For a while it seemed that Sony was looking to stay out of the next-generation console wars, wanting to ride out the success of its current console, the PlayStation 3. But with former PlayStation boss Kazuo Hirai taking over as Sony President and CEO on April 1, a fourth PlayStation console seems highly likely... and sooner rather than later. His "One Sony" stance indirectly proves that another console is probably in the works, as gaming will be one of the company's three main "pillars" starting next month.
Based on Hirai's plans, Sony products will offer a unified experience across the board -- again, that's the One Sony stance. The next console will likely be even more focused as a multimedia hub, matching whatever Microsoft is planning with its next Xbox. Motion-sensing technology will be a part of the package along with cross-platform gameplay with the PlayStation Vita and PlayStation-certified smartphones and tablets.
An unnamed source has told Kotaku that the codename/working title for the unannounced console is "Orbis" which in Latin means circle, or ring, or even orbit. Combine that name with Sony's new handheld, and you have Orbis Vita, or "Circle of Life." This may indicate that the Vita handheld is playing an important role in the next console's development. It may even be the machine's actual name, referred as PlayStation Orbis and dropping the "number" from the label.
The source also provided some specs, but we've heard these before: an AMD x64 CPU and an AMD Southern Islands GPU. Now let's point out one other small detail that may have not cropped up in the PlayStation 4 rumor mill before: AMD's support for BlueStacks. For the uninitiated, BlueStacks is an Android emulator for Windows 7 that allows the user to purchase and use Android apps from four markets, or import installed apps from their smartphone.
That said, given Sony's familiarity to Android, it's possible the company may be working with BlueStacks for a PlayStation version so that developers aren't required to create a PS4-specific version. This is speculation of course, but there's an underlying circle going on that may not be coincidental: Sony producing Android phones, AMD supporting an Android emulator, Sony using an AMD CPU and GPU in its console.
The AMD GPU will reportedly support games at a resolution of up to 4096 x 2160, far exceeding the needs of most current HDTVs -- but obviously prepared for compatible 4K HDTVs which will eventually become standard in or sometime after 2013. It will also be capable of playing 3D games in 1080p.
So when is this console expected to arrive? Select developers supposedly received dev kits since the beginning of 2012, with revised and improved versions distributed during GDC. Finalized beta units are expected to be shipped to developers towards the end of the year, whereas the actual console may arrive on the market just in time for the 2013 holiday season. That means we'll probably see both the Xbox 720 and PlayStation 4 make their debut during E3 2013.
Kotaku's unnamed source also confirmed reports that the PlayStation 4 will not be backwards-compatible, and that it will not play used games. PS4 titles will be distributed in either Blu-ray or digital download, and locked to the purchaser's SEN account. The Blu-ray version, if traded in to a games retailer, will be limited to a trial mode or some other form of content restriction. Used game consumers would thus be required to pay a fee to unlock/register the full game.
This is probably the biggest piece of PlayStation 4 information we've seen in a long time. It's all rumor for now, but don't be surprised to see the console's debut next summer given that Sony's game division is now an official "pillar."