Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? It’s been an incredible five years since Sony announced the PlayStation 4, a console which is now nearing that all-important 100 million units milestone. The climate was totally different back then, of course: the Japanese giant’s PlayStation 3 had rebounded from a disastrous launch, but despite picking up pace in Europe, the US-centric media was already labelling the PlayStation maker the underdog in the battle for next-generation domination.
The reveal event generally impressed, but the reception was somewhat mixed. Many felt that the company had played it safe, with lead architect Mark Cerny eager to underline the developer centric design of the console. This was directly in response to the cumbersome architecture of the PS3 – but without an actual piece of hardware to show consumers (the design was saved for E3 several months later), many questioned why the firm hadn’t delayed the reveal until a later date.
It was a surprise even at the time. Only days prior to teasing the all-important 20th February PlayStation Meeting press conference, head honcho Kaz Hirai had suggested that the organisation would let the competition go first. It was perhaps the first blow in a series of marketing masterstrokes, which would see Sony’s momentum snowball right through until launch. While the competition went through a series of PR blunders, the Japanese giant hit back-to-back homeruns.
The biggest moment for this particular author was confirmation of 8GB GDDR5 RAM. Many of the rumours at the time suggested that the console would have half that, but stories since have revealed that Gearbox’s Randy Pitchford convinced the company to go higher. It was apparently a last minute decision, but it underlined just how much Sony was listening to developers at the time. First-party teams like Evolution (who revealed DriveClub on the night) played a key part in the console’s design.
Looking deep into the Push Square archives, there are some great articles that summarise our reaction in the aftermath. Managing director Ant Dickens had some concerns about the DualShock 4, which has comfortably gone on to become our favourite PlayStation controller since. “While the form factor tweaks look nice overall, it seems too busy and slightly confused – perhaps there’s still time for refinement?” he wrote “I would have liked to have seen more games, too.”
Deputy Editor Robert Ramsey – a lowly ‘Staff Writer’ in those days – was a bit more positive. “I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited for a shooter,” he wrote of Killzone: Shadow Fall, which was the flagship technical demo of the evening. “Given the nature of the PS4’s architecture, it’s clear that Sony’s moving in the right direction.” Wise words, as the easy-to-use architecture has arguably represented the foundations upon which the PS4’s success has been built.
An impressive 57 per cent of you voted that you were ready to buy a PS4 on the night of the reveal event, with only 16 per cent claiming they weren’t impressed with the press conference. Our very own moderator Tasuki was cautiously optimistic, stating that it “depends on what Microsoft has to offer” with regards to which new console he planned to buy. Long-time reader Gamer83 was more enthusiastic: “Sony had a good showing and E3 will likely be even better,” he commented.
You can view an archive of some of the old Push Square articles from the night through here. Interestingly, one of the stories the following day pertained to used games, with Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida stressing that the system will be fully compatible with pre-owned titles. Not everyone got the memo apparently, because four months later Jack Tretton would re-iterate the same statement live on stage at E3 2013, laying arguably the greatest press conference smackdown of all time.
Also of note, only one game on display that night is yet to be released: Deep Down. Designed exclusively for the PS4 to showcase the power of Capcom’s forgotten Panta Rhei engine, the title drew big crowds at a couple of Tokyo Game Show events. It was later announced to be a free-to-play title, before disappearing entirely. It was trademarked again in 2017, but details have slowed to a halt since, and it’s unlikely the title will ever see the light of day now.
Do you remember the PS4 reveal event? What were your thoughts at the time? Are you surprised by how big of a success the system has gone on to become? Reminisce in the comments section below.