What's great about rumours is that they can be made to say just about anything. This time, our fellow reviewers at Kotaku are supposedly privy to information from a mysterious contact at Sony. The most credible part of the story is the console's code name, which you can see in the domain name orbis.scedev.net, just like PlayStation Vita's former code name NGP, which before its release could be found at ngp.scedev.net. Ipso facto, Orbis must be the term that Sony's using in-house for the PS4. At least, that's the theory.
The rest of the rumours, on the other hand, aren't as solid. See for yourself:
- The PS4 is coming out in late 2013.
- It will have 4K resolution (4096 x 2160 pixels), or more likely, in our eyes, "Quad HD" (3840 x 2160 pixels), a format that's becoming more and more common in TVs.
- It will contain an AMD CPU and a Southern Islands GPU (7800 series).
But where things get tricky is the 4K rumour. On one hand, it would be entirely in Sony's interest to make its console compatible with this superb resolution standard, since the company's first 4K TVs are set for release this year. On the other hand, while 4K photo and video shouldn't be too complicated, video games are a different story altogether. They require an enormous amount of graphical computing power.
4K Video Games As Early As 2013With 4K resolution, the device needs to be capable of computing nearly 8.85 million pixels (or 8.2 million for Quad HD), compared to "just" 2.07 million for Full HD 1080p (1920 x 1080 pixels, the current resolution achieved by TVs). That means you need much more computing power to obtain similar graphical efficiency to what we currently get with 1080p. Now, the very best graphics cards today already struggle with 2011 games that have 6.2 million pixels to compute, as evidenced by the tests performed at Hardware.fr. The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 is only capable of displaying 47 images per second in Batman Arkham City with a 5760 x 1080 pixel resolution. In other words, making a game in 4K (with 43% more pixels) run smoothly would be no small task. It's even harder to imagine considering that we're talking about a game created pre-4K. It's hard to believe that the future PS4 games won't have more visual punch than PC games currently on the market.
Another hypothesis would be that the 4K games will be upscaled and calculated in "basic" Full HD 1080p, as is often the case with PS3 and Xbox 360 games (which are around 720p, most often upscaled for a 1080p TV). If that's the case, then all the PS4 would essentially be doing is upscaling games to artificially make them 4K-compatible. And that would basically mean "Quad HD", not 4K, since it's much easier to upscale from 1920 x 1080 pixels to 3840 x 2160 pixels (1 Full HD pixel = 4 Quad HD pixels).
A Modified GPU Or A Brand New One?For the GPU, there are several potential snags that come to mind. First of all, it's highly unlikely that Sony would use the current generation of AMD Radeon for a console that's to be released 18 months from now. They could, however, try to use a hybrid GPU. That's what Microsoft did with the Xbox 360 by adding R600 (HD 2000/3000 series) components to an R520 (Radeon X1800). However, when the PS3 was released the console's integrated GPU was a GeForce 7000 derivative—the same generation as the ones already available on PC at the time. So it would be surprising that the PS4 would "settle" for a current GPU. So the Southern Islands graphics card could only really be useful for current PS4 development kits, which have probably been sent to certain developers to help them prepare their games (with a theoretical 2-year development time).
But let's not forget that with components like these, the cost of return of a PS4 would skyrocket. Then again, it would probably still be lower than that of the PS3, which broke all records with its cell processor.
Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that PlayStation 4 is creating the buzz it needs, and it will no doubt have killer graphics—killer enough to break new ground for ever more realistic video games.
No Used Games, No Retro-CompatibilityOne last tidbit: Kotaku mentioned that Sony might be considering putting an end to the market for used PlayStation games. This would surely be a godsend for publishers hostile to the used game market, since it deteriorates their sales of new games. As the story goes, gamers will have to validate a code in order to play; that way games would only be bought for a single user account. Hmm, for some reason I think players might not be thrilled by that idea...
The PS4 games would be available both in Blu-ray and as downloads from the Sony Entertainment Network.
As far as retro-compatibility with PS3 games goes, the change in architecture on the PS4 would logically snuff that option, as was the case with the switch from PS2 to PS3 (barring the very first versions of PS3).
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