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PlayStation 4 due in 2012?

Please note that in the excerpt of this article, it states that this is a rumor. It is important to note that, because it contradicts most of what we have been hearing about Sony’s plans for the PlayStation brand, and because it doesn’t really make much sense.

According to a report from DigiTimes, a handful of Taiwanese manufacturers are preparing to begin production on the PS4 later this year, which would mean a 2012 release. The console would feature a “body movement-based control like the Kinect,” and the initial run would produce 20 million units for worldwide distribution.

The future of the PS4 has been a hotly debated topic for some time now. There has never been a doubt that there will be a PS4, the only question is when. Lending credence to the current rumor are a handful of scattered reports from Sony execs who may have either spoken out of turn or been taken out of context. Back in May before E3, Sony’s VP and CFO Masaru Kato had to explain to investors why there had been a recent spike in research and development costs, and he answered that development was underway for the PS4. He quickly backtracked though, and claimed that his statement did not mean that a PS4 was imminent, and that any time a new product was released (he was referring to the PS3) the first stages of development begin on its replacement.

The original thinking was that neither Sony nor Microsoft would debut a new console until at least 2014, which would make sense. The Xbox 360 has seen a huge bump in sales thanks to the Kinect among other things, and the XBL service is planning several major additions this year. Despite still reeling from the PSN hacks, Sony continues to build its online network and a new PSN redesign is rumored to be coming soon, plus Sony is finally managing to turn a profit on each console sold after years of taking losses. With the consoles profitable and both systems arguably just now hitting their stride, the demand for a next generation of consoles just isn’t there as it has been in consoles past. Neither the PS3 nor the Xbox 360 have reached their full potential, as witnessed by the stream of new technology like the Kinect and new partnerships like Netflix and ESPN, so why rush to release a new console that will face an uphill battle and likely be sold at a loss?

But then there is the Wii U, which is something of a wildcard. The reaction to the device at E3 was good, but investors disagreed and Nintendo’s stock dropped 5.7-percent. Still, Nintendo was falling behind and needed to makes some big moves. The Wii is still the best-selling console of this generation by a wide margin, but sales have grown somewhat stagnant of late, and the lack of things like HD graphics and an online community aren’t things that can easily be overcome. So Nintendo releasing a new console now makes sense.

The Wii U will be more powerful than the PS3 and the Xbox 360, and it will have a deep online option as well. The tablet-like controller will also be memorable, but no one is suggesting that it will be as powerful as the next gen PlayStation console or the next Xbox.  But it is possible that Microsoft and Sony did not enjoy getting sand kicked in their face by the Wii’s sales, so they might increase their production timetables in order to close the sales gap between the Wii U and the PS4 and next Xbox.

There are already reports that Microsoft is planning on unveiling its next console at E3 next year, but that is also still just a rumor. It will likely come down to the Wii U and how concerned Microsoft and Sony are about the head start the Wii U will have. Sure the Wii U will not be as powerful as the PS4 or next Xbox, but the Wii wasn’t as powerful as its counterparts and it crushed both of them in worldwide sales.

So perhaps the next gen console war will begin sooner than anyone thought.