker is also built-in, allowing for local audio effects and a headphone socket too - probably for headset use, but we're also hoping for Bluetooth audio for easier headphone use while playing - very handy for split-screen gaming.
The button layout has been rejigged, with a new 'Share' button added for quick access to social media. Check out our Cloud Gaming section for more details.
For more details see PS4 controller revealed as the DualShock 4
There's also a new Eye device with two 1,280x800 resolution cameras – 4x the previous camera's resolution. This gives increased accuracy to pick up the existing Move controllers or the new DualShock 4. You can read more about this at PS Eye revealed for PS4.
It's not much to look at, but it sees all
Before last night we had a lot of words here describing what games might be in development and how far along they are. Now we've seen some of them in action. For the games unveiled at the launch event please move along to our Best PS4 games trailers so far, and enjoy the sweet eye candy.
Games on show varied from gentle Myst-like puzzle game, The Witness; with its incredibly dense open world were the developer promises gameplay of distilled Epiphanies …
… to the more traditional cartoon look of Knack, with its great characterisation and impressive physics effects for the protagonist …
… and more traditional blockbuster fare, with a huge explosion courtesy of Killzone Shadow Fall
We'll be adding more content to this section as new titles are unveiled
We may now know a lot more about the PS4, but its price is still pure speculation. One thing we can say, is that after the event, the PS4 looks to be more expensive than we originally thought; thanks to its increased memory
It's very hard to put a price on a console as the manufacturers often sell them at a loss, especially to early adopters, in order to get the ball rolling. They make the money back on game sales and online content later. The PS3 was rumoured to cost Sony some $900 dollars to make upon launch, despite that Sony sold it for around $600.
Competition is also a big deal, with companies often forced to price match rivals. So whatever Sony's plans may be, they could be radically affected by Microsoft's or even the success or failure of the Wii U.
Now there are rumours that the PS4 is likely to cost $400, but it's not that simple. A Japanese newspaper reported it will cost at least YEN40,000, which translates to at least $400, which in turn works out to at least £310 in the UK including tax.
Now all this speculation is well and good, but the comment in the Japanese press was from an unattributed source, and no it's not any more accurate simply because the source comes from Japan.
Then there's the exchange rate problem. The console was designed in Japan, but the chips were designed in America, and all the parts were manufactured and put together in China. The Yen is a lot stronger against UK and US currencies now than it was when the PS3 came out - by almost 50% in fact. That could make the price higher than some are predicting, but the truly global nature of the product makes this very hard to predict - even if you knew the Yen price for sure, it would be a guess to calculate a European selling price.
Going on historical facts, the original PlayStation sold for £299, as did the PlayStation 2, the PlayStation 3 price jumped up to a whopping £425. Adjust those prices by the retail price index and you get 2013 prices of - £471, £412 and £504 respectively. Thankfully electronics haven't risen in price in line with RPI, but you still get some idea of how hard Sony will have to try to bring in the console at a competitive £299 - which would be the sweet spot fans are hoping for.
Even after the announcement event, there's still a lot left to learn about the PS4. We've taken everything we learnt so far and applied a liberal dosing of the most-trustworthy rumours. Based on this we're really excited about the PS4, it looks to have the edge over its competitor at present – though that may all change when the new Xbox is announced – and that aside, it looks like a well-conceived and designed piece of hardware with some impressive cloud gaming features mixed in.
For more information on the PS4 check out Den of Geek's PS4 release date, price & specs news and rumours.