PlayStation 4
Sony announced the PlayStation 4 on Wednesday, Feb. 20 in New York City. Reuters

Sony took two hours to debut the PlayStation 4 at its New York City event on Wednesday evening, but 120 minutes wasn’t enough to actually unveil what the next-generation console actually looks like.

Executives and developers were happy to talk about some of the PS4’s key features – namely, those centered around sharing content with others, and the ability to continue games on a mobile device – and even though audiences got to see PlayStation 4 games, graphics, and even the new DualShock controller, the biggest details were noticeably absent, particularly those relating to its specs, price and specific release date.

While Sony said the PS4 will see a release date in “Holiday 2013,” the vague window is open to interpretation – it could mean in the months between October or December, or it could mean any “holiday” in 2013. Either way, Sony said it would unveil much more about the PS4 – likely its launch lineup – at E3 2013, scheduled from June 11 to 13.

Why Didn’t Sony Reveal More?

This year is expected to be a big year for the gaming industry, as newcomers enter the field with their own takes on the next-gen console experience (see: Ouya, Valve’s Steam Box), and the traditional game consoles are also expected to release their next-generation platforms this year too.

Of the three traditional gaming giants – Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo – Sony essentially had “first dibs” on Wednesday to make a statement to its competitors. And it did – just that, and nothing more.

If Sony wanted to build excitement around the PS4, mission accomplished. Consumers now know it exists, they know it will feature some of the best eye-popping graphics ever squeezed into a console, but still, many important questions were left unanswered: How much will the PS4 cost? Will it function differently? What does the PlayStation 4 even look like?

The PS4 event in New York City was the equivalent of a teaser trailer in film: We got a taste of what we’ll see, but we have absolutely no clue into its central elements, which allures fans and annoys rivals who desperately want to know what they’ll be up against this holiday season.

If Sony revealed its full hand for the PS4, there would be very little excitement moving forward. Imagine if Apple unveiled a new iPhone but said you couldn’t buy it for another 10 months – by that time, would you still be interested? Or would a newer but highly similar product be more likely to catch your eye? Most people would probably argue the latter.

Gaming has always been a competitive industry, but it’s going to be even more cutthroat in 2013 with the introduction of new players and new technologies. Even the big players like Sony and Microsoft understand that nothing is promised – players may love the PS3 and Xbox 360, respectively, but favor towards your platform and brand can disappear faster than you can say “Wii U.” Just ask Nintendo.

On Wednesday night, Sony finally embraced the power of presentation. Apple, Sony’s chief rival since the iTunes Store and iPod arrived on the scene in 2001, has always been great at instilling the element of surprise in its product announcements, knowing how well it translates into hype, and thus, sales. For the PS4 event, Sony understood that the console’s release date was still very far off, so it was important to maintain hype from now until then.

In a memo to gaming site Kotaku, Sony's Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida said his company almost chose to reveal the Playstation 4 console instead of the controller, but ultimately opted for the other way around.

"We really wanted to explain what we've done with the DualShock 4, but as far as the system itself we have to keep something new for later," Yoshida said. "Otherwise you'd get bored."

Fans got what they wanted: A confirmation that the PS4 even exists, as well as a few of its new features – online purchasing, sharing moments in real-time, remote play, and the ability to play new games as they download to your system. Gearheads also got a few PS4 specs as well – an X86 CPU, enhanced PC GPU, 8GB unified memory, local HD and GDDR5 system memory from AMD – but all the best ones are yet to come, including the console’s weight, dimensions, and functions. We’ll be keeping an eye on PS4 rumors moving forward, but the key event to watch will take place at the Los Angeles Convention Center starting June 11, when the biggest names in the videogame industry will come together to showcase, and presumably reveal, their latest hardware innovations.