The company unveiled details of its PlayStation 3 Monday, showing off a machine with enormous horsepower, stunning graphics and a slew of multimedia elements.
Due in spring 2006, the PlayStation 3 is powered by the "Cell" processor, which Sony boasts makes the machine 35 times more powerful than the PlayStation 2. It will support Blu-Ray storage devices, which hold significantly more data than today's DVDs, as well as seven wireless controllers, and has outputs for two high-definition televisions (HDTVs).
Sony (Research) did not announce whether it plans to launch the system first in Japan, then months later in North America, as has been its practice with previous PlayStations, or simultaneously throughout the world. It also did not disclose an estimated retail price for the machine.
"All of us at Sony Computer Entertainment have been waiting a long time for this moment," Kaz Hirai, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, said at a news conference.
"We have always attempted to do things differently. Our vision has taken us to unprecedented levels of success and innovation. Just keeping up with conventional technology is not enough for us."
Sony's announcement came the same day that Microsoft, its smaller rival in the video game business, announced that up to 40 new titles for its new Xbox 360, will be available in time for the holidays.
Sony's PlayStation 3 will be fully "backward compatible," playing all existing PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games. It will come equipped with a Blu-Ray DVD drive and support the sharpest format for HDTV, 1080p.
The machine itself is about the same size as the current PlayStation 2 with a rounded, convex look. Sony showed off the machine in three colors: black, silver and white.
Wireless controllers using Bluetooth technology will be standard. Sony (Research) said the system will support up to seven simultaneous players, a significant boost from the four standard today.
Additionally, PSP owners will be able to use their handheld gaming device as either a controller or an additional screen, perhaps viewing tactical or statistical information that ties in with the game on your television.
The PS3's ability to display data on two screens can be used for a multitude of purposes, said Sony. Players might be able to create a panoramic view by attaching two TVs, high definition or standard definition. Players might also be able to leave a visual chat window open with their online competitors as they play.
Sony said it will offer a high definition camera as a peripheral to the PS3, allowing players to use the game machine as a makeshift video phone or let them broadcast their own programming, whether live or from the machine's detachable 2.5-inch hard drive.
Graphically, Sony showed a number of clips running on PlayStation 3 hardware, including "Devil May Cry," "Metal Gear Solid," "Gran Tursimo" and "Tekken" and had live interactive demos of several games, including Electronic Arts' (Research) "Fight Night: Round 3".
The PS3 will include slots for a number of consumer electronic digital storage devices, including Sony memory sticks, SD memory cards and compact flash cards.
In addition to playing games, it will allow users to access digital video and audio files, view digital pictures, offer video chat and allow users to access the Internet.
As with Microsoft's (Research) Xbox 360, online functionality will play an important role with the PS3. The system will ship with a built-in gigabit Ethernet port and can handle both types of wireless Internet access, 802.11b and 802.11g.
Sony hinted it, like Microsoft, would offer an online marketplace, where users can buy games online.
"PlayStation 3 truly is the system to be placed in the center of the living room in homes around the globe," said Ken Kutaragi, widely considered the father of the PlayStation. "The future is almost here with the PS3."