Last night in New York, Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4, and all was good in the world. Wait, that’s wrong: the company unveiled the idea of the PS4 without actually showing the console itself. But it did make a lot of promises, one of which was extensive interaction with smartphones, tablets and the PS Vita through streaming and companion apps.
The latter, companion apps, will be available on iOS and Android phones and tablets, and will allow gamers to interact directly, either remotely or at home, with the console.
One of the main tenets of the companion app will be “second screen” interaction, letting users either watch their friends’ games while on the go, or obtain more information about a local game. Some games, such as DriveClub, will allow smartphone users to choose alternate cars and paint jobs which, while not an integral feature, will allow for unprecedented amounts of customization from the player and his or her companions.
Another big feature of the PlayStation App will be the ability to log onto the PlayStation Network and download games remotely, utilizing the PS4′s low-power Always On mode. This means impatient gamers who don’t want to wait for huge downloads to finish will be able to begin a download as soon as the game is available.
We’re sure the company has only scratched the surface of what a companion smartphone app can do; as devices get more powerful, it’s possible the company may allow PSN games to be played on its PlayStation Mobile-enabled Android devices (such as Sony’s own Xperia line and HTC’s One series) using Gaikai’s streaming services.
The PlayStation 4 promises to be an interesting mix of legacy console ideas — sit on the couch and use your thumbstick-equipped controller to play big, loud, beautiful games — and some modern ways of interacting, many of which are currently unique to the mobile world. Integrated social networking, extensive sharing options (including a Share button on the DualShock 4 controller), game streaming to the PS Vita through high-speed networks (a la OnLive) and, perhaps most importantly, Always On connectivity.
The PS4 is expected to be released at the end of the year, likely before Christmas, so don’t hold your breath waiting for it anytime soon. We’ll likely hear more — and hopefully see the console itself — this summer at E3.