New PS4 rumors surface along with a new name: Orbis

We've talked a lot about the Xbox 720 lately; there seems to be no shortage of rumors around Microsoft's next gaming console. Now it's Sony's turn, as Kotaku has posted a detail-packed rumor post about the Playstation 4. Their sources, of course, are anonymous, but Kotaku claims this source has shared accurate information with them before.

So first things first, apparently the Playstation 4 won't be called the Playstation 4. It'll be called the Orbis. Playstation, Playstation 2, Playstation 3, Orbis. One of these things is not like the others. Well, presumably it'll be called Playstation Orbis; I can't imagine Sony would totally throw away the cache surrounding the Playstation name. Kotaku makes a case for the Orbis name working well in conjunction with the Playstation Vita name, pointing out that Orbis Vita translates to Circle of Life. Hmm, well that's far-out enough to be something Sony would come up with.

I don't want to just reiterate, point by point, the Kotaku post; you really should go read it for yourself. I don't really have strong opinions about what they have to say about processors and GPUs driving the new hardware, but a few things I do have strong feelings about.

First, Kotaku says they're altogether ditching backwards compatibility. The PS3, of course, launched with backwards compatibility but removed it fairly quickly as a cost-cutting measure. The Playstation Vita, on the other hand, does include Playstation Portable backwards compatibility and that seems to be a decent selling point, at least during these early months of the system while we wait for the library to develop. My point is, Sony doesn't seem to have a clear-cut policy when it comes to backwards compatibility. I think they should include it, but of course I also don't want to see another $500 console launch. This is me waffling on a point. I want it but don't want to pay for it. I am the typical consumer nightmare that keeps hardware designers up at night.

Second thing that really caught my attention is the assertion that games will be locked to a Playstation Network account. If you take your copy of a game and sell it back to Gamestop, the next person who buys it won't be able to take full advantage of that copy of the game until they pay in some fashion. Details are murky still.

Now this is very similar to an Xbox 720 rumor that also said that console would somehow lock-out used titles. I found it dubious then, and I find it dubious now. Kotaku says that every Playstation Orbis will have to be online in order to play games, at least for the first time you run a particular title. It seems unlikely that Sony would produce a game console that has to be connected to the Internet in order to function. We're just not there yet.

Two more interesting facts. First Kotaku points out that orbis is a valid subdomain on the domain (check it yourself: whereas ps4 is not. That lends some credibility to the name, at least as a codename.

Lastly, Kotaku is saying this new Playstation will be available for the 2013 holiday season – roughly 18 months from now. Sony has made it clear that they won't be talking about new hardware at this year's E3, which means we'll have a relatively short interval between announcement and launch. You'll remember the Playstation Vita was announced (as the NGP) in January 2011 and launched in Asia in December 2011. Assuming this is a time span Sony is comfortable with, might we see the Orbis announced at CES next winter? Or at a dedicated launch event?

Eighteen months isn't a lot of time to create a AAA home console video game, so if that really is the launch window it means there are developers out there now with early Orbis dev kits and more and more will be distributed as we head into summer. If that's true, expect a lot more leaks in the months to come.

It's starting to seem quite possible that both Microsoft and Sony will launch new hardware for the 2013 holiday season. Hold on to your wallets.

Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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