Yesterday, reporter Laura Kate Dale posted a review and video of the PlayStation 4 Slim. Problem: the console isn't out yet, nor has Sony announced it at all.
This is not the first time an apparent PS4 Slim has been seen in the wild. Earlier this month, one appeared on UK auction site Gumtree. It seemed to be a smaller, sleeker replacement for the standard PS4, rather than a machine with new guts and capabilities. Shortly after, there was an unboxing video, and Eurogamer ran a story in which they "confirmed" the PS4 Slim by visiting a person who'd obtained one. However, they removed their video of the machine almost immediately "upon taking legal advice."
Dale's story stands as the most in-depth yet. She posted a full review in which she emphasised that the Slim is more or less the same as a regular PS4, but it runs "cooler and quieter." She also delved into exact dimensions (264 x 39 x 288mm) and showed off the new, improved Dual Shock 4 controller. In a companion video, she took the console from unboxing to setup.
Despite all this, Sony has yet to acknowledge that the console exists, nor has anybody from or connected to the company reached out to Dale. It's bizarre, but in the grand scheme of major video game companies and colossal leaks, hardly unprecedented.
The whole thing, Dale told me over Skype earlier today, has been a rollercoaster ride. It began when she realised the leak was coming from a certain part of the UK, where she's based, and decided to investigate. She found someone who was willing to let her verify that the console, you know, exists prior to any sort of transaction, so she decided to take the plunge.
"I saw the console, I touched it, plugged it into a TV, it turned on and it worked," Dale told me, adding that she was told the console was not stolen, but merely came from a retailer who broke street date. "At that point I decided I knew enough to say, 'OK, this thing is legitimate.'"
"I'm being vague enough to protect myself legally," she quickly added.
The specter of legality has loomed over the whole enterprise ever since Eurogamer yanked their video in conjunction with the word "legal." Dale told me she originally shopped her coverage around to multiple major video game sites, but got no takers.
"Without naming any of the sites involved, the concerns were A) that they would commission coverage and then be forced to pull it before it was seen enough to be financially viable," she explained. "And then B) there were legal concerns. The legal situation in the UK regarding ownership of something like this is difficult, in that if Sony claims these units were stolen from them, then regardless of whether you bought them in good faith — believing them not to be stolen — you're still responsible for handling stolen goods."
And then, of course, there was the forever-dangling possibility of blacklisting, an industry practice with which Kotaku is quite familiar.
Dale decided to do it herself because she was tired of Sony's silence on a matter, and her site's not really beholden to PR nonsense. "It's been really annoying me knowing that this thing physically existed and we couldn't confirm it one way or another," she said.
Dale was surprised to find that, when her own coverage went up, no frighteningly pale men in suits showed up at her door, or in her inbox, as it were.
"I went in expecting my coverage to go down in under an hour much like Eurogamer's did," she said. "I expected to, at the very least, have to fight if I wanted to keep this coverage live."
A day later, however, she hasn't received a single message from Sony or any claims on her video. In the meantime, PS4 Slim has trended worldwide on Twitter, and the story's been picked up by pretty much every video game and tech site under the sun. Dale figures that perhaps it's all just too widespread at this point — that any act on Sony's part would be a case of too little, too late.
"They haven't asked me to take my coverage down or pulled the YouTube video yet, so I can only assume it's because they saw how quickly it picked up yesterday and were just like, 'Welp, the cat's out of the bag at this point. There's not much we can do to quiet this one down now.'"
If that's the case, though, it makes it even stranger that Sony has not publicly said anything at all about this machine. In an age when even the Activisions of the world have taken to shifting their marketing plans in response to leaks, one of the more egregious leaks of an unannounced product ever has been met with complete silence from Sony.
"It does seem a bit ridiculous at this point," said Dale. But Sony has a big PlayStation event scheduled for September 7th, where it's widely speculated that they will officially reveal the PS4 Slim, among other things.
"They have probably assumed that the number of people reading specialist games outlets is not as large as the number of people who read mainstream outlets that will probably cover the September 7th reveal event," said Dale. "So they have probably decided they can live with people who are gaming enthusiasts knowing about this already so they don't lose their big mainstream push."
She added, however, that it's all a bit insulting to customers, an overt reminder that Corporations Are Not Your Friend. "If Sony still thinks people don't believe the PS4 Slim model exists, it can only be because they think their audience are idiots, because there is ample evidence out there at this point," said Dale.
I reached out to Sony about all of this, but they have yet to reply to my inquiries.
There are, however, some people who adamantly refuse to believe the PS4 Slim exists despite having seen Dale's video and read her review. They have done everything from tweeting terrible things to deconstructing the video from every possible angle. Some are certain it's a hoax. They believe Dale 3D printed the console and created her own extremely convincing box.
"So many things got nitpicked," said Dale. "People got upset that I didn't show the underside of the box. They thought there was something to hide. Or, much like when the Xbox One S first launched, before they did the day one update, it had a picture of a standard Xbox One rather than the S. The same happens with the PS4 Slim. When you boot it up, you get an image of the standard PS4. Presumably that's because they're gonna do an update closer to the release of the Slim."
And of course, as is often the way of things with video game leaks (for some reason!), people have gotten really, really nasty about it, even though Dale is simply the messenger.
"There's been goodness knows how many personal attacks on A) the fact that, on a week that I'm about to go away to a convention, my office is a bit messy," said Dale. "And B) I'm transgender, and at one point you can see my reflection in a screen. The number of shitty comments that were about personal stuff rather than my coverage was quite ridiculous."
"How dare I have a messy office and be me?" she added.
I asked her why she thinks people got so upset about all of this, especially given that this isn't a delay or anything intrinsically negative. It's just an in-depth look at a thing Sony refuses to comment on. Dale pointed out that, if this is all true, it means the PS4 Slim doesn't have the 4K and upscaling capabilities of the Xbox One S. For the first time this console generation, the PS4 won't be the most powerful kid on the block. Some people apparently really, really don't want to hear that. Ah, corporate loyalty. Such fun.
Ultimately, though, Dale's taking it in stride. Word's gotten out about the PS4 Slim, and the logic underlying the attacks against her credibility doesn't exactly hold up to scrutiny.
"I clearly am trying to do this for a living," she explained. "Why would I knowingly throw away my credibility for a week of some good views on a site that doesn't claim any ad revenue? What would I have to gain from doing that?"