Video game designer Mark Cerny talks as Sony introduces the PlayStation 4 at a news conference February 20, 2013. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images)
Sony on Wednesday announced PlayStation 4 officially moving into the video game industry's next hardware cycle.
The company revealed its long-awaited successor to the PlayStation 3 at an event in New York as it tries to vault back to the top of the video game hardware business. The console is expected to launch this holiday season.
Sony did not reveal details on pricing, or even a peek at what the new hardware will look like.
The most notable feature on display was a new DualShock 4 controller designed in tandem with a stereo camera, similar to Microsoft's Kinect. The device includes motion sensor, a touchpad on the front, and a light bar to easily identify players. There's also a Share button where players can easily distribute content such as videos to friends.
Sony also says the new system uses highly advanced graphics processing, akin to high-end PCs.
The PS4 will also have a heavily integrated social component, as well as a "Remote Play" feature that will take advantage of the company's PlayStation Vita mobile device.
Sony leverages its relationship with streaming game service Gaikai, offering players the ability to instantly try games on the PlayStation store, and broadcast their play sessions in real time with the option to even let a friend watch or pick up the action.
Mark Cerny, the lead system architect of the PS4, called the new console "an evolution" in video games. "We wanted to make sure that nothing came between the platform and the joy of play," he says.
Several high-profile studios appeared in support of the console, including Halo creator Bungie, who say its upcoming online action franchise Destiny will appear on the device, and World of Warcraft studio Blizzard, which will launch action role-playing game Diablo III for PS4. Square Enix also confirmed a new Final Fantasy title is in the works.
"We're already seeing tremendous consumer demand for this product," says Tony Bartel of video game retailer GameStop. "We see this as a real game changer in the industry."
"Sony is taking their next-generation platform in the proper direction," says Jesse Divnich, analyst with Electronic Entertainment Design and Research. "Judging by today's presentation, Sony is putting a strong focus on game content and connectivity, which is the lifeblood of any platform, and we are ecstatic that an entirely new generation of content is right around the corner."
After dominating earlier console generations with its original PlayStation and 2001's PlayStation 2, which sold more than 155 million worldwide, Sony lost traction in the PS3 era to Microsoft's Xbox 360 and the Nintendo Wii.
The next console generation started last November, when Nintendo launched its Wii U device with a tablet-style GamePad controller. Global sales have topped 3 million.
The arrival of new hardware could not come at a better time for the video game industry, which finished last year with a 22% plunge in sales. One reason for the decline is a console cycle that's lasted longer than previous generations. The Xbox 360 is approaching its eighth year on store shelves, while the PS3 and Wii have been available for more than six years.
"Developers have really squeezed out every last bit of innovation they could out of the current hardware," says Divnich. "Both developers and consumers are screaming for new technology."
Meanwhile, home consoles must contend with the rising smartphone and tablet gaming market, which features a wide selection of games for a lower price, sometimes free. However, Digital World Research CEO P.J. McNealy says there is still plenty of opportunity for video game hardware makers.
"The death knell for the console business is a little premature," says McNealy. "We've got at least one more good console cycle here. There's still an element of gaming on a console in front of a big TV that can't be replicated on a mid- or small screen."