Sony finally unveils its next generation of gaming hardware. The Playstation 4 will be invading your living space later this year. All the news from today’s PlayStation meeting, right here.

Note: This article is under construction following the PlayStation Meeting.

Presenting to a packed auditorium, Sony began their conference with a light and sound show to hype us up. A montage video of stock footage rolls describing the many benefits of “play” and how it brings us together.

The announcement comes at the very start of the show. “The most powerful platform ever.” The official name shall be PlayStation 4.

Mark Cerny took the stage and described the process of creating the PS4. He talked about how the PS3 went from a simple console to a machine expected to perform a range of tasks. Bragged about how the PS3 is the number 1 Netflix streamer. In response, the developers set forth with three goals for the PlayStation 4:

  1. Nothing should come between the platform and the joy of playing. Gone are the days of watching loading bars, patiently waiting for a system update or game install.
  2. System architecture should give easy access to all the system has to offer. A more lively user interface will make multitasking easier and get players to where they want to go faster.
  3. Developer input be crucial to the development of this new console to facilitate the expression of their ideas. Making the Playstation 4 easy to develop for is the only way those developers will want to take the time to make a game for the platform.

“A platform by game creators, for game creators.”

A simple rundown of the internals of the PlayStation 4 was given, which included these nice bullet points:

  • Augmented PC Architecture. Should be easier to get games onto this thing from a PC. So that’s cool.
  • X86 CPU. It’s powerful, I guess.
  • Enhanced PC GPU. Apparently this will be easier to develop for than whatever’s going on inside the PS3.
  • 8GB unified memory. The Playstation 4 should be able to do a lot of stuff at once.
  • Local storage HDD. Because memory cards are so 2004.

The Dualshock 4

More important than all of that jargon was revelation of the Dualshock 4.  The prototype leaked a few days ago has been proven authentic, which is a good thing. The controller is a bit meatier than the Dualshock 3 with triggers akin to the 360′s. The analog sticks have been given a lip around their circumferences, which is a dream come true for those of us whose thumbs habitually fall off the PS3′s convex sticks (everybody). Most notable are the additions of a share button, a touch pad, and a glowing bar along the top. The touchpad is about three inches across, which should be just enough space for simple gestures and web browsing. The light bar works in conjunction with a stereo camera to track movement.

A social PlayStation Network

The main user interface is centered around your social network. Players can upload their gameplay via the share button and those videos will play in thumbnails on your friend’s console. Those thumbnails can even be set to broadcast your gameplay live. The layout looks a lot like the current 360 dashboard, but with a lot more video. Doesn’t look like there are any advertisements on that screen, and I certainly hope that never changes. Personalization is going to be a focus for the user interface. We should be able to adjust what shows up on the dashboard when you boot up your system.

The PlayStation Network is transitioning to a friend network based on real world friends. Most of the new social dimensions will use real names and profile pictures seeded from existing social networks like Facebook and Ustream. By combining all of these networks, their goal is to create the go-to network for gamers everywhere. One aspect of this will be spectating. The share button will allow players to stream their current gameplay live to friends. Those friends can post comments to your screen or chat with you. Also, if you get stuck, you’ll be able to have a remote friend play the level for you (this wasn’t explained very clearly). Sony even has plans to give expert gamers a “Director” status, meaning they’ll be marked as players that have proven their mastery over games and can be consulted in the event that a game proves too difficult.Vita, smartphone, and tablet applications will let me check in on my friends even when I’m away from my PlayStation 4.

The Power of Streaming

Immediacy has become an expectation of many gamers, and the PS4 has been designed around that concept. All loading will take place in the background. Games that you buy on the PlayStation Store can be played even as they download.

Dave Perry takes the stage. CEO of Gaikai. Perry explains how Gaikai’s cloud technology will affect gamers. Demos will be streamed live, meaning you can instantly experience any game right from the PlayStation Store.

Remote play is going to be built into the architecture of the PS4. The Vita will become “the ultimate companion device for the PS4.” It sounds like any PS4 game can be streamed live to the Vita. Transmission times have been dramatically reduced to make everything quick and snappy. The long-term vision is to make all previous Playstation games available on any of your hardware.

Some developers talk about how the improved Playstation Network will affect their games. Tim Schafer, Dave Perry, Shuhei Yoshida and others offer their gratitude hat Sony took the time to ask for their input. The PS4 is meant to be aware of the player and the environment they’re playing in. They talk about how the integration of other devices is going to make for a more seamless experience.

Software

Finally, a live demo. They show a fantasy scene running on Unreal Engine 4.

They’ve modified the GPU to make development easier. A Havok engine demo shows a million blue objects raining down on a city, all of them colliding against each other in real time.

New game announcement! Looks remarkably like a Dreamworks animation. Being developed by Sony Japan Studio. The universe of this game seems rich and features some kind of battle between scientists and goblins. The robot protagonist of this game is made of hundreds of particles that can rearrange to take on a variety of situations. The robot, named Knack, is shown as a large, burly fighter and a tiny reconnaissance bot.

Guerilla Games takes the stage to talk about Killzone Shadowfall. The demo video opens with the player flying over an intricate city with floating pylons in the background. After landing, the player follows some soldiers along some futuristic walkways. The animation is fairly impressive and the environment is truly gorgeous. Civilians carry on their individual conversations as you walk by. Suddenly, a nearby building explodes and the screen goes black. You wake up to the sound of screams and calls for help. A fellow soldier is resuscitating a civilian when a Helghast walks up and shoots him in the head. The player jumps to his feet and assassinates the Helghast, stealing his gun. A heated firefight ensues. It looks really awesome. Eventually, the player finds himself on top of a skyscraper and has to leap off to grab a rope hanging from a helicopter. Oh man it’s awesome.

Next up, Driveclub? Evolution studios is developing it. It’s a team-based racing game. Gameplay isn’t specifically about races; It’s about challenges. Can play any time of day, any time of the year. Seems like this game is designed to have a lot of replay value, allowing players to set up tournaments for any number of players. The cars are gorgeous, every detail modeled in polygons with super high resolution textures. Reflections appear in real-time and look crisp. They show the game streaming to various devices.

The next game on show is about characters with superhuman abilities. Nate Fox introduces Sucker Punch’s  latest game. The demo begins with

Jonathan Blow takes the stage. Shows off The Witness, a new puzzle game. It’s bright and colorful with some cheery music.

David from Quantic Dream is brought on the stage. He talks about how emotion is one of the most important aspects of game design. He shows off a chart marking how many polygons have been used in Quantic’s characters over the years, ending with a whopping 30,00 for a character from Beyond Two Souls. They want to display subtle emotion on the characters.

Media Molecule takes the stage. They show off a sculpting game that uses the Move controller.

Capcom takes the stage. For some reason, the God of Ware theme is playing. Talks about how great the Playstation brand has been for Capcom, highlighting advancements made by Resident Evil, Street Fighter and Monster Hunter. Code name Panta Rhei is Capcom’s new engine, looks to take advantage of the incredible power of the PS4. A new game is shown using this engine.

Deep Down (working title) features a medeival setting. Graphics are really impressive, with very realistic firelight casting shadows and warmth on the environment. A knight and an archer face off against a dragon. After the battle, the camera cuts to a computer screen with an SOS message. Seems very strange.

Square Enix is also developing for PS4. They show off a real-time demo that is not a game. Created using Luminous Studio, SE’s game engine. It’s meant to give us an idea of the capabilities of the PS4. The demo looks like CGI. Shows some evil wizards summoning a dragon or something. There are cloaked people with AK-47s all over the place. Some of them are letting a mutant jackal out of the back of a van. It attacks a woman who shouts some kind of incantation and summons the dragon. It’s the same demo from a few months ago, but Square Enix isn’t done yet.

Final Fantasy band director Shinju Hashimoto takes the stage to say one thing: on the occasion of this presentation…and the announcement of the Playstation 4…we are preparing for development of a new title. Please be excited for E3 this year.”

Ubisoft is up next. CEO Yves Guillemot jumps on stage to show off Watch Dogs. Confirmed for the PS4. As shown at last year’s E3, players will control the city’s traffic and power grid. “Exploring an open world has never been so engaging.” The Watch Dogs demo begins with the protagonist walking through the city streets. People are everywhere. He takes out his phone and targets a man standing outside of a building. Some jazzy music plays in the background. As he walks by people, some of their personal information pops up on the hud. Players will have to secretly follow behind people as a progress bar loads in order to obtain all the information about that person. A woman is getting mugged, so the protagonist jumps out from behind a corner and chases the guy into buildings and through alleyways, only tacking him after jumping over a chain link fence while overloading a nearby fuse box. A slow-time feature allows players to target specific parts of a car. The player uses this to take out a cop’s wheel and it spins out. Afterwards, he uses technology to stop a train from passing by. He jumps on top and takes off. The demo closes with a camera following the protagonist, showing that players will be a subject to the grid as well as master of it.

Chris Metzen of Blizzard Entertainment must follow Watch Dogs. Blizzard and Sony have entered into a strategic partnership through which they will “take over the world.” Announcing: Diablo 3 for the PS4. More details at PAX East.

Finally, Eric Hershberg from Activision brings himself on stage. Activision plans on supporting the PS4 with major franchises in the launch window, but all he can really tell us is how excited they are to work with Playstation on new software. Bungie’s Destiny is shown off a bit more, revealing some new in-engine footage. Nothing new to report, but it definitely looks like a cool game. PS4 AND PS3 version will be available, and there should be some content exclusive to the Playstation family.

And that was about it. No release date or pricing. They didn’t even show us what the actual console will look like. Confirmed for holiday 2013, though, so look forward to getting your hands on the PS4 before the year ends.