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PlayStation 4 to Sport Big Graphics Muscle

PlayStation 4 to Sport Big Graphics Muscle

New information is emerging on the PlayStation 4, which Sony has apparently nicknamed "Orbis." The video game console will reportedly have the graphics power to display games at a resolution four times larger than full 1080p HD. However, backwards compatibility with PS3 games is out, and used games may be left out in the cold as well.

By Richard Adhikari
03/29/12 11:33 AM PT

Sony is working on the PlayStation 4, which it calls "Orbis," and plans to release the device in time for the holiday season in 2013, according to a report in Kotaku.

The console can reportedly play 3D games at 1080p resolution, as compared to the PS3's 720p. It apparently won't be backward-compatible with games for the PS3 and will reportedly seek to bar owners from playing used games.

Some developers say they've already received development kits for the Orbis.

"We don't comment on rumors and speculation," Sony Computer Entertainment America spokesperson Karen Spearrin told TechNewsWorld.

The Possible Guts of the PS 4

The PlayStation Orbis will reportedly use an AMD x64 CPU (central processing unit) and an AMD Southern Islands GPU (graphical processing unit).

The Southern Islands series of GPUs is a family of Radeon GPUs developed by AMD based on the 28 nm manufacturing process. It's branded as the Radeon HD 7000 series. The series supports x86 addressing with unified address space for the CPU and GPU, as well as 64-bit addressing. These and other features could lead to better utilization of the GPU.

It's possible that Sony will indeed use the AMD processors, as "AMD hits a price/performance point that Sony should like and clearly the Cell processor was a huge mistake," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld.

Cell is a microprocessor architecture jointly developed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM. It was first commercially used in the Sony PlayStation 3.

The PlayStation 4's GPU will reportedly be able to display games written for the console at a resolution of up to 4,096 by 2,160. That's four times higher resolution than standard full HD. Screens with this level of resolution have already been unveiled by several vendors, including Sharp, Panasonic and Samsung.

PS4 users will reportedly be able to either download new games off the PlayStation Network (PSN) or purchase them on Blu-Ray discs, much like with PS3.

No Console for Old Games

Sony will reportedly lock out used games on the PS4. Orbis owners who buy games on Blu-Ray discs will apparently have to lock the discs to a single PSN account and save the games to their hard drive, or peg them as "downloaded" in their account history and download them later.

People who purchase pre-owned Blu-Ray discs with PS4 games may be limited to a trial mode or some other restriction of content and will have to pay to have the full game unlocked or registered.

"Given [Sony] are changing processors again, the lack of backward compatibility is likely a given," Enderle said. Sony could opt for emulation of PS3 games, but "given how much of a technology jump they are making, it likely doesn't make sense to try to bridge the platforms. The older games will likely look bad on the new platform anyway."

Keeping the Ecosystem Happy

The PS 4's reported lack of backward compatibility may also have been spurred by other considerations. Game developers and publishers often consider used game sales a threat to their bottom lines because they don't make money off the resale, though they often have to continue providing server space to host the game. Sony's move might win it some goodwill in the creator ecosystem.

"This game resale practice has driven a lot of game makers away from consoles or out of business," Enderle pointed out. "These platforms make money off the games, and the consoles are generally sold at a loss or close to break-even. Without a healthy game ecosystem, they'll fail, and piracy and game resale have nearly killed the console game industry."

That has spurred "every platform to fix [the problem of game resales], so Sony won't be alone," Enderle remarked.

Indeed, Microsoft's upcoming Xbox 720 will also reportedly not be compatible with used games.


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