Sony will reveal its PlayStation 4 on 20 February in New York. We round-up what to expect from the next generation of consoles.
It's getting on for almost seven years since Sony last launched a living room console, and times have changed. Mobile, casual and touch sensitive games have the hardcore market under siege and all-in-one devices are in vogue. The dedicated, powerful game boxes that were the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 are out; nebulous, catch-all set top machines like the PS3 are the future.
Watch the LIVE BLOG of the PlayStation 4 launch event here.
Or maybe not. Despite exhaustive speculation since Sony dropped its "see the future" hint earlier this month, nobody really knows what's going to be revealed in New York this week. Rumours vary from the plausible (touch sensitivity via a Vita-like track pad on the controller) to the frightening (activation codes that render discs useless after one install). The only thing that's certain is that Sony needs to do a lot right if it's going to win back the credibility that the launch of the PS3 cost it.
Ahead of the PlayStation 4 reveal tomorrow, here's what we think we know about Sony's new console so far.
Plain specs wise, the most reliable info so far has been from Kotaku, which got its details from notorious game industry Deepthroat SuperDaE. DaE, who apparently has access to a PS4 development kit, says the new console will have a whopping 8GB of system memory, up from the PS3's now measly looking 256MB, and will be powered by a dual-core AMD64 "Bulldozer" core. It will also come with a 160GB hard disk drive as standard, so you can store plenty of movies, music and downloaded games on there, and will have four USB 3.0 ports and a Blu-Ray drive.
Basically, it will be very powerful. VG 24/7 claims to have spoken to Sony representatives after CES last month, who said the PlayStation 4 would have a run capability of 1.84 teraflops, a calculation used to measure computer performance. That's compared to the next generation of Xbox, currently nicknamed the Durango, which allegedly achieves 1.23 teraflops.
There is also talk, courtesy of All Games Beta, that the PlayStation 4 will support 4K resolution output, so if you own one of Sony's goliath XBR-84X900 Ultra HD TVs you'll be able to show off your PS4 at full, eye-watering capacity.
There is a lot of interesting rumours around the PS4's controller. Two images apparently showing prototypes of the new joypad have already leaked, one to Destructoid, one to CVG, and it seems that, although the recognisable two-stick design is still in, the dual-shock has undergone a dramatic retooling.
First, there looks to be an extra button next to the d-pad, which could be the rumoured "Share" button reported by Edge. This, reportedly, will allow users to record 15 minutes of in-game footage and the upload it online. Sony already has a similar function on the Vita, letting players take screenshots of themselves to upload to social networks, so it seems plausible that this would extend to rolling footage.
There's also a possibility that Sony will create a bespoke social hub, like Nintendo's Miiverse, for exactly this kind of user created material. The clunky PlayStation Home was an experiment in that direction, and if the hints of share functionality on the controller turn out to be true, it's like the PS4 will also feature its own kind of message board.
The leaked pictures also show a Move like sensor on the top, strongly suggesting that motion sensitivity will feature more heavily among the PS4's games line-up. Again, motion controls were another botched experiment with the PS3, where the Sixaxis sensitivity didn't really worked and never took off. The improved Move technology gives Sony another shot at getting motion sensitivity right and considering rumours from the Microsoft camp that the Kinect will always be enabled on the new Xbox, it's likely movement controls will be a much bigger focus in the next generation.
A leaked patent filing from last November gives us another hint at what to expect from Sony, showing a dual-shock like controller that could split in two to become a Wii Nunchuck-like motion reader. Although the existing photos don't suggest anything like that has been incorporated into the final model, Sony still isn't confirming or denying anything.
The Start and Select buttons have been moved around slightly as well, and sources have confirmed with VG 24/7 that a touchpad, similar to the one found on the back of the PS Vita, will feature on the front of the PlayStation 4 controller. When the console launches, that will likely be used for better navigation of XMB bar and home screen, though more games, especially downloadable ones from the PSN Store, will probably integrate the touch pad more closely as time goes on.
Not a lot of information has dripped out about the PS4's video streaming. IBTimes UK spoke to Jonathan Doran, of Ovum analytics, who said that one area of focus for Sony would be to negotiate better deals for live TV streaming. The company already has a strong partnership with the BBC and exclusive rights to run Formula One coverage on the PS3's BBC Sport app.
There's also the presence of 4oD, ITV Player, iPlayer and Netflix on the PlayStation 3's XMB, though some of these are awkward to use and technically flawed. Even if live TV or more exclusive content doesn't appear as part of the PS4's multimedia line-up, improved versions of the existing video apps almost certainly will.
There will however be an increased focus on social interaction. Aside from the new Share button, VG Leaks has reported that every PlayStation 4 will ship with an improved version of the PlayStation Eye camera that will allow users to video chat with better picture and sound quality. VG Leaks also hints at the "Dual Camera", as it's tentatively referred to, being able to recognise users' bodies and faces to tailor streaming videos to them. Microsoft is also reportedly working on something similar, using the Kinect's camera to identify individuals and recommend content based on their previous viewing history. Again, the Dual Camera and its uses are unconfirmed by Sony.
So far, no titles have been confirmed as in development for the PlayStation 4. However, there are several clues floating around from first-party PlayStation developers that they may be working on launch titles.
First, the staff at Motorstorm development team Evolution Studios have dropped several hints via social networks that the studio is working on something for a new console. Designer Will Maiden's Twitter profile says he's working on a "super-secret project", whereas Simon Barlow, one of the studio's directors, writes on LinkedIn that he's now "driving the creative vision for an unannounced title" and "working with the Product Owner Group and the team to deliver a AAA first-party exclusive." Motorstorm has been consistently well-received on the PlayStation, so a new one in time for the PlayStation 4's launch seems entirely likely.
Another favoured PlayStation exclusive, Killzone, will also feature in the PS4's launch line-up. Sources close to developer Guerilla Games have told Videogamer that a new title is in the works and will be released later in 2013 inside the PS4's launch window.
A little more tenuous is the news from Kotaku that Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream has purchased an internet domain called singularityps4.com. Quantic Dream head David Cage previously told VG 24/7 that The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil influenced the studio's 'Kara' tech demo, and the registered URL follows a pattern set by Quantic Dream, whose former website domains include heavyrainps3.com and beyondps3.com. This could hint at a game with 'singularity' somewhere in the title being developed for the PS4.
However, backwards compatibility is almost certainly out, at least as far as your old discs go. Sony bought content streaming service Gaikai for $380 million last July and is now, according to sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal, planning to use it to stream PS3 games to the PS4.
There is no word so far on how much each of these will cost or whether PS2 and PS1 games will feature. It's also unclear as to whether the PlayStation 4 will stream current-gen games, or how the PSN Store and downloadable content will work on the new console.
What does seem clear, however, and what will likely be troubling for some, is that the PS4 will not accept used or borrowed games. A patent filed in December for an 'Electronic Content Processing System' suggests that the PlayStation 4 will use activation codes to give users access to games and that once they're installed the first time, the disc will become useless. The second hand market has long been a drain on the rising cost of game development, as consumer pounds go into the hands of retailers as opposed to publishers.
Combined with the rising cost of developing a game, which Enders analyst Heloise Thompson expects will swell to $100m per triple-A title, this seems like an inevitable measure the PlayStation an attractive platform for studios.
Release date and price
So, how much will it cost and when can you get it? The most recent news on this comes from Japanese newspaper Asahi, via Gematsu, which reports the PlayStation 4 will hit Japan in Christmas 2013 and cost 40,000 yen (roughly £275). That's significantly lower than the PlayStation 3's launch price of £425, but exactly when the console will land in Europe is unclear. Heloise Thompson also said that Sony has trimmed its marketing team down to focus on the bigger US and Japanese markets so it's likely the console will release there first.
The PlayStation 3 arrived in the UK in March, 2007, four months after its Japanese launch, so we can perhaps expect the PS4 to be on British shelves around a similar time in 2014.
All of this rumour and speculation will hopefully be confirmed tomorrow, 20 February at Sony's PS4 reveal. IBTimes UK will be reporting live from the event in New York City and speaking to Sony insiders for more information on the next generation of game consoles.