It's been said before and I'll say it again: The impending launch of Nintendo's newest console has stirred up the rumor mill, as fans speculate about what Microsoft and Sony are going to do in response. Does the Wii U mean we'll see a new PlayStation soon? There are a lot of people out there who believe so. So let's take a look at what these people are saying and see if we can glean some concrete info on the PS4.
First of all, the project apparently has a hypothetical title; the name "Orbis" has been floating around the Internet lately. Of course, this would just be an early production title, like how the Wii U was once called Project Café, or how the PlayStation Vita was once called NGP (Next Generation Portable). In fact, I'm willing to bet money that the next Sony console will be called the PlayStation 4. There's no reason for them to change the name now, confusing potential customers and creating a headache for the marketing department. No, if Sony knows what's good for them, they'll stick with "PS4."
Apparently, a source told VG24/7 that Sony was aiming to push out their next console before Microsoft does theirs. However, I'm not sure I believe this. I mean, both Microsoft and Sony would do well to keep their eyes on the Wii U before making any concrete plans for their next-gen consoles. If Nintendo's tablet controller ends up being a hit (the way the Wiimote was in its glory days) both competitors will want to consider how they can implement tech that can compete (the way the Kinect and Move tried to steal the Wii's thunder, only too little too late.) A caveat, though, is that I don't think Sony should change its controller. I mean, they've kept it for three generations now. Those of us who fell in love with the DualShock back in the 1990s will cry foul if Sony changes it on us now.
And speaking of controllers, we're being told to expect an upgraded motion control setup. This would probably come in the form of a Move 2.0 or something to that effect. However, if Sony wants to be serious about motion gaming, they need to pack motion controls in the box with the console. The Wii U will be supporting the Wiimote, and the Xbox 720 is said to be including Kinect (or Kinect-like) functionality on day one. If Sony markets their "Move 2.0" as an optional accessory, they simply won't be able to keep up with the competition. Of course, perhaps motion gaming is falling out of the public eye anyway. We're certainly not as impressed by it as we were when the Wii first launched. Could avoiding motion controls in the next generation actually prove to be a smart financial decision in the long run? There's a chance it could. Either way, Sony will need to tread carefully as far as motion gaming is concerned; it's a pretty risky endeavor at this point.
Some other sources have claimed the PS4 will have a feature that blocks used games. But this rumor popped up in response to the rumor that the future Xbox would have that type of functionality, and therefore seems like a stretch to me. Also, I don't think the industry is ready for that sort of thing. I mean, it would certainly upset a lot of gamers, and with the PS3 being this generation's least popular console (judging by sales figures), Sony really isn't in the position to upset their fan base.
Now, they could potentially release a disc-free console that was 100 percent dependent upon downloadable games. That would solve the "used games" dilemma, though I don't think technology has advanced far enough to make that a reality. In fact, my fellow Cheat Code Central writer Shelby Reiches has already explained this in his speculative piece on the Xbox 720. Personally, I don't think hardware manufacturers will be trying download-only versions of major home consoles until late into the next generation. As the PS4/720 generation starts winding down, we could potentially see Sony or Microsoft test the waters with a scaled-down, less expensive, disc-free version of their current console to see if it's something we're ready for by then. I just don't see this becoming a reality before that.
Speaking of pricing, I'm willing to bet that Sony has learned from its PS3 blunder that pricing the console too high on day one could spell disaster. Sony will have to carefully consider the price point for their next console, determining which features are worth additional cost and which need to be left alone to keep the price low. In this current economic climate, I just don't see Sony able to convince gamers to spend more than $400-ish at launch. And even that seems pretty high. Sony will probably have to consider selling the first run of PS4s at a considerable loss in order to drum up enough consumer interest in the early stages of its lifespan.
The PS4 is also rumored to not be backward compatible. Now, even though the PS2 and early models of the PS3 featured backward compatibility, I can actually see this rumor ultimately being true. Sony has since stopped producing consoles with any sort of backward compatibility, as the Vita doesn't play physical copies of PSP games and new models of the PS3 don't play PS2 games. It must be noted, though, that the PS3 will still play PSOne games, and both the PS3 and Vita will play digital copies of many of their predecessors' titles. I imagine Sony will ultimately go this route, being able to sell us downloadable "PS3 Classics" at some point.
So what's under the hood? Well, sources say to expect an AMD x64 CPU coupled with Southern Islands GPU. To put that into context, rumors have the Xbox 720 pegged with the AMD x64, though with a different GPU. To the layman, the PS4 and Xbox 720 will be on fairly equal footing in terms of power, though über-nerds will forever be duking it out over which GPU is better. Some things never change, eh?
So what do we know about the PS4 right now? Well, pretty much nothing for certain, but there are enough rumors out there to get us speculating anyway. But while it's fun to think about, it's certainly not time to start throwing out our PS3s quite yet. Especially since Sony still claims to not be budging from the ten-year life expectancy it originally predicted for the PS3. Either way, I'm not holding my breath for a new console announcement from Sony at E3 this year.
Editor / News Director
Date: May 9, 2012
*The views expressed within this article are solely the opinion of the author and do not express the views held by Cheat Code Central.*