Sony distributing new PlayStation 4 development kits ahead of pre-E3 2013 debut


Given how tumultuous Sony’s PlayStation family present is, it’s not surprising that it’s future isn’t a major talking point for the company at the moment. The PlayStation 3 is in decline, the PS Vita is literally drowning in the global market despite an increasingly potent game library, and Sony doesn’t have a single tent pole exclusive for its home console this holiday season. (PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, no matter how good, is not a Halo 4 or New Super Mario Bros. U competitor.) Hard times or not, Sony does have a future in the video game business, and word is the PlayStation 4 is getting into the hands of more and more developers.

VG247 reported on Friday that Sony is now sending brand new PlayStation 4, called Orbis by Sony, development kits housed in PC cases to game developers. More than one unnamed source said that while previous development kits were little more than a graphics card, this new version is built like a “modified PC.”

The Orbis architecture is a custom “derivative” of AMD’s A10 APU chips, combination graphics and computing processors, and the development kits provided have “either 8GB or 16GB” of memory. The source did say that the final console is expected to have 256GB of storage memory as “standard” but it’s unknown at this point if Sony will use hard disk drives or flash memory. It will also continue using a Blu-ray optical disk drive, negating some predictions that Sony’s next machine would forego physical media. Sony’s “ultimate goal” for the console performance wise is to run 1080p games at 60 frames per second in stereoscopic 3D with no hiccups. Previous rumors have suggested that Sony is aiming to support 4K playback with the fourth generation PlayStation.

The design philosophy of Orbis is to make something “very affordable” but “isn’t a slouch,” and with a reconsidered, smooth user interface. Sony has apparently completely rethought its XMB user interface for Orbis, and the current UI is similar to PS Vita’s. The PS button on a controller can be touched at any time while a game or app is running, and the rest of the system will be completely accessible. Sony has been touting the example of pausing, going to the PS Store, purchasing DLC, and launching right back into the game.

The source claimed Sony will unveil Orbis ahead of E3 2013, but final development kits won’t be available until next summer. Between now and then a third, close to final model will be given to developers in January, with the final units available by summer.

On that time line, it’s tough to predict if Sony will follow with a fall 2013 launch. It may instead wait, following the PlayStation 2’s release cycle with a spring 2014 release in Japan and a fall 2014 release in the US and Europe to allow for further development time. With major PlayStation 3 games like The Last of Us and The Last Guardian still in development, the company could definitely push for one final holiday with PS3 in 2013.