PlayStation 4: Next-gen is right now

Sony unveiled their next-generation gaming console, the PlayStation 4, yesterday at an event held in New York City.  The event can be watched in its entirety over at the PlayStation Blog.

The console itself was not actually shown at the event because it’s final design has not yet been decided on, according to statements made by CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America Jack Tretton in an interview with AllThingsD.

I’m impressed. It’s a solid system with nice specs and some nice features like simultaneous downloading and playing. The instant on and off feature is cool too. Most of the really neat features require a constant internet connection and power supply though, which wouldn’t work for me because I always unplug my consoles when I’m done playing.

I’m wondering why they held an announcement event for the console before the console itself was actually finalized and ready to be shown. I’m afraid that the industry has come to a point now where content creators are too willing to sell promises that sometimes go unfulfilled.

When Nintendo first announced the Wii U in 2011 and only showed the Gamepad, most people – including those of us at E3 – were not sure exactly what we had been shown. Now, Sony announces the PS4 and only shows the Dualshock 4 controller. I’m not comparing Sony to Nintendo exactly, because Sony did give detailed specifications and real-time demos, but it’s still a trend I’m not totally comfortable with.

I think that interconnectivity between devices is certainly the way of the future for the games industry, and Sony is right on the money with their focus on sharing and connecting between players. The ability to stream gameplay and spectate friends’ games will likely be strong selling points for the PS4 because it brings back a sense of community that has been hard to regain since playing with friends in the same room has become more and more rare.

PS3 titles like “Journey” won’t be natively playable on PS4.

The really major thing that irks me is that the PS4 will not be backwards compatible out of the box and Playstation Network purchases will not transfer from PS3 to PS4, Present of Sony’s Worldwide Studios Shuhei Yoshida said in a roundtable discussion with journalists after the PS4 reveal event. Gaikai should solve that problem by streaming previous PlayStation titles to PS4 over the Internet, but it’s not guaranteed and it likely won’t come at launch.

All of this – social features, Gaikai streaming, sharing and the like – completely alienates anyone without a regular connection to reliable internet, and, to some degree, people with internet data caps. I guess that’s the way of progress, though. Xbox Live used to be an optional feature for those who could afford it, and now it’s practically assumed to be as much a part of the gaming experience as a disk drive.

Of course, it’s still very early to be making sweeping judgments about any of the next-generation consoles, so when more information becomes available we will all be able to decide for ourselves whether the future is bright for the industry.