LOS ANGELES _ Four months after teasing gamers with a glimpse of the PlayStation 4 controllers and games, Sony today unveiled the new console that’s a cornerstone of the company’s consumer electronics business.
The PS4 will go head to head against Microsoft’s Xbox One this holiday season as both use a roster of dazzling, realistic games to convince gamers that it’s worthwhile upgrading to the new hardware.
Sony appears to have at least one major advantage over Microsoft – it announced that the PS4 will sell for $399 – a full $100 less than the Xbox One.
Jack Tretton, chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said the company hopes to reach the more than 1 billion people around the world who are playing video games and the 220 million gamers in the U.S.
Tretton drew some of the biggest cheers of the night by announcing that Sony won’t add any of the sort of restrictions that Microsoft is adding to the Xbox One. He didn’t name Microsoft, but it was clear what he was talking about when he emphasized that PS4 game discs may be loaned and resold.
Tretton also said Sony won’t require players to connect their consoles to the Internet, as Microsoft is doing with its new Xbox.
“It won’t stop working if you haven’t authenticated within 24 hours,” he said.
Then he brought Bungie – the Bellevue studio that created “Halo” and split from Microsoft in 2007 – on stage to provide the first live demonstration of “Destiny,” the online sci-fi game it’s releasing in 2014. Writer Joe Staten and co-founder Jason Jones played together as “warlock” and “hunter” characters exploring a dark industrial facility, blasting aliens with a revolver, rifle and grenades.
Before revealing the PS4, Tretton pitched Sony’s Vita handheld system that was launched a year ago. Tretton said there are 125 dedicated Vita titles, and 650 if you count other mobile games playable on the device.
The PlayStation 3’s also going to get new games this fall, Tretton said, including third-party titles such as “Batman: Arkham Origins” and “Grand Theft Auto V.”
Andrew House, chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment, came on stage to present the PS4.
“It is a design that it sleek and visually impactful wherever it is placed,” he said.
From the front the device looks similar to the Xbox One, but it’s thinner with a distinctive angled case.
After briefly showing the device on screen, Sony said the console will launch with new versions of Sony’s movie and music services, including a movie and rental service with more than 150,000 titles.
That’s in addition to services like Netflix – House said PS3 streams more Netflix than any device – and Verizon Redbox, which is coming to the current PlayStation shortly.
Then Shu Yoshida, president of Sony’s worldwide studios, came on stage to talk more about the PS4.
Over 30 PS4 titles in development and 20 will launch in the console’s first year on the market, he said.
Among the new franchises for the console is a steampunk horror game called “The Order: 1886.” The demo featured bearded characters who arrive in a carriage racing through foggy London, armed with futuristic rifles they use to repel a werewolf-type creature.
The demo of “inFamous: Second Son” – the Seattle-centered action game from Bellevue’s Sucker Punch Productions – revealed that it’s superhero character does battle in and around the Seattle Center, shooting smoky fireballs at enemies on the roof and in the courtyard of the Pacific Science Center. Yoshida said “Second Son” will ship in the first quarter of 2014.
Sony said it’s also working to develop the best lineup of independent games, in part by allowing game developers to self-publish on its platform. It highlighted a handful of these titles coming to PlayStation including”Octo Dad,” “Secret Ponchos,” “OddWorld New and Tasty” and “Ray’s the Dead.” Several will be provided for free to people subscribing to Sony’s premium PlayStation Plus service.
Then the presentation zoomed back to the realm of big budgets, showing a new trailer for “Final Fantasy Versus XIII,” a new edition in the hit franchise from Square Enix, and animated fantasy title “Kingdom Hearts III” from Disney and Square Enix.
Ubisoft demonstrated “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” bringing the historical action adventure game into the realm of pirates in the 1700s. The game had stunning art (aarrght?) but the demo had several hiccups and eventually froze completely.