A wealth of rumors have surfaced regarding Sony's mystery next-gen console. Recent leaks allegedly detail the power of the system, while other reports claim that the company may ditch the popular and long-standing DualShock controller. We're going to try to find some degree of clarity in all the speculation.
When it comes to a new console, the first and biggest question mark is always placed firmly over the system's raw power – How many CPU cores are on board? How strong is the GPU? How much RAM? ... the list goes on. It's one of the biggest talking points surrounding Nintendo's latest Wii U system, and usually takes center stage in any discussion regarding which manufacturer will ultimately win the next “console war."
While the impact that a system's power has on its actual success is a significant bone of contention, it can give an indication of a console's long-term potential. As such, it's perhaps the single favorite topic of fans and the rumor mill alike.
The latest information on Sony's system comes to us courtesy of Kotaku, which has reportedly uncovered details of the latest PS4 development kit. The system in question boasts some impressive specs, including an 8-core AMD64 “Bulldozer” CPU and 8 GB RAM. The dev kit is also said to feature four USB 3.0 ports, ethernet, HDMI and Blu-ray support.
In terms of storage, the unit packs a 160GB HDD. That might seem a little weak given the growing emphasis on downloads, but it's worth bearing in mind that this is a dev kit we're talking about and not a final release unit.
In terms of GPU, most rumors support the notion that the system will feature a graphics card based on AMD's Radeon HD 7000 series line, with the Radeon 7970M being a likely contender. Digital Foundry recently reported that the console will feature a slightly less heavy-duty version of the 7970M, running at 800 MHz and featuring 18 “Graphics Core Next” compute units.
As you would expect, there's some significant contention when it comes to the validity of these specs, and several conflicting reports of the system's internals have emerged. The console's spec is unlikely to have been confirmed at this point, so it's worth regarding this information with a healthy degree of skepticism.
No more DualShock?
One of the biggest rumors surrounding Sony's new system relates to its controller. A senior games studio source has reported to CVG that the new console may not feature the long-standing and much-loved DualShock design.
We can't help but feel the influence of the Wii U's Gamepad controller here, as Sony has reportedly been experimenting with numerous designs, some of which include an LCD touch screen.
There's also a potential link to the PS Vita, which features both a forward-facing multi-touch display and rear-facing touch-pad. Rumors of significant integration between Sony's handheld and new home system have been flying about for a while now.
Despite these reports, we're still not convinced that Sony will abandon DualShock. Developers are thought to be using the current DualShock 3 controller with the dev kits discussed above, meaning that any new controller is unlikely to stray too far from that design. It's also not the first time that rumors of a design change have surfaced. Does anyone remember the Boomerang concept controller for the PS3?
Another interesting report has surfaced, claiming that the PS4 will allow for simultaneous users. Unlike the PlayStation 3, where a single user will sign in to the system, the PS4 will temporarily link each user account to a controller, allowing multiple users to receive trophies during mutliplayer or co-op games.
This is a useful development, but we are struggling to see how it differs significantly from what is currently in place on Microsoft's Xbox 360 platform.
Orbis or PS4?
It's still unclear how Sony will label its new system. The project is codenamed “Orbis," but it's unknown whether the system will receive that name at release, or whether the more traditional PlayStation 4 moniker will be favored.
Given the branding of the PS Vita and the rumors surrounding a close integration between the two systems, the Orbis branding would bring a certain cohesion to the company's marketing strategy. However, we're more inclined to believe that Orbis is simply a codename much in the same way that Nintendo's GameCube was referred to as “Dolphin” prior to its reveal back in 2001.
In mid-November, Quantic Dream, the developer behind Heavy Rain, registered the domain singularityps4.com. The company has previously registered domains such as heavyrainps3.com and beyondps3.com for past titles, indicating (though by no means confirming) that Sony's new system will be called the PlayStation 4.
So when are we likely to see the PlayStation 4? Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai shed a little light on the matter when he told The Times that the Japanese company will let Microsoft make the first move, stating “Why go first, when your competitors can look at your specifications and come up with something better?”.
Though this suggests that we're likely to see the new Xbox before we see the new PlayStation, numerous other reports have surfaced that suggest both companies are considering individual launch events as early as March. If those events fail to materialize, then keep an eye on E3 in June – it's going to be a big one.