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Details on Sony's PS4 Still Elusive, As Valve Announces Its Own Console

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Some hardware specs, features, and a bit of speculation on Gabe Newell's next project.

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New predictions on Sony's Playstation 4 (NYSE:SNE) seem to pop up every day, making it harder and harder to determine the project's direction. Still, a lot of analysts and journalists are making well-reasoned statements as to what to expect from Sony's next console, so here's a wrap up of the best of the speculation.

Much the way the Xbox 720 (NASDAQ:MSFT) will most likely launch with a different moniker, the PS4 will likely depart from being named in an ordered series, if only because the Japanese word for 4, "shi," also means death. The console is currently going under the codename "Orbis," which makes more sense when linked with the company's handheld Vita, because "Orbis Vitae" is a common phrase meaning the "circle of life" in Latin.

Development kits have already been sent to game studios, giving a good outline of what the system will be capable of. According to Complex, the dev kits are based on AMD's (NASDAQ:AMD) A10 APU, which combines a CPU and GPU into a single unit. Their source adds that the PS4 will include an AMD Radeon HD 7670 video system, 128-bit Bus and GDDR5 1GB of GDDR5 video memory. The PS4 will likely be released with scaled options based on memory and processing power, allowing for an 8 GB Ram model for consumers who would like to spend less money than on a 16 GB model.

The console is shooting to run games at 60 frames per second at 1080p resolution, though many are curious about whether the PS4 will stay ahead with graphical advances by allowing for 4K resolution, like the PS3. Although many believe this would be a wasted investment, Analyst Michael Pachter sees the inclusion of 4K graphics as a strong possibility because he believes Sony will try to use it to inspire interest in its new 4K TVs.

Still, the most hotly debated issues regarding the system are its release date and its price, wherein speculation has varied wildly. A number of sources claim that the PS4 will be released in 2014 between spring and autumn, while others expect it to launch next winter. The winter 2013 estimate is the most unlikely, but Pachter believes that Sony would be wise to release its next system ahead of Microsoft's, or else be forced to relive the struggles it faced in the previous generation. Pachter expects the PS4 to be priced at $400 to remain competitive with its rivals, though under those circumstances Sony might be producing the system at a considerable loss.

However, competing with Microsoft is only the start of Sony's worries. Earlier this week, Gabe Newell, creator of Valve and its PC gaming service Steam, announced that the company will be working on its own console to bring its services to the living room. With its many discounts on new and used games and its support of the indie game industry, Steam has been a godsend to PC gamers, so its inclusion in the console market should be taken with a great deal of seriousness.

Although details regarding Valve's plans are scarce, it's highly likely that a "Steam-box" would support the download-only method for distributing games, as it plays a major factor in Steam's price benefits. Should this become a reality, it could spark a much needed revolution in the game industry distribution. If gamers become more fond of digital downloads, Gamestop's (NYSE:GME) business model would basically be defunct, and manufacturers like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo (PINK:NTDOY) could reap a greater benefit from game sales.

In the end, it's all speculation, as nothing will be known until Valve releases hard details about its box. Gamers have heard this story before, most notably with Phantom Entertainment's failed 2004 console, and Valve, despite all the respect it gets, is a company well known for failing to produce highly anticipated content. Nevertheless, it's entirely possible that Valve's inclusion in the console market could shake things up in a very good way.

Also see our coverage of Microsoft's Xbox 720 and Nintendo's Wii U.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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