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.
Forrester analyst James McQuivey said Sony is missing the point by building what amounts to an upgraded PS3.
"Sony believes the future will be like the past and has built the game console to prove it," he said. "Tablets and smartphones now engage more people in more minutes of gaming than consoles will ever achieve."
Sony showed an updated controller that adds a touchpad and a "share" button. The controller also features a light bar, which means a new PlayStation camera can more easily track the device for motion control.
The bulk of Wednesday's event was devoted to demos of games for the PS4, including a realistic team racing simulator, "Drive Club," super-powered action sequel "Infamous: Second Son," artsy puzzler "The Witness" and several first-person shooter games, including "Killzone: Shadow Fall." Beyond games, the PS4 will let people create animation in 3-D using a Move motion controller — all in real time.
Last fall, Nintendo launched the next generation of gaming consoles with the Wii U, which comes with a tablet-like controller called the GamePad. The controller allows two people playing the same game to have different experiences depending on whether they use the GamePad or a traditional Wii remote, which itself was revolutionary when it came out because of its motion-control features.
Judging by Wednesday's event, Sony seeks to improve but not revolutionize game play. The games were updates to existing ones, with improved graphics.
"At the end of the day, this is a device by gamers for gamers," Tretton said. "The games that people go out and spend billions of dollars on are your traditional shooters."
The original Wii has sold more units since its launch than both its rivals, but it has lost momentum in recent years as the novelty of its motion controller faded. Nintendo said it sold 3.1 million Wii Us by the end of 2012. It was a disappointing start for the first of a new generation of gaming systems.
In some ways, notably its ability to display high-definition games, the Wii U was just catching up to the PS3 and the Xbox 360, the preferred consoles to play popular games such as "Call of Duty."
All three console makers are trying to position their devices as entertainment hubs that can deliver movies, music and social networking as they try to stay relevant in the age of smartphones and tablets. The PlayStation online network will have access to Sony's video and music services, as well as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, with paid subscriptions to those services. People will also be able to access Facebook.
Lang contributed from Los Angeles.