Party time.

ps4

Well, it happened. Sony took the wraps off its next-generation PlayStation home platform last night, the first in eight years, known as – shock – PlayStation 4. In what was a longer press conference than expected, Sony blew the doors open big time last night to the new system, but also left more mystery than answers.

But for the most part, it was a consistant showing by Sony and its third-party partners. This wasn’t E3 2005 where it felt disjointed for at least hour or so during PlayStation 3’s unveil. This was a more confident Sony that seemed capable in its abilities compared to approaching a decade ago and the outlandish stuff claimed by ‘Krazy’ Ken Kutaragi.

Gaikai leads service stakes, but Remote Play shows bigger possibilities

From the outset of the PS4 announcement, and even before the event, one name was mentioned in regards to the conference: Gaikai. Bought last year by Sony Computer Entertainment, the cloud-streaming service, co-founded by Carrickfergus local Dave Perry, was always going to be an integral part of what Sony had cooking up its sleeve next. And it looks very much like it will be and thensome.

For one, you’ll be able to play a game on the fly with Gaikai before deciding if you want to buy it. Other things include letting a player take over your playthrough if you get stuck at one point during a game through the cloud and multicasting abilities that include partnerships with Facebook and UStream

There’s certainly some questioning as to why the dedicated gaming stream service Twitch wasn’t under the partnership rather than UStream, but UStream is still nothing to bat your eyes at. It’s the most well-known livestream service to date (putting aside the fact it was the official stream partner of last night’s event…and that it stuttered a ton).

But one other big aspect through the cloud aspect of PlayStation 4 was something that has been teased on PlayStation 3: Remote Play. In 2011, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida live demo’ed a gameplay demo of Killzone 3 running on PlayStation 3 but being played on PlayStation Vita through Remote Play. It’s now possible to play a few PS3 titles on Vita thanks to Remote Play, including the Team Ico Collection.

But last night’s demo of Remote Play between PS4 and Vita with Knack (which’ll I’ll get to in detail in a moment) breathed some new life into Vita. The example given by Perry was that if you were in a high-tense battle but you had to give up the TV, you’re able to continue play on Vita where you left off on PS4.

This is pretty much Wii U’s GamePad off-screen mode for PlayStation, but it was vowed last night that this would be implemented in most PS4 games, whilst this is only done in just a few games for Wii U and not all of them right now.

While not a cloud-based feature as such, the promise of playing a part of the game whilst the rest is downloading is one hell of a feature.

Killzone trumpets home first-party software showcase

But at the end of the day, all the social and cloud aspects can be trumpeted until the face goes red, it’s still about the games. If you thought last night was al about finally hearing The Last Guardian changing platforms, then you were sorely mistaken: it was never gonna happen last night. E3, though, sounds more likely when there’ll be a bigger focus on games.

Nonetheless, software played a great part of the PlayStation 4 announcement. The first PS4 game shown was a brand new IP from Studio Japan and directed by lead system architect Mark Cerny, Knack. It was a nice first look at a PS4 game and it was great that it was shown early on in the show rather than in the midst of the software showcase, where it would have been pretty much forgotten by the time the show ended.

Afterwards, a who’s who of game developers was shown on video to talk about its experiences with PlayStation 4 to date. This was literally an A-list line-up of developers compared to E3 2005. There was no Kojima (due to being in France anyways for Metal Gear Rising promotion) and no Sam Houser, but it was an epic list nonetheless: Ready at Dawn co-founder Ru Weerasuriya, Double Fine founder Tim Schafer, Quantic Dream’s boss David Cage, SCE Worldwide Studios US head Scott Rhode, Rhode’s boss as WWS president Shuhei Yoshida, SCE R&D bod Anton Mikhailov, Harmonix CEO Alex Rigupolos, Ninja Theory’s creative director Tameem Antoniades, Sony Santa Monica creative head and God of War III director Stig Asmussen, Naughty Dog co-president Evan Wells, Q-Games founder Dylan Cuthbert, Polyphony Digital co-founder Kazunori Yamauchi and everyone’s favorite game developer of the moment, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford.

Then the fun began: SCE Worldwide Studios European boss Michael Denny was introduced as presenter of the software showcase and brought on Guerrilla Games’ Herman Hulst to introduce Killzone: Shadow Fall, the Killzone 3 sequel in all but the proverbial Killzone 4 name.

The game takes place thirty years after Killzone 3 and see Vektans and Helghast live together on Vekta side-by-side in a story that, according to Hulst, “draws parallels to Cold War Berlin”. This was as big a mighty graphical powerhouse as it could get and it looked amazing.

But the fact it’s a Cold War inspired action title at a time where I am so in love with anything Cold War inspired action games (like MGS3, Black Ops and the ongoing wait for Rockstar’s Agent), the Vine I sent out during the demo summed up my thoughts.

Next was Evolution Games. The studio behind the PS2-exclusive World Rally Championship games and Motorstorm, the Liverpool studio showed new social-heavy racer IP Driveclub, an idea that has been a decade in the making according to passionate game director Matt Southern.

No live demo like Killzone, but what was shown was a racer that focused on team racing with the fastest cars (all licensed) and world’s best destinations. Personally speaking, I hope this works out for them. Motorstorm was easily my favorite PS3 launch game.

And while I didn’t quite get on with Pacific Rift, Apocalypse was a fantastic racer that unfortunately got caught up badly in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami two years ago.

Finally, on the WWS front, was inFamous: Second Son, presented by Sucker Punch’s Nate Fox. Taking place seven years after the events of inFamous 2, which pretty much seemingly closed the series off to any sequels if you got the good ending (and if it was considered canon). But with going for a new character, new setting and backstory, inFamous has gotten a new dose of life. I liked the past two inFamous games, so I’m very keen to hear more on it.

Denny was brought back on stage to introduce indies to PS4, confirming they would be able to self-publish games on PS4. One such game was Jon Blow’s The Witness, which was confirmed to be a console exclusive for PlayStation 4. PSN’s indie support this generation has been key to PlayStation 3 and even critical to the success of games like The Unfinished Swan and, more especially, the games from thatgamecompany, including Journey. If Sony can push its indie support further and further with PlayStation 4, it won’t be a too big of a shocker if it goes far beyond what it did with PS3 and gets much more acclaim.

Quantic Dream’s David Cage and Media Molecule’s Alex Evans were brought out to introduced not games, but rather its conceptualisation phase, with the latter strongly hinting its first PlayStation 4 project would support Move.

Watch Dogs, Destiny, Diablo III bring the third-party noise

Following that, SCE president Andy House confirmed that “virtually” every third-party was signed on to support PlayStation 4. It started showing that support by wheeling out Capcom’s Yoshinori Ono to announce a brand new in-game engine from Capcom called Panta Rhei and a new IP running on the new engine called Deep Down, which seemed heavily inspired by Capcom stablemate Dragon’s Dogma and Dark Souls. The end of its trailer hinted what will become the big aspect of the next-generation: social connectivity.

Next was Square Enix and its Japan CTO Yoshihisa Hashimoto and Final Fantasy Brand Manager namesake Shinji Hashimoto to show off the Agni’s Philosophy demo and announce a new Final Fantasy would be shown for the first time at E3. Now don’t get me wrong, Agni looked awesome. But it also looked awesome when we first seen it at E3 last year, so why did we see it again? There wasn’t even any new scenes.

And why did we basically get what resulted as an announcement of an announcement? Yay, Final Fantasy XV! Anyone could have guessed this was for E3. Square Enix’s segment of the event was unfortunately a waste of segmented time that could have gone to another publisher – where was EA? – and what was a heavy black mark in my book.

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Next, to the surprise of no one, Ubisoft and a brand new demo of Watch Dogs, now confirmed for release on PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. Watch Dogs looked a little rough in the edges in its demo, but otherwise, it very much matched the awesome demo from last year’s E3. If one game was as day one as it got for PlayStation 4, Watch Dogs was it. Personally speaking, I can’t wait.

Oh, and how amazing does creative director Jonathan Morin’s voice sound as a baddy? Seriously.

The megaton happened towards the end when House introduced Blizzard VP Chris Metzen to announce a “strategic relationship” between Sony and Blizzard. As part of the relationship, Diablo III will release on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3.

I saw some people moan on Twitter at Diablo III coming to the consoles instead of something else. But this could be a good test bed for interesting stuff to come. A console specific WoW? Unlikely. But Titan? Or maybe to bring the entire StarCraft II arc to PS4, including a PC sim-ship of the third and last chapter Legacy of the Void?

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The last was Activision CEO Eric Hirsberg to introduce the first proper gameplay video of Bungie’s Destiny, presented by Bungie co-founder and project lead Jason Jones.

Afterwards, the Backstreet Boys appeared! Bungie president Harold Ryan, famed composer Marty O’Donnell, Andreas Jenkins and Jonty Barnes appeared on stage to announce Destiny on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 would get exclusive content.

While Destiny is a new IP, I actually consider this a big deal on par with Xbox’s exclusivty deal on content for Call of Duty. More so that this is coming from the studio that was once considered to be Microsoft Game Studios’ flagship developer.

Where’s Pandora’s Box?

In a tweet before the PlayStation Meeting, Sony Santa Monica promised Pandora’s Box would be opened. So where was the box? It opened, but we didn’t see it open. Or to make it more simple, we didn’t see the chasis of PlayStation 4. So where’s the box? SCEA president Jack Tretton said in an AllThingsD interview the system was “still in development in terms of final specs and design,” adding there would be “multiple opportunities to share the look of the console between now and the launch.”

However, the lack of a box, among other things, does leave enough mystery to have us now looking forward for what’s to come for PS4 ahead of E3 in Los Angeles in June in Cologne in August for gamescom.

So PlayStation 4. It’s out this Holiday season. That much was confirmed by Sony. It wasn’t regionally specific, but the rumour points it towards a release this year in the US and Japan. So what about Europe, which is rumoured to be getting the system next year due to logistical issues. In a fantastic interview with Eurogamer’s Tom Bramwell, SCE WWS president Shuhei Yoshida wouldn’t quite commit to a 2013 release for Europe.

“For us, Europe is an enormously important market,” he said. “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.”

So yes, there was some black marks towards the press – Square and the lack of a box being the big ones – but PlayStation Meeting 2013 otherwise went off flawlessly. It was a conference that was, as I said at the top of this blog, mostly consistant and was a world away from the presentation mess of the early part of PlayStation 3’s unveiling at E3 2005. There was no hanging about, it was nicely paced and it had a great software lineup.

But if last night’s software line-up was great, just imagine what lies in store by the time E3 rolls around.

Your move, Microsoft.

[Image credit: AFP]

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