While the official reveal of Sony's next home console could still be months away, if not longer, Kotaku has today learned some important details concerning the PlayStation 3's successor.
For one, the console's name — or at least its codename/working title — is apparently Orbis. And it's being planned for release in time for the 2013 holiday season.
The details in this story come from a reliable source who is not authorised to talk publicly about next-gen hardware but has shared correct information with us before. What they're telling us in specifics matches much of what we've heard and reported in generalities in recent weeks.
WHAT'S IN A NAME
Orbis. Say it out loud. Sounds a little like the word "four", doesn't it? Only it doesn't make the next PlayStation sound like a bad horror movie sequel.
It's also a name loaded with meaning. The word "Orbis" itself, from Latin, means circle, or ring, or even orbit. Not terribly helpful. Combine it with the name of Sony's new handheld system, though, and you have the common term Orbis Vita (or, in strict Latin, Orbis Vitae). Which means "The circle of life". Could the Vita be playing a very important role in the development and use of the next PlayStation home console? Maybe!
Such symbolism also suggests that rather than being a codename, like most companies employ when still developing a console (think NGP, or Durango), this might actually be the machine's final name. We don't know that, though, so keep an open mind about things.
Type in Vita.SCEdevnet.com and you arrive at Sony's portal for Vita developers. Same with NGP.SCEdevnet.com, referencing the former codename for the Vita. The PS4 version of that address gets you nowhere. PS3 does, as does Orbis.SCEDev.net, though not to any Orbis-specific portions of the site.
THE NEXT PLAYSTATION, AT A GLANCE
- Is called, or at least carries the working codename, "Orbis".
- Is scheduled for a Holiday 2013 release.
- Won't be backwards compatible with PS3 games.
- Will lock new games to a PSN account as an anti-used games measure.
- New games can be bought either on Blu-Ray or downloaded.
- Current specs are an AMD x64 CPU and AMD Southern Islands GPU
Our main source supplied some basic specs for the console, but as the future is always in motion, bear in mind these could easily change between now and the Orbis' retail release. Still, if you'd like to know what developers are being told to plan for now, here you go.
- AMD x64 CPU
- AMD Southern Islands GPU
The former, that's largely something we've heard before, but the latter is interesting. That's the name given to many of AMD's 2012 roster of high-end PC cards. The PS4's GPU in particular, we're told, will be capable of displaying Orbis games at a resolution of up to 4096x2160, which is far in excess of the needs of most current HDTV sets. It'll also be capable of playing 3D games in 1080p (the PS3 could only safely manage 3D at 720p).
Our main source tell us that "select developers" have been receiving dev kits for the new console since the beginning of this year. Revised and improved versions of these kits were sent out around GDC, while more finalised beta units will be shipped to developers towards the end of 2012.
That should hopefully give developers plenty of time to have launch games ready for the Orbis' retail release, which will be in time for the 2013 holiday season. If you can remember the PS3 launch — it's OK if you can't, it was a while ago — that too was in time for the holiday shopping season (November 2006 for Japan and North America).
SO LONG, PS3 GAMES
Remember how the PlayStation 3 swiftly dropped the ability to play PS2 games? Well, our main source tell us the Orbis won't even bother, and that Sony has no plans to offer backwards compatibility for its existing catalogue of PS3 games.
SO LONG, USED GAMES
BACK IN DECEMBER... A post left on Pastebin back in December also referred to the PlayStation 4 as Orbis, calling it a codename in the same vein as Microsoft's Durango. The system specs in that post differ significantly from what Kotaku has heard, and the lack of a hard drive by default goes against the idea of downloading full games to the system.
The Pastebin post also mentions that big name developers like EA were disappointed by an Orbis much less powerful than Microsoft's next machine, so there's a chance that it's the story of an earlier prototype that didn't make the grade. We've reached out to EA for comment.
Just like the next Xbox/Durango, we've heard from multiple sources that the Orbis will likewise have some kind of anti-used games measures built into the console. Here's how our main source says it's currently shaping up: new games for the system will be available one of two ways, either on a Blu-Ray disc or as a PSN download (yes, even full retail titles). If you buy the disc, it must be locked to a single PSN account, after which you can play the game, save the whole thing to your HDD, or peg it as "downloaded" in your account history and be free to download it at a later date.
Don't think you can simply buy the disc and stay offline, though; like many PC games these days, you'll need to have a PSN account and be online to even get the thing started.
If you then decide to trade that disc in, the pre-owned customer picking it up will be limited in what they can do. While our sources were unclear on how exactly the pre-owned customer side of things would work, it's believed used games will be limited to a trial mode or some other form of content restriction, with consumers having to pay a fee to unlock/register the full game.
This would allow used games to continue to be sold at outlets such as GameStop, while also appeasing major publishers who would no longer have to implement their own haphazard approaches to "online passes".
That's all we've got for you at the moment. Remember, none of this information is confirmed, and even the information that is locked down in March 2012 may change before the console's eventual release. This is just what we've been told Sony is working on and planning for as of today. That being the case, how do you think it's shaping up?