Eric Johnson

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Sony’s Next-Gen PlayStation 4 Will Cost $399, Launch “This Holiday Season” — With More Than Just Games in Tow

Sony PS4 The PlayStation 4 will cost $399 and will go on sale “this holiday season,” Sony announced at its E3 press event tonight in Los Angeles.

That’s $100 less than the Xbox One, which Microsoft said today would retail for $499, starting in November.

Sony announced the PS4 back in February, but didn’t show the console at that time. Now we know what it looks like, and — surprise! It’s a smooth, black, rectangular box with buttons and a disc drive.

Just as Microsoft began its earlier presentation by talking about the Xbox 360, Sony began by talking about its existing hardware: The PlayStation 3 and the handheld PS Vita. However, no hardware refresh was announced for either device.

“Vita is just beginning its life cycle,” Sony Computer Entertainment President and CEO Jack Tretton said, noting that the Vita will be the “ultimate companion device” to the PlayStation 4.

And the Vita could use some more companions. The Vita has been consistently outsold by the rival Nintendo 3DS, and both handhelds have suffered from the seasonality problems that largely don’t affect those other mobile games — the ones on phones and tablets.

Sony E3 2013Tretton said Sony’s “commitment is as strong as ever” heading into the PlayStation 3’s seventh holiday season. Despite the lack of new hardware, Sony did show off a slew of big-ticket new games that will work on the PS3, including Batman: Arkham Origins and Grand Theft Auto V.

Sony Worldwide President Shuhei Yoshida said the launch titles available exclusively for the PS4 will include Killzone: Shadow Fall, DriveClub and Knack. In addition, one later section of the presentation put the spotlight on eight indie developers who will be making their console debuts on the PS4.

Sony also announced some non-gaming media features — stressing the point, though, that they’re somehow “curated for gamers” — by way of Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, making his first appearance at a PlayStation event. The music, movie and TV offerings will be a mix of Sony’s own content platforms and third-party services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Verizon’s new Redbox Instant service.

But wait! There’s more!

“I am happy to announce that Sony Pictures is hard at work on a brand-new original programming plan and content that will be available exclusively on PlayStation Network and PlayStation 4,” Lynton said. “We look forward to sharing more details in the near future.”

And, yes, you guessed it: That sounds pretty similar to something Microsoft also officially announced at its Xbox One event last month. The company was lambasted online at that time by hardcore gamers, who alleged that Microsoft’s play to control the living room amounted to some sort of abandonment of the Xbox’s core gaming audience.

And, indeed, at D11 two weeks ago, Sony’s President and CEO Kaz Hirai pledged that the PS4 would be primarily for games. That still seems to be the case, with proportionally less of the event’s time devoted to media than was allotted by Microsoft for its non-gaming offerings.

Tretton returned to the stage at one point to announce — to roaring applause — that the PS4 would support used games, and wouldn’t need to be connected to the Web to play games. That means it won’t use DRM technology to prevent players from lending or reselling the discs they buy, and won’t need to “check in” with Sony online every 24 hours, as the Xbox One will.

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Nobody was excited about paying top dollar for a movie about WikiLeaks. A film about the origins of Pets.com would have done better.

— Gitesh Pandya of BoxOfficeGuru.com comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”