It has been almost seven years since Sony last released a home console, and many things have changed in that time. The mobile games market has expanded rapidly; many people now own touch sensitive phones with access to thousands of casual games for relatively little money. These types of games have the hardcore gaming market under siege. The dedicated powerhouses that we used to play our games on are becoming a thing of the past, for what we have now are media centers that also play our games. On the day this post goes live, Sony may well announce the first console of the eighth generation, so today I am going to summarise the current knowledge of this machine.
Earlier this month Sony teased gamers with their “see the future” trailer on the web and in mails sent to PSN account holders. The only real information gleaned from the video was the date of the announcement. However, the use of the symbols found on PlayStation devices led people to believe that this could be the long anticipated confirmation of new hardware. Software development kits were rumored to have shipped to software development studios late last year, giving hope that a new console would soon be on its way. The current generation was tipped to last roughly ten years, and given that the PlayStation 2 has only recently ceased production, fans of both Sony and Microsoft have been waiting to see which company would break cover first.
The details of the new console are supposed to have come from a source that has access to a PS4 development kit. The kit is packed with a whopping eight gigabyte of RAM, thirty-six times more that the PlayStation 3. The CPU will be four dual-core AMD “Bulldozer” processors for a total of eight cores. The hard drive in the kit was 160GB, though larger drives are likely to be found in consumer models given the size on the latest iterations of the PlayStation 3. The machine will also come with four USB ports, and will continue to use Blue-Ray as its disc-based media. Other reports show similar specs, though some say only four gigabytes of RAM will be in the new console.
The controller for the machine will be similar to the dual-shock in design, but will have an added touch pad on the front of the device. New additions also include a speaker and headphone jack on the controller. Finally, a button is to be included to share videos and still of the game currently being played. As a result of these changes, the device seems slightly more elongated than previous models. The hardware is rumored to ship in two different models, at $429 (£280) and $529 (£345) respectively, as early as November of this year. It is unlikely that pricing will be detailed at the same time as the console, and the price could very well change prior to launch.
The PlayStation 4 is also likely to be able to use cloud gaming to stream games in real time. As the hardware is so different from the previous generation, it is unlikely to have any kind of backwards compatibility. For those that would rather replace their existing console with the new model, this would mean that PlayStation 3 games could be played over the cloud in real time, similar to how OnLive worked. This idea has been expected ever since Sony purchased Gaikai in July of last year. This feature would also allow the gamer to pickup where they left off on other devices, such as phones and tablets.
Earlier reports suggested that an announcement of new hardware would have happened later on in the year. After having a strong performance with the PlayStation 2, Sony lost sales to Microsoft when the company shipped the new Xbox to retail a full year ahead of the PlayStation 3. This generation Sony could do with getting an early lead on their rivals, therefore an early announcement and launch would be in their best interests.
A rumor that could also be confirmed today is support for new ‘ultra HD’ televisions. If this is true, it is unlikely that PlayStation 4 games could be streamed themselves. Many PS3 games are not natively rendered at high definition 1080p resolutions. Instead, they are often rendered at a lower resolution, sometimes lower than 720p, and then upscaled by the hardware to 1080p. The bandwidth difference for cloud gaming between even 720p and 1080p is over two times the amount of data per second. The bandwidth required for ultra HD resolutions could be too much for the infrastructure of some countries.
What are your expectations for the announcement today? If you read this after the event, please discuss the details in the comments!