"One of the big challenges we faced in the past was that we created great technology that we handed over to the development community, and they had to go through a learning curve before they could harness it. And when they did, we saw some phenomenal games," Tretton said. "We wanted to lower that barrier of entry and really give them the ability to create tremendous gaming experiences from Day One."
The adoption of PC chips also means that the new console won't be able to play games created for any of the three previous PlayStations, even though the PS4 will have a Blu-ray disc drive, just like the PS3. Instead, Sony said gamers will have to stream older games to the PS4 through the Internet.
Other new features revolve around social networking and remote access. With one button, you can broadcast video of your game play so friends can "look over your shoulder virtually," said David Perry, co-founder of the Sony-owned Internet game company Gaikai. With remote play, you can run a game on the PS4 to stream over the Internet to Sony's mobile gaming device, the PlayStation Vita, which debuted last year.
The goal is to make the PS4 so good at figuring out what games and other content you want that it can download it without being asked, so that it's available when you realize you do want it, Sony said.
"Our long-term vision is to reduce download times of digital titles to zero," said Mark Cerny, Sony's lead system architect on the PS4.
The PS4 is arriving amid declines in video game hardware, software and accessory sales. Research firm NPD Group said game sales fell 22 percent to $13.3 billion in 2012. With the launch of the PS4, Sony is looking to attract people who may have shifted their attention to games on Facebook, tablet computers and mobile phones.