Rounding Up The PlayStation 4 Rumors

by Matt Bertz on Feb 19, 2013 at 11:25 AM

With Sony's press conference scheduled to kick off at 6 p.m. EST tomorrow evening, the rumor mill is churning at an exponential rate regarding the company's next generation console. Which of these articles of speculation holds weight, and which ones are the product of disinformation or over-active imaginations? Our editors parsed through the many proposed features and weighed in on the feasibility of each one.

A New DualShock Controller Leaks

Though the controller has slowly evolved since its debut with the original PlayStation, it hasn't undergone radical changes outside of adding rumble support, integrating triggers, and the short-lived SixAxis experiment. Early rumors foretold of a drastic overhaul to the iconic controller, but then this picture leaked. This controller replaces the start and select buttons with a touchscreen, and like the Vita, it reportedly includes a rear touchpad. This controller also has a a "share" button that could be used to instantly access your social networks for quick posting.

Probability: 80%

Every new console brings a new controller – that's not a surprise. This leaked image certainly looks convincing, but we have no way of knowing if this is a rough prototype that simply used the traditional format for test purposes or a near final version.

New Console To Support 4K Televisions

When 3D TVs failed miserably to capture the imagination of mainstream audiences, television manufacturers scrambled to find a new technology to convince people they need to upgrade their HDTVs. Their solution? Even more resolution! These ultra high-definition displays have four times the resolution of 1080p televisions, boasting an impressive 3840 pixels x 2160 pixels. You could see why a game publisher would be enticed by this additional pixel power, and a rumor inevitably circulated claiming that Sony's upcoming console would support the exciting new displays. 

Probability: 10%

One major roadblock exists on the path to 4K games: user adoption. Only a handful of films support the 4K format, and that lack of content will need to be remedied before consumers start buying the televisions. The cost is also prohibitive; these displays run anywhere from $4,000 to $100,000. Even Sony CEO (and former PlayStation boss) Kaz Hirai has speculated that it could take up to a decade for 4K to catch on, so why would the company devote valuable resources to make the console compatible? Additionally, quadrupling the output resolution of a console requires a huge increase in video hardware capabilities to and beyond the current bleeding edge of PC gaming – to the tune of over $1,000 spent just on video cards. That kind of power isn’t likely to fit in the next PlayStation...unless Sony has decided that the PS3’s biggest problem was that it wasn’t expensive enough at launch.

Sony Declares War On Used Games

Back in January, a NeoGAF user discovered a Sony patent application that would would tie game discs to specific user accounts and/or consoles. Essentially, an RFID tag embedded on the disc would be read by the console to determine if the game had been used before on another console and/or account. If it had, it would block you from playing it. This sent armchair analysts into doomsday mode regarding game retailers who specialize in used games (*cough* Game Informer's parent company GameStop *cough*).

Probability: 20%

Game developers have had a longstanding hate-hate relationship with used games, their general rallying cry being that creators unjustly get left out in the cold on resale revenues. While Sony may have patented the technology to block used games (and sharing games with friends) from the ecosystem completely, it would be suicide to make this move unilaterally. Whether developers like it or not, many of today's gamers like being able to trade games with friends or use the trade-in value of the games they've burned out on to purchase new titles. If Sony blacklisted these practices while Nintendo and Microsoft kept supporting used games, it's not hard to see where the value proposition is for gamers. The best way to eliminate the used market would be to go completely digital, but broadband penetration percentages and bandwidth issues currently prevent that from becoming a reality.

Cloud Streaming Coming To PlayStation

When Sony purchased Gaikai for $380 million last July, the company didn't announce its ambitions for how to leverage the cloud streaming service. As we moved closer to the announcement of the new console, some ideas emerged. The Wall Street Journal claimed that the new system would stream old games over the internet, essentially creating a huge back catalog players could access without requiring Sony to make the PS4 technology backward compatible with the PS3. Later, the newspaper reported that this technology could eventually be used to stream PS4 games to devices that don't have high-end graphical processors, like televisions, tablets, and smart phones. The article also speculated on cross-platform play. Today, Superannuation reports that Gaikai has registered domains for "PlayStation Cloud."

Probability: 90%

We're not sure how exactly Sony plans on leveraging Gaikai, but you don't spend $380 million on a technology and then leave it back at the shop. Whether Sony plans to let us play older games on the new console, livestream gameplay videos on social networks, play high-end games on mobile devices, or all of the above, we definitely expect Gaikai to play an important role with the PlayStation brand moving forward.

New PlayStation To Cost Less Than PS3

According to leaked documents it obtained and anonymous sources, the Times reports that the new Sony console will cost around £300 (which converts to roughly $465). This puts the price point significantly lower than the $599 price tag the PlayStation 3 debuted with in 2006. 

Probability: 95%

Sony's belated entry to the console competition and aggressive price doomed the PlayStation 3 to a slow start that took years to correct. Given the shaky ground the entire corporation is on right now, the games division can't afford to adopt another unconventional strategy with a steep price point. We don't expect Sony to announce the price tomorrow, but when it does reveal the price tag it will likely be in line with those floated by the Times.

PlayStation 4 Specs Leak

About a month ago, super leaker SuperDAE kindly handed over roughly 90 pages of PS4 documentation to Kotaku. These sensitive files seemed to jive with an earlier spec sheet posted by VGLeaks. The new Sony system reportedly features an eight-core AMD processor running at 1.6GHz, a custom GPU roughly equivalent in infrastructure to the Radeon HD 7xxx series video cards, 4 to 8GB of RAM, a Blu-ray drive, a 160 to 500GB hard drive, and integrated Wi-Fi. 

Probability: 75%

New console specifications evolve early in the cycle as the privileged developers working on them give their feedback, but if the system is launching this holiday season then most of the technology should be locked in at this point as Sony prepares for large-scale manufacturing. Given the similarities between the various Sony and Microsoft leaks and the current ceiling for graphical technologies on PCs, we're inclined to believe that this spec set appears to be in line with the rumored price point.


PS4 Includes Integrated Motion Controls

When the supposed PlayStation 4 specs leaked, it contained information about dual wide-angle cameras. Some have speculated this could be an HD Eyetoy that takes a page from the Kinect playbook and allows the console to recognize users to sign them in. It also reportedly features head tracking for use in games. 

Probability: 50%

The Move failed miserably, but motion controlled gaming is still in its infancy. We believe that the allure of bringing in new people intimidated by the traditional controller interface is still too powerful for either Sony or Microsoft to ditch the concepts altogether. Whether or not this manifests itself in a Kinect copycat device or something else remains to be seen.

You've read our educated guesses. What is your take on these PlayStation 4 rumors?