A well known fact about anticipation: it tends to loosen lips. Sony might not be hosting its momentous PlayStation 4 reveal until February 20th — the hardware manufacturer isn’t even attempting to downplay the inferences everyone seemed to draw from yesterday’s tease — but with excitement and speculation kicked into overdrive, those unsanctioned “sources close to the matter” are bound to be more… unceremonious.
Some didn’t waste a minute.
Citing “development sources with working knowledge” of both Sony and Microsoft’s next-generation consoles, a report from Edge today posits that the PlayStation 4 will be more powerful than the Xbox 720, that it will ship with a redesigned controller (which was alluded to in a report last week), and that it will be on shelves before Christmas in North America. Europe will have to wait until early 2014.
According to report, the PS4′s hardware specifications are consonant with kind of the stats we’ve been seeing in Sony’s Orbis dev kits.
The console’s current model reportedly contains 4GB of DDR RAM — trailing Durango’s current amount of 8GB — but will increase performance exponentially with an additional GDDR5 solution capable of transferring data at 176 gigabytes per second. Even if this does bridge the gap, however, Sony also appears to be telling developers that itÂ is striving for 8GB in the final build.
Both consoles will be propelled by eight-core AMD CPUs graded at 1.6GHz speeds. Their choices on GPU, however, are rather distinct: Sony is allegedly sticking with AMDÂ — choosing its “R10XX” architecture and AMD’s “Liverpool” system-on chip — while Microsoft has outfitted Durango with a D3D11X GPU from an “unknown source.”
And while Sony certainly does seem to have the upper hand on interiority (for now), the power upgrade is also a power grab: Sony reportedly acknowledges that the PS3′s labyrinthine architecture was overly burdensome on many developers, damaging a lot of goodwill that was, in turn, claimed by Microsoft. But the PS4 is on a mission for hearts and minds; it’s hardware complexion, according to Edge, is more resembling of a PC’s, and it should afford developer’s far more flexibility than the PS3.
And then there’s the capricious controller. A month ago it was a Vita-esque handheld with a wide front touchscreen; a week ago it featured a Vita-esque rear-sided touchpad. Today’s report, however, places a small touchpad in the middle of the PS4′s controller — replacing the Start, Select and PS buttons — but asserts that its shape will remain consistent with the conventional Dualshock. (We do still anticipate that Sony has plans for PlayStation Move, as well.)
Furthermore, new functionality will be added to the PlayStation 4 controller by way of a “Share” button (which was also mentioned last week). Press, and an application launches that can distribute videos and screenshots online — utilizing a feature of the PS4′s hardware that continously stores 15 minutes of the latest onscreen action for editing and review.
It’s certainly not at the forefront of many next-generation wishlists, one tiny button, but it represents a trend we’ll likely see ingrained into several aspects of PS4/Xbox 720 design: social networking. The Wii U already has its own social universe. And whether its Microsoft devising more voice chat uses with Skype or Sony aggressively expanding its digital distribution reach through the SEN, both manufacturers have been adamant about growing the console’s connective capabilities with the next versions of Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, respectively.
And really, it’s an Internet-Age inevitability that’s been a long time coming: This generation merged gaming with entertainment, the next looks merge entertainment with sharing. How it transforms the gameplay experience, how it transforms our tastes and activities and, thus, the products developers create — that remains to be seen. Hopefully it’s just one of many insights we’ll glean from the PlayStation 4 when it’s (allegedly) unveiled later this month.
Ranters, how do you see factors like console power and social connectivity impacting the next generation?
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian_Sipple.