There is no point in hiding it, we all know it’s coming, the next generation of gaming hardware is without a doubt an inevitability and this week I thought it would be a perfect time to take a look at everything we know about the next generation hardware from Sony. Sure nothing has been "confirmed" from the bosses at Sony, but there comes a time prior to the announcement and launch of any major product that the rumours start to live a life of their own, as they say "there is no smoke without fire".
Rumour has been going for quite some time for this upcoming generation and I'm not going to dig right back to the start of it all and revisit storys that the hardware is in development for one good reason, it IS in development and has been for some time, no doubt about it.
One big tell-tale sign is that many of the main development studios have already switched their focus to the new hardware, many people caught on that the next generation of popular gaming series haven't shown up on any release schedules for the PlayStation 3, simply because they're in development, but not for the PS3.
Another interesting snippet that may or may not have been done on purpose, is the fact that many of the PS3 flagship titles don't have a 4th game in the series yet, God of War 3 and Uncharted 3 for example, could they be playing for a 4th console with a release of 4th title games? Much like the way Nintendo had "super" games, for the SNES, GoW4 , Uncharted4 on PS4.
That is of course just speculation as many sources have already said that Sony will not be calling it the PS4, although in the eyes of many that will likely be its slang title, it’s simple enough to say PlayStation 4 and people know you mean the next gen console. Current winner for viable title is of course "Orbis" which is the Latin word for circle. What is the significance of Circle you ask? well Vita means Life, spin that through Latin together "Orbis Vitae" basically means Circle of Life, subtle word play and sounds like the usual garbage we get from the guys in marketing.
"Sony is near the middle end part of their Project Orbis, their next generation PS4. It will not be called PlayStation 4, teams have started to call the final name as Omni. Omni will reflect their new hardware and content delivery philosophy" - Dual Pixels
There have been so many leaks and rumours about the new hardware that I am literally sat here looking at over a 100 pages of information, nonsense, speculation and more, but as the weeks have gone by things have started to consolidate to some cold hard facts and some rather believable and alarmingly accurate specifications, most prominent are those found in a recent Eurogamer.net article.
• 8 Core CPU (codename "Liverpool")
• 1.6 GHz CPU Clock Speed
• 4GB GDDR5 Share Memory (512MB for OS systems)
• 28nm Production
• Radeon HD Graphics
• Pitcairn GPU Design
• Radeon 7970M
• 800MHz GPU Clock
• 18 Graphics Core Next Compute Units
• 1.84 teraflops metric performance
• AMD FUSION Core
For many people though, these numbers mean absolutely nothing and it helps to bring into perspective what all of this means. Let’s start with the 8 Core CPU, keep in mind that many (my own included) modern PC's tend to have dual or quad core CPU's so Octo core really will offer up a great amount of multitasking capabilities, perfect for modern games that require heavy AI, Physics and lighting calculations.
4GB GDDR5 memory is more than most PC graphics cards need these days, while some may think that having 16GB or more would be better, the focus here is on being capable of streaming texture data in and out of the ram faster. You don't need 8GB if you can have 4GB at twice the speed!
Graphics Core Next Compute Units are tooled to be perfect for high end calculations, these will make easy work of heavy physics procession, something that plays a vital role in many modern games, the difference being PS3 or Xbox 360 don't have specific hardware to handle such things, this takes a huge load of the main CPU and GPU.
AMD Fusion Core, it comes as little surprise that Sony would take the APU / SOC option here, sure they could have a discrete CPU / GPU setup akin to those found in most PC systems, but the reduced power consumption, cost and size that can be achieved by combining them all brings immense benefits to the system. It may even help unify the cooling system for the console and in the run prevent any more RROD / YLOD fiascos.
This is a tricky one, Sony have kept the design of the PlayStation controller unified for three generations, it’s become "familiar" and while they have brought in many new features such as analogue sticks, rumble and six-axis, the shape has stayed the same. Yet one cannot ignore the fact that Sony likely can't resist slapping a screen on there, Wii U may not be doing too well in terms of sales, but many people love touch screens, it’s a fact.
While this isn't exactly set in stone, many sources, and I mean MANY! sources are saying the hardware will be announced in March at the GDC. There are many good reasons why this would make sense too, it's before E3 where we could / should have a first proper look, maybe even a hands on, but it’s also before Gamescom and it would time things nicely for either a November launch or Easter 2014 launch.
This time frame also fits nicely that some game development studios have been hard at work for at least 18 months now, some maybe even more and Dev. Kits have been doing the rounds for some time now and that would tick off around 2-3 years of development time for any launch titles, more than enough time to get something ready.
This is going to be one messy battle in the on-going console war, Sony is definitely well armed, but will it be enough? only time will tell.