Sony’s PlayStation 4 event: 5 things to watch for

The future of Sony PlayStation gaming is almost here, or at least a sneak preview of it. Sony on Wednesday is holding an event in New York City where it's expected to introduce the PlayStation 4. The company has not said what the announcement will be about other than to invite PlayStation fans to “see the future” during the event Wednesday.

Sony will broadcast the event online via the PlayStation Website starting at 6 p.m. (ET) Wednesday. The broadcast page is currently populated with Sony videos talking about the evolution and history of PlayStation gaming. The video lineup suggests Wednesday’s event will show off another leap in evolution for the PlayStation.

It’s not clear what the next PlayStation, known for some time as codenamed Orbis, has in store for users. But the device is expected to rely heavily on online access for most of its gaming and entertainment services - even more so than the current generation of consoles. As far as specs go, Kotaku recently reported that current early builds of the PS4 include 8GB RAM, 2.2GB video memory, a 4 x dual-core AMD64 “Bulldozer” processor, 4 x USB 3.0, 2 x Ethernet, Blu-ray drive, 160GB storage, and HDMI out.

We’re still a few hours away from Sony’s big PlayStation reveal, but here’s a look at five interesting features that gamers are expecting from Sony’s console overhaul.

Cloud gaming

The next PlayStation is expected to focus on downloading game purchases via the PlayStation Store as opposed to buying discs from a retail store. But you may also be able to stream games directly to your console similar to cloud-based gaming services such as OnLive, according to The Wall Street Journal. Sony in 2012 acquired Gaikai Inc., a so-called cloud gaming service and may be integrating Gaikai technology into its upcoming console. The new streaming component could also let PlayStation gaming go beyond the console by streaming games directly to Sony televisions and smartphones, the Journal reports.

PlayStation Network subscriptions

Sony is expected to follow Microsoft’s lead by requiring a subscription service for most of the PS4’s online services, Kotaku reports. The PlayStation Network is currently available to all users for free and lets you access the online PlayStation Store for digital content, entertainment subscription services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, and a virtual world called PlayStation Home. Sony also has a premium add-on for the PS Network called PlayStation Plus that offers perks such as free games, premium downloadable content, and game discounts. Microsoft’s Xbox Live, a similar online feature to the PlayStation Network, requires a monthly subscription to access all of its services.

Expect disc lockdown

Even though online streaming and gaming downloads are expected to be a big deal with the expected PS4, you will still have the ability to buy games on disc, according to recent reports. Games you buy on disc, however, are expected to be locked to your specific PlayStation account or console after use. It’s not clear if this will render game discs useless that you pass off to friends or if your buddies will be able to enter some kind of trial mode before making an online purchase to unlock the game. The next Xbox, dubbed the Xbox 720, is expected to have similar lockdowns.

November launch?

Most console watchers expect both Sony and Microsoft to release their consoles to consumers during the holiday season. Kotaku on Tuesday reported that Sony will release the anticipated PS4 in the United States in November. The gaming blog cites an anonymous “reliable source” who says there will be two PS4 models with prices starting around $430.

Touchy controller

Photo Credit: Destructoid

The PS4’s controller will reportedly include a touchpad between the regular controller buttons, as revealed by the above photo from Destructoid that is reportedly an early prototype of the upcoming PS4 controller. The touchpad could be used as a PC-style mouse for system navigation, Web browsing, and other non-gaming functions. It could also be employed by game makers, similar to the PSVita’s touchpad, for functions such as aiming at targets or zooming in on an object.

Sony’s Wednesday event may be the first of two major console announcements in 2013. Microsoft is also expected to announce a new Xbox console in the coming months, but the software giant has yet to schedule a date for the unveiling.

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