SONY has fired its first shot of the next-generation console war at a heavily-hyped news conference today, with a glimpse into what the company calls "the future of play."
The technology giant has confirmed the impending arrival of the long-awaited successor to the PlayStation 3 during a New York City conference watched by hundreds of thousands of online viewers.
"The demands for a new platform were clear," said Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Andrew House as he introduced the PlayStation 4.
A release date for the new machine is unclear, with only the 2013 "holiday" season given as a clue. Pricing details were also unknown by the end of the conference - as was the appearance of the hardware itself.
Standing before a large electronic display under an array of spotlights, Mr House told the audience the new console will "surpass gamers' wildest expectations" and encourage "new business models" for developers.
Hailed by lead system designer Mark Cerny as being "by game creators for game creators," the "supercharged" PS4's specs include an X86 CPU, enhanced GPU, 8GB of high-speed RAM, and a local HDD.
The new controller, the DualShock 4, boasts improved analogue control sticks, an enhanced rumble feature, and touchpad.
A new share button will allow players to distribute screenshots and video clips, while gameplay can be livestreamed and open for real-time comments and interaction from other players.
Gaikai's cloud-based technology is promised to be available for all PS4 games, with Ustream and Facebook integration.
That will enable a "social network with meaning," said Gaikai boss David Perry.
Like the handheld PS Vita, the PS4 will support immediate suspension and resumption of games, while custom hardware will allow gamers to begin playing downloadable content before the downloads are completed.
Sony's aim is for all PS4 titles to run on the Vita via the Remote Play system, with Gaikai creating a server-client relationship between the console and the handheld.
"We must give gamers the experiences they not only expect, but deserve," Mr House said.
"Our vision of the future is consumer-centric and developer-inspired ... expect powerful opportunities to connect, play, and stay informed."
The PlayStation 3 launched in New Zealand in 2007 and, according to Sony Computer Entertainment's local arm, led the Kiwi console market in 2012 across hardware, software, and peripheral sales.
"We are also experiencing growth in online sales driven by an increased range of digital content and subscription products such as the PlayStation Plus programme," said SCENZ's Sales and Marketing Director David Hine.
The era-defining PlayStation 2, which Sony reported to have reached the 150 million sales milestone by February 2011, ceased production last month after more than 12 years on the market.
What does the future of play hold?
The PS4 will be supported by "virtually" every major third-party publisher, Sony announced during today's conference.
Activision announced that Destiny, the new IP from Halo founders Bungie, is on the way.
The futuristic shooter will be available on the PS4 and PS3, with exclusive content for Sony gamers.
Blizzard senior vice president Chris Metzen announced a partnership between his company and Sony that will "take over the world," starting with the upcoming arrival of Diablo III on the PS4 and the PS3.
Also on the way is Ubisoft's Watch Dogs, the open-world hacking adventure that turned heads and earned awards after a demonstration at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles.
It will have stiff competition from Sucker Punch's inFAMOUS: Second Son.
A new Killzone, titled Shadow Fall, was demonstrated by Guerrilla Games.
For racers, Evolution Studios is developing Driveclub.
Final Fantasy publisher Square Enix gave advance notice of an all-new chapter in the action-RPG series, due to be announced in June at the 2013 edition of E3.
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