Could the next Playstation be the Orbis?

By Mike on 11:33 am

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Playstation 4 rumours are abound. It's no surprise considering E3 is only a couple of months away. Nintendo is already debuting the first console of the eighth generation. Many gamers are curious about what Sony and Microsoft have up their sleeves. Today's hot and fresh PS4 rumour is brought to us by Kotaku. The gaming website cites developer insiders, and makes some bold predictions about the system; now called the Playstation Orbis.

Sony likes Latin names and odd numbers

The new Playstation will be called the Orbis. At least that's what it's codename is. However, Kotaku points out that Orbis Vita translates to "circle of life". That actually makes a lot of sense from a marketing standpoint. Whatever form the Orbis takes, it will be closely linked to Sony's portable platform.

The system is also allegedly due out in time for the 2013 holiday season.

An unlikely PS4 concept design.

A Switch to PC-based hardware

The Cell processor was a bold choice for Sony. While extremely fast for the time, it was a nightmare to program. Rather than using specialized hardware, the Orbis will take a note from the original Xbox. It will feature a 64-bit AMD processor and an AMD "Southern Islands" graphics chip. According to the unnamed developers, the system will be capable of 4K resolutions; four times that of the current 1080p HD standard.

Given this information, we can make some educated guesses about what exactly this will entail. AMD is scheduled to bring out the successor to their current line of FX processors, code-named Steamroller, in 2013. The company is focusing on integrating graphics and processor into the same chip. This would greatly simplify construction of the system and reduce build costs.

AMD's current line of "Bulldozer" chips use the HD 6000 series GPU, one generation behind their stand-alone cards. Therefore, it's likely Steamroller chips will feature HD 7000 series graphics. With Microsoft allegedly opting for a mid-range GPU, Sony might do the same.

The PS Orbis might use AMD's FX line of chips, or a similar single chip "Accelerated Processing Unit"

Due to the switch to PC-based hardware, the Orbis will allegedly be unable to play Playstation 3 games. There are apparently no plans to bring backwards compatibility to the system. This would address one of the problems with the original PS3, where backwards compatibility hardware drove up the price.

Bluray and Download side by side

The Orbis will be a download based console. All games will be available from the Playstation Store. However, it will still use physical Bluray discs. This is similar to the route that Sony took with the Vita.

One curious little tidbit of information concerns used and rented games. Kotaku alleges the system will feature a new "digital rights management" scheme to tie Bluray discs to a user's PSN account. Gamers purchasing used or rented games will only have access to limited demo versions of the game. They will need to pay a fee to unlock the full game. Apparently this will use an always-on DRM system, similar to what Ubisoft has attempted with PC games. Something that has been very unpopular with gamers.

I can see this being controversial. Publishers and retailers have been at war with each other over used games for the last couple of years. Publishers claim that used games are equivalent to piracy as they do not receive profits from their sale. Locking out used games from systems would greatly improve relations with game makers, but risks alienating gamers caught in the middle. Sony has already been aggressive with online passes to appease big game companies. However, I cannot see them locking out used games. Especially if their competitors don't follow the same route. In my opinion, publishers would be better served making profit sharing deals with major game retailers, but that's another article for another day.

Keep in mind that none of these rumours have been confirmed by Sony, so take them with a grain of salt. We will update you with more details about the Orbis as they come out.

Source: Kotaku
AMD FX Image: ComputerActive

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