Sony's PlayStation 4 announced after long wait

Sony's PlayStation 4 has an x86 processor and other new hardware to provide better gaming and streaming services

By Jay Alabaster and Agam Shah, IDG News Service |  Hardware, PlayStation 4, Sony

Games that will be available for the device include a new "Final Fantasy" from Square Enix and "Watch Dogs" from Ubisoft. Blizzard Entertainment, known for PC games, said it will make a version of "Diablo" for the PS4 and the PS3. Games from other big makers are also expected.

In the PlayStation Network (PSN), users will be able to try games before they download them. Facebook and Ustream are also being integrated into the network, which Sony executives said will make PSN the most social gaming network available. Gameplay can be broadcast through Ustream, and a broadcast button on the controller will allow users to interact with PSN friends, who can assist or even take over gaming.

Sony will deliver movies and music through its Sony Entertainment Network, and is working with online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon to stream movies and other content to the PS4.

The PlayStation 4 is a rare Sony gadget that still generates the kind of buzz that made the company famous. CEO Kazuo Hirai, who previously oversaw Sony's game division, has promised more hit products and said he personally selects and oversees promising projects.

In July of last year, Sony said it had agreed to acquire Gaikai for about $380 million. The company said at the time it would use the purchase to deliver a "world-class cloud-streaming service" for its games and other content.

The company has made Sony Entertainment Network a core part of its future. Home gaming consoles increasingly share duties with set-top boxes -- Nintendo's Wii U, launched last year, can be used as a universal television remote and has a free app for browsing programs.

The PlayStation 3, which caused deep losses for the company after its launch in 2006, has recovered to become a hit product. Each console was initially sold at a loss to consumers, but they are now profitable. The PS3 contains custom components including the Cell processor, which Sony spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing along with IBM and Toshiba.

Sony's main rival in consoles, Microsoft, is rumored to be gearing up for the launch of its own next-generation console, the successor to its Xbox 360. Nintendo released its lower-spec Wii U last year. All three are increasingly competing with games on PCs and tablets, as well as new devices from game companies like Steam.

Sony is in the midst of a restructuring after booking a record annual price last fiscal year. The company has stuck to its target for booking a small profit this year, selling off assets including its U.S. headquarters in New York City.

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