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Sony announces PlayStation 4, forgets to show PlayStation 4

Photo by Victor J. Blue / Bloomberg

Last night, Sony revealed that it is looking past the significant losses it’s had with the PlayStation 3 game console and forging ahead with a successor. The PlayStation 4, the company said, will launch this holiday season with advanced PC-computer-like hardware, a DualShock controller with more features and a greater emphasis on online sharing and streaming content.

What the company didn’t say, however, was how much the new console would cost, an exact launch date or, in a surprising omission, what the console hardware even looks like. Sony, in a gaseous two-hour presentation streamed online, declined to show what a PS4 will look like, even in prototype form as Nintendo did last year when it unveiled the Wii U console.

(You can watch the presentation below. Warning: may induce sleep and/or general disinterest.)

Stream videos at Ustream

Sony ruled the roost years ago with its PlayStation 2 game console, which by 2011 had sold more than 150 million units. But with the PS3, which was more expensive and less profitable for Sony, the company has struggled. It has trailed behind Nintendo’s Wii and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 this generation and there were questions if Sony would even devote the resources to launch a next-generation console.

Last night, Sony presented several game demos in a bombastic, buzzword-filled New York City presentation. In the first half hour, it showed only one game, a cartoonish action game called “Knack,” and touted its new console as being more online-driven with a dedicated “Share” button on the controller and the ability to stream games and other content remotely with the slow-selling PS Vita portable console as the conduit.

The most interesting innovations apart from the x86-based console hardware, which beefs up the specs for a game console and makes the PS4 more like a gaming PC than its predecessor, was the new controller. It’ll have a color sensor that can be used with Sony’s Kinect-like Eye camera to detect where a player is sitting and the DualShock 4 will also include a built-in speaker and microphone.

Missing on the PS4 will be backward compatibility with PS3 games. Players will be able to stream PS1, PS2 and PS3 games from online, Sony said, but wasn’t clear on how that would work, exactly and how players would access those games (or if they’d have to pay for games they already own again). It certainly seems like Sony is trying to stay as conservative as possible in hopes that either Microsoft or Nintendo will stumble. So far, Sony’s bet appears to be paying off, at least on the Nintendo front.

A puzzling presentation, to be sure.

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