updated 11:15 am EDT, Wed March 28, 2012
PlayStation 4 gets possible major new leak
Gradually mounting talk of early PlayStation 4 plans culminated Wednesday with a potentially telling rumor. Believed to be codenamed Orbis or "circle," possibly to make it part of a "circle of life" with the Vita, the system outlined to Kotaku would not just break from using the Cell processor but from the entire Power and NVIDIA graphics combo. Instead, it would reportedly use a 64-bit, x86-based AMD processor as well as graphics based on AMD's Southern Island core, used in the Radeon HD 7700 series and up.
The performance would likely be towards the higher end of the newer video technology. Orbis would not only upgrade to playing games with 3D effects at 1080p, but could handle regular games at 4K (4096x2160). As a consequence of the shift to x86 architecture, it would outright drop backwards compatibility with PS3 games, although this might be partly an intentional move given Sony's history of disabling support on the PS3 to save money.
Similar to a rumor surrounding the next Xbox, an Orbis system would supposedly have a similar method of blocking used games. Customers could rip Blu-ray games to the hard drive or download them directly, but those would be tied to one PSN account that would be mandatory to play online. Unlike most any console to date, it would be impossible to start using the console without having signed on to PSN first, according to the rumor.
Used games might still technically work, but they could be limited in content and might follow a similar strategy to some game developers, where those buying used games would have to pay to unlock features that are included in new copies. The step would likely still anger outlets like GameStop, which have become overly dependent on used games for business and would see most of the value proposition of a used game disappear.
Hand-picked developers might have been getting developer kits as early as the start of this year, with revisions already coming as of the Game Developers Conference earlier this month. With more established beta kits possibly not set to arrive until late 2012, the Orbis wouldn't be shipping until holiday 2013. The timing, if accurate, suggested that Sony wouldn't reveal the console until at least the beta developer systems were ready, which could be as early as the Tokyo Game Show in the fall but might wait until CES in January or the next GDC.