As the current console generation nears its midway point, first details are starting to emerge about the potential makeup of the next generation systems. Each gaming generation to date has seen a fairly significant leap forward in technological power, which has to boggle the minds of gamers everywhere, knowing that in the not too distant future, we'll be playing games that trounce the best the PlayStation 3 has to offer. And to think gamers were convinced back in the glory days of 2-D gaming that games simply couldn't look any better.
Just How Much Further Can Games Go?
As games continue to evolve and become more and more realistic graphically though, the question of just how far gaming technology can go before it hits a wall has surfaced. While we're not at that point yet by any means, the gap is beginning to close between current graphics, and graphics that could be considered photo-realistic or virtual-reality. It stands to reason that even though technology will never stop evolcing, it's possible that games will eventually reach a point where they simply can't look any better.
The PlayStation 4 will be the next step in reaching the end of the videogame evolutionary cycle, if indeed there is one. While concrete details have yet to emerge on the console's innards, we do have some tentative information and rumours to help flesh out the forthcoming brave new graphical world.
The first commonly held belief about the PS4 is that it will continue to use the CELL processor first introduced in the PS3. In fact it's rumoured that any Sony consoles for the foreseeable future will also use the CELL processor, including the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 6, which are supposedly already being worked on. Re-utilizing the CELL technology should allow Sony to reduce production costs of the PS4, and limit the initial cost of the system, which was a major sticking point with the PS3, which sold for as much as $600 when it was released, and actually cost even more than that to produce, as much as $850 per unit. Yes, Sony was actually losing money with every PS3 they sold at launch (to the tune of nearly $2 billion in 2006), and have only recently started turning a profit on the console.
No More Excuses Developers!
Re-using the CELL processor should also help developers who have become familiar with the hardware, rather than resorting to another new configuration. The CELL processor took awhile for developers to wrap their heads around which was another major criticism of the console. Numerous games have seen lengthy delays as a result, and the overall volume of games on the system has been much lower to date than what was seen on the PS1 and PS2. By the time the PlayStation 4 launches, most developers should be comfortable with developing games using the technology, and this should help avoid a repeat of the PS3's early woes.
Specifics of the graphics processing unit and even who will be designing it are still up in the air. The PS3 uses a GPU called the RSX which was jointly developed by Sony and Nvidia. Early rumours popped up on the internet that Sony would drop Nvidia like a bad habit and join forces with Intel for the creation of the PS4's GPU, though these rumours were quickly shot down by Sony execs, who claimed the rumours were "the greatest fiction since the Lord of the Rings" (not a bad reference, though I much prefer George R.R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire myself).
Another important question is how will Sony approach the issue of convergence with the PS4? Sony was instrumental in pushing the popularity of DVD's with the PlayStation 2, and almost single-handedly gave Blu-Ray a victory in the latest format wars over HD DVD with the PlayStation 3. Rumours are widely split so far on the approach Sony will take with the PS4.
Jack of all Trades, Master of None?
One sentiment is that they will continue to enhance the capabilities of their next games machine, making it a vital centerpiece of a home entertainment setup. One rumour has it that the PS4 will come with DVR capabilities right out of the box. This has always been Sony's stated ambition for their home consoles, the creation of an entertainment unit so multi-faceted and advanced that even non-gamers will feel compelled to own it, thus introducing more and more people to gaming. After all, if they have a video game system in their home, even if not for the purpose of playing games, they'll likely try out at least a few games, and (hopefully) become hooked.
On the other hand, the success of the Wii may convince Sony to take a more games-oriented approach, and a recently leaked report supposedly from Sony themselves backs this up. The report claims that Sony has taken cues from the success of the Wii, and aims for the PlayStation 4 to be solely a gaming machine. This would allow them to cut down on the cost of the system, something that was largely blamed for the early woes of the PS3, while still creating a powerful system to compete with Microsoft.
We still have many months ahead of us before more concrete information comes out, but it will be a fun and exciting time for gamers everywhere as the rumours continue to fly about the possibilities and potential of the PlayStation 4.
If you're reading this article for the first time, you've probably realized by now this article was written years ago, long before the official announcement of the PlayStation 4. We made some pretty bold claims about the PlayStation 4 in this article, with some of them ending up being true and some of them being not true.
Over the last few weeks, we've compiled the most up-to-date resource on the PlayStation on this very website so you can see for yourself just how accurate our predictions were!
We covered the Official PlayStation 4 announcement, where Sony dedicated themselves to the gamer by introducing a new social experience. We've detailed the PlayStation 4's specifications and have covered each of the announced PlayStation 4 games in full.
Still hungry for more PS4 information? Use the Navigation links to the left of this article for all the PS4 news, updates and opinion pieces you can handle!
Update by - Joshua Phillips
Insert Date: 3/22/2013