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How PlayStation 4 Works

Game designer Mark Cerny speaking at Sony’s Playstation 4 announcement event on Feb. 20, 2013 in New York.
Game designer Mark Cerny speaking at Sony’s Playstation 4 announcement event on Feb. 20, 2013 in New York.

The much-hyped PlayStation 4 arrived on Nov. 15, 2013, bearing a heavy burden for a product that's supposedly all about levity and fun. With the gaming console industry at a crossroads and Sony's profits cratering, the PS4 is tasked with not only helping to resurrect its mother company but also reinvigorate console gaming in general. It almost sounds like a great premise for a challenging business simulation game ... only this is definitely no game.

In spite of that weary load, the PS4 is generating a lot of hullabaloo among not only gamers, but also with game developers and industry pundits. To that end, keep in mind that it's been a full six years since the introduction of the PlayStation 3. Since then, the world of gaming has flipped more times than Super Mario fighting the final boss.

Back then, smartphones were but a glimmer in Apple's eye and tablet computers were a pipedream. Now, some of the most popular games in the world appear not on consoles, but on these sleek mobile devices that can connect to the Internet anytime and anywhere.

As it approached its PS4 project, Sony decided to counter (and capitalize) on smartphone and tablet developments. It promised to adhere to five principles: be simple, be immediate, be social, be integrated and be personalized.

Here's just one example of those ideas coming to fruition. The newly designed PS4 controllers all come with a Share button. Press it, and you can immediately broadcast your in-game action to your friends on the PlayStation Network. Those friends can watch your triumphs and send you words of encouragement right on your screen. And when you bomb repeatedly at a difficult point of the game, they can even step in and play for you. What's more, you and your friends can record clips yourselves playing and then easily share your glorious successes or humiliating defeats.

That's just one flourish in what Sony hopes will be a console experience masterpiece. But as with all console systems, it all begins, of course, with hardware. And as you're about to see, the PS4 is less of a traditional gaming box and more of a personal computer.