Gaming news site Kotaku's uncovering of alledged Playstation 4 details last Wednesday has spurred a wellspring of press speculation on the new hardware and its rumoured Winter 2013 release date.
The new console, codenamed Orbis, is reportedly built around an AMD x64 CPU and an AMD Southern Islands GPU - capable of displaying graphics up to resoutions of 4096×2160 as well as true 1080p stereoscopic 3D. Sony always managed to set the bar for console visual tech, but the latest speculation on Microsoft's contender, the Xbox Durango, suggests it will also be based on an AMD GPU, but with the older 6670 chip.
Among the more outlandish rumours, there's some credibility to Kotaku's reports of Sony's plans for the pre-owned market. Their source claims that digital and hard copies of games made for the Orbis will be coded in the same way as PC games. So once installed (incidentally, there's no word on whether PS4 games will feature any kind of installation yet) or played for the first time, they will be locked to that specific console. Meaning pre-owned copies of games will only offer content on a trial basis, with the offer to pay for a full registration and full use of the game. Apparently Microsoft are also instigating a similar system for their Xbox Durango, which together with the PC (which was been employing lock-outs on pre-owned games for years now), gaming hardware developers seem to have formed a united front against the trade-in market. This could prove to be the death gong for high street retailers, some of which are already going under, such as the Game Group PLC, which has been starting to especially suffer since February.
There are also reports that Sony has no intention of providing any backwards compatibility. The Playstation 4 will play games made for next gen console only. Playstation 1 and 2 Classics have been available on the Playstation Network for a while, and restricting owner's of the next generation console and their use of older games is likely a move to spur more interest in digital access to games.
A big deal has been made of the mythical hardware's codename. Orbis is latin for 'circle' or 'ring', so the press have been making, actually, quite safe assumptions that the PS4 will feature a more seamless compatibility with Sony's new-ish handheld, the Vita, on the basis that Orbis Vita means 'Circle of Life'.
Game and game hardware developers love to lead the press up the garden path, I'm not saying more integration between hardware and handheld is unlikely because it's not, there's been a modicum of cohesion between the systems since the Playstation Portable and before that, owners of Nintendo Gamecubes and Gameboys could connect them to use as controllers or swap data, usually Pokemon. It's perfectly logical to assume Sony would develop the relationship - offering cohesion between the two products could convince more consumers to invest in both. But Orbis Vita may well just speak to a member of Sony's press deparment's love for the music of The Lion King.
Sony outright denied any plans for new hardware in June last year and then again in January, claiming they still intended to keep the Playstation 3 in circulation for its ten year shelf life, but the belated European release of the PS3 in January 2007, just over a year after the Xbox 360, caused blunted launch sales as the 360 had had such a strong headstart building its consumer base. The cautious whispers of the PS Orbis might be a sign of Sony trying to avoid a similar situation.