Sony has announced its PlayStation 4 videogames console at a press event in New York today.
The fourth iteration of the company's hugely successful gaming platform, the machine confirms many of the rumours that have been running rife about the new platform in recent weeks.
President and group CEO of Sony, Andrew House, explained how the PlayStation 4 is intended first and foremost to "strengthen the PlayStation ecosystem" through hardware, software and network interfacing.
Sporting a developer-friendly x86 processor powered by 8 CPU cores - providing almost 2 teraflops of power - and an almost unprecedented 8GB of GDDR5 RAM, the system has been in development for five years.
The console seems to pack the kind of punch to help Sony compete with Microsoft's own so-called ‘next generation' console, which is expected to be announced later this year, and it may be the network interfacing element of PlayStation 4 which could give Sony the best shot at conquering the next chapter of the console wars.
Bringing its existing PSVita handheld platform - which saw a considerable retail price slash this week - back to the fore, the PlayStation 4 will offer streams of its games from television to PSVita via WiFi. A similar mechanic to Nintendo's recently-launched Wii U console, streaming should prove an attractive feature for families trying to keep the family HD television set more accessible.
Sony said the goal is to make every game on PlayStation 4 compatible with this feature in time.
As expected, Sony is also making extensive use of cloud-based games streaming startup Gaikai, which it purchased last year for $380m (£249.5m).
Through Gaikai's technology, players will be able to share live streams of their games to spectators (whether or not those watching have bought the software), upload and download recordings of segments of play, and even invite players into their games to take the controls and help them overcome challenges.
Perhaps more interestingly, Sony also stated that an intention was in place to make games - via cloud streaming systems still in development - playable on "other devices", suggesting non-Sony brand tablets and smartphones will be brought into the ecosystem.
David Perry, founder of Gaikai, stated that Sony's long term goal would be to make every single PlayStation 4 game available from the online PlayStation Store.
However, while Sony also revealed a project underway to make the entire PlayStation back catalogue - reaching back to 1994 - downloadable digitally from PlayStation Store, the company also admitted that PlayStation 4 will not be backwards-compatible with any previous disc-based software.
CEO House also spoke briefly how free-to-play and microtransaction models would underpin some games software releases.
After a rough couple of years of tsunamis, costly server hacks and DDoS attacks on its servers and advancing attacks on its music and phone ranges by the likes of Apple and Samsung, Sony seems to have hit many of the right notes with PlayStation 4. A slick response to much of what gamers have been clamouring for, its social features and multi-device play are particularly strong ideas for a console entering a world now dominated by low-cost, highly portable gaming experiences on tablets and smartphones.
The PlayStation 4 machine itself wasn't shown at the conference, and no release date was confirmed beyond the fact it will appear in 2013. Neither hard disk nor removeable media drive specifications were revealed.
What do you think of the PlayStation 4? Will it help Sony keep its position of strength in the home entertainment market? Is it enough to haul the company from its spiralling annual losses? Let us know in the comments section below.
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