A few months ago I’d gotten wind that some kind of meeting with Sony and developers was on the cards, what’s known as a ‘disclosure meeting’ where everyone signs non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) about upcoming hardware – in this case, it was to be for the PlayStation 4. Things had gone quiet since, until today, when news broke that the disclosure meeting did happen, and that some devs had already started to spill the beans under condition of anonymity.
From that report, we got our first (assumed) concrete information on what’s going to be behind Sony’s next console which, crucially, the platform holder isn’t using the phrase “PlayStation 4”. This is still codenamed Orbis, as it has been for well over six months, and it’s clear that that’s likely to remain the case until much nearer the big reveal.
That, according to the leak, is going to be next year, and before E3.
This nugget is of considerable importance, not least because now that that’s out in the wild, Microsoft have the chance to plan their attack accordingly. They’re unlikely to now wait until the big show in Los Angeles to show off the Xbox 360’s successor, for example – the 360’s lead in launching over the PS3 was hugely beneficial to the Redmond-based company and they’re now armed with information that they might not have had access to before, at least publicly.
But more importantly from the viewpoint of the gamer, we now have a date that’s likely to hold true, and even if Orbis is kept under wraps until the month of June 2013, we’ll know all about the console by next summer at the very latest.[videoyoutube]In terms of hardware, though, things aren’t quite as clear cut. VG247’s report mentions an APU (a combined GPU and CPU that handles graphics as well as all the computational stuff), AMD’s A10 to be precise. That’s a nifty chip (it’ll run the likes of Crysis 2 on maximum settings at 1080p and a decent framerate), but it’s not necessarily one that you’d associate with “next gen”, at least not on its own. We’d assume that the A10, if that’s the chip carried over to the final models, would be paired with a discrete GPU for added grunt, or even our old friend Cell.
Chances are that the A10’s just there in the current dev kits as a guide, and it’s something that’s likely to change over the coming months to a newer, more powerful model. The fact remains though that by choosing something off the shelf (albeit tech that’s likely to be modified for Sony’s needs) the cost to build the console will be substantially lower, at least in terms of the chipset that runs the show.
Equally of note are the comments in the report from developers who cite Sony’s goals for visual fidelity for the games. 1080p is an obvious one to mention – especially as the PS3 has struggled from day one (and continues to do so) with reaching that resolution on all but the simplest looking games. Likewise, 60fps and 3D would be a real treat, especially at that resolution. And that’s apparently Sony’s target – “1080p60 games in 3D” without breaking a sweat.
Then there’s the onboard storage – which is apparently currently a 256GB hard drive. That’s actually more likely to be a solid state device, especially if those numbers are correct – hard drives don’t come in 256GB varieties, but SSDs do, and after the latest PS3 revision’s water testing with a similar slice of technology Sony will be more than comfortable with throwing in the much faster, more reliable storage device onto their next gen machines.
The UI, too, seems to be moving in the right direction. Perhaps by virtue of the increased RAM (between 8GB and 16GB for the dev kits at the moment, so probably 4GB in the final PS4) or the boosted grunt of the processors, the next gen Sony console will allow for a smoother in-game menu system that’ll allow users to move around the various elements of the user interface freely. The example cited is that gamers could pause a game, jump into the PSN Store, buy some DLC and then immediately return to the action.
The Orbis will be “always on”, too, downloading and updating in the background.
However, the PS4 isn’t likely to carry backwards compatibility, even if there is a Cell in there somewhere. Buying patterns and publisher decisions of late have pointed to a new trend: HD remasters – and there’s every chance that rather than letting Uncharted 3 work on Orbis, Sony will push out re-releases for the new hardware. We’ve been lapping these up recently, so why wouldn’t next-gen continue this currently rather fashionable new business model and sales channel?
But with a pre-E3 2013 reveal and (presumably) a late 2013 release, what could we expect in terms of new games? Well, it’s clear that the major releases for PS3 start to dry up in the first half of the year – after God of War and The Last Of Us first party AAA stuff is looking a lot quieter than it has been for a while. We know the likes of Ready At Dawn are working on a next gen game, and it’s reasonable to assume Naughty Dog, Guerrilla and Polyphony are too, amongst others.
This generation’s really starting to show its age now, and although I still have fears that next-gen will be all about trying to get more and more money out of us for games that’ll ship with half the content, in terms of new hardware alone I’m desperate to see what’s around the corner. I’m hopeful that Sony get this right, that the PS4 (or whatever it’s called) is easy to develop for, isn’t wildly expensive (they can’t do another £425 launch, that’s for sure) and the games turn out great.
More leaks are likely, so hopefully we’ll find out more soon enough.