Early Friday morning, customers who braved long lines were able to purchase Sony's newest version of its gaming console, the PlayStation 4. It's more powerful than a high-end PC, all gussied up to share to all the important social networks and features built-in motion control, following the recent trend of games that incorporate physical activity.
The Internet exploded with hot digital joy, and people lined up at electronics stores all over the United States to run home with the new console firmly tucked under one arm. For a cool $399, you get a gaming rig that offers not only a brisk brain (8 GB of DDR5 RAM and graphics powered by a muscular new Radeon "next engine," which sounds fancy), but also acts as a multimedia center that allows users to watch Netflix and other streaming services, connect with friends, and archive photos and videos.
The company's last console, PlayStation 3, was released in 2006 at a $499 price tag, but a price cut followed soon after due to lackluster sales and complaints about the cost. The console performed spectacularly in its eight-year lifespan, selling more than 80 million units as of 2013.
The PlayStation 4 launches just a week ahead of Microsoft's competing console, the Xbox One. Priced at $499, the system offers similar features as the PlayStation, but also utilizes a voice recognition system that lets users talk to the console to use it. Microsoft originally took heat for the "always on" feature, which meant the console's camera would always be on in the home and potentially present privacy concerns, but the company later amended the feature in response to negative customer feedback.
While Sony is aiming to capture a larger market with the PS4, the core of the system is still about video games. And if you think of those as something that's just for kids, you may want to think again.
In the gaming world, each system has a reputation for catering to a certain audience. Nintendo is known for kid-friendly family fun and ease of play, while Microsoft offers a strong social presence and usually wins the popular vote.
Where PlayStation shines in its exclusive game offerings, including thought-provoking titles sucn as "Journey," "Papo & Yo" and "The Unfinished Swan." These games -- exclusive to PlayStation 3 -- address adult themes such as spirituality, alcoholism and abuse, and exploring the unknown. However, they don't involve the violent aspects that have earned video games some negative press in the past. They also indicate the direction that Sony is taking with its console: entertainment that caters to adults as well as teenagers.
With a focus on less violent themes, PlayStation 4 could help usher video games into a more positive light. At the very least, the adult-friendly ecosystem that Sony is working to create will certainly offer a more comprehensive experience for gamers and non-gamers alike. And Sony says it's just getting started. With cloud-based gaming in the works, this form of entertainment is about to get easier, with more widespread appeal.