After months of waiting, Sony finally unveiled the PlayStation 4 last night at its E3 press conference. New hardware is always big, but it was the small things (that turned out to be pretty big things) that won the night.
First up is the hardware itself. We only got to see the controller back in February so it was great to finally see what Sony's hardware design cooked up for the console itself. Upon the reveal, you could instantly tell it was a Sony product with a nice plastic finish and an ergonomic design. Don't take my word for it though - check it out:
Later on in the conference, Sony addressed the rumors that it would also be implementing an anti-used game system, or that it would require an always online connection. Sony's Jack Tretton took the air out of those rumors by announcing that the PS4 would support used games, would allow gamers to share and lend games, and that the PS4 would not require an Internet connection. It was a direct stab at Microsoft's Xbox One, and that was more than obvious when Tretton announced the news:
Alas, there is always some bad news to go with the good. In the announcement of PlayStation Plus coming to the PS4, Sony quickly (and quietly) noted that Plus would be required for online multiplayer on the PS4. They were quick to note that Plus is not required for any of the video apps and other parts of the PlayStation Network will remain free. Online multiplayer is the only thing going behind a paywall, and Sony is probably betting that the value of PlayStation Plus will make people want to subscribe anyway.
Speaking of free games, Sony announced that PlayStation Plus members on PS4 will get a special edition of PS4 launch title Driveclub. They didn't elaborate on the differences between the retail edition and the Plus edition of the game, but it's a nice perk regardless. Sony also announced that three indie titles - Don't Starve, Outlast and Secret Ponchos - will be free to Plus members in the first three months of the PS4's life cycle.
There will be time to talk about more of the games coming to PS4 later, but two in particular deserve special recognition. Square Enix promised a new Final Fantasy title for the PS4 back in February and the developer delivered. Tetsuya Nomura revealed that his long-in-development title Final Fantasy Versus XIII is now being developed for the PS4. He also revealed that it's now a mainline Final Fantasy title and will take the name of Final Fantasy XV. Here's the first trailer:
After that, Nomura dropped an even bigger bombshell by announcing that Kingdom Hearts III was finally in development. That particular announcement was totally unexpected, but was welcome by many fans who have been waiting years for a proper sequel:
At the end, Sony announced that the PS4 will launch at $399 this holiday season. Those purchasing the console will get the hardware, a controller and a 500GB HDD. Unlike the Xbox One, it does not pack in a camera or any extra peripherals. That alone ensures its ability to undercut the Xbox One on price.
The past few years at E3 have been somewhat disappointing, but new hardware on the horizon has jumpstarted the friendly competition that makes the console wars so much fun to watch. Sony and Microsoft have both revealed their cards, and Sony came out the winner last night. That may all change in the coming months as more information is revealed, but the Japanese tech giant is definitely basking in the goodwill it gained from last night.