For the Sony Corporation, a tech industry also-ran, the moment of reckoning is here.
The first three generations of PlayStation sold more than 300 million units, pioneered a new style of serious gaming and produced hefty profits. PlayStation 4, introduced by Sony on Wednesday evening, is a bold bid to recapture those glory days of innovation and success.
(Read More: Will the PlayStation 4 Give Sony the Boost It Needs?)
The first new PlayStation in seven years was touted by Sony as being like a "supercharged PC." It has a souped-up eight-core processor to juggle more complex tasks simultaneously, enhanced graphics, the ability to play games even as they are being downloaded, and a new controller designed in tandem with a "stereo camera" that can sense the depth of the environment in front of it.
All of that should make for more compelling play for the hard-core gamers at the heart of the PlayStation market. The blood in "Killzone: Shadow Fall," shown to a preview audience of 1,200 at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York, looked chillingly real. The new device was never shown during the two-hour presentation. No release date was given, although before the Christmas holidays is a good bet. No price was mentioned.
With PlayStation 4, serious games are about to become much more social. A player can broadcast his gameplay in real time, and his friend can peek into his game and hop in to help. Also, they will now be able to upload recordings of themselves playing and send them to their hardcore friends, who will possibly want to watch when they are not playing themselves.
(Read More: Sony CEO Says Aims to Expand TV Sales From 2014)
The new features, however, cannot hide the fact that PlayStation 4 is still a console, a way of playing games on compact discs that was cool when cellphones were the size of toasters and browsers were people in libraries.
Much of the excitement in video games has shifted to the Web and mobile devices, which is cheap, easy and fast. Nintendo's new Wii, introduced in November, has been a disappointment. Microsoft's Xbox, the third major console, is racing to turn into a home entertainment center as fast as it can.
"Today marks a moment of truth and a bold step forward for PlayStation," Andrew House, chief executive of Sony Computer Entertainment, told the crowd. He said the new device "represents a significant shift of thinking of PlayStation as merely a box or console to thinking as a leading authority on play."Fine words, but the new PlayStation will have an uphill battle. Sales of consoles from all makers peaked in 2008, when about 55 million units were sold according to the research firm I.D.C. By last year, that was down to 34 million.
For 2014, Lewis Ward, I.D.C.'s research manager for gaming, forecasts a recovery to about 44.5 million.