Sony this month gathered its US game developers for a disclosure meeting. Project Orbis is indeed taking shape with Sony showing off and delivering a new generation of dev kit during the closed door meetings.
Sony’s offices were bulging with game developers as the presentations began. While the dev kit looks like any other tower PC it’s what’s on the inside that matters. This particular tall nondescript black tower includes Sony’s latest software and AMD hardware running the show, Project Orbis looks to be well on schedule for a 2013 release.
One more generation of developer kit is due before the PS4 is released, a release that should be simultaneous with the final silicon for the console, a major milestone.
According to website VG24/7 the latest version of the PS4 dev kit has been delivered. In the process also confirming that AMD has won the PS4 CPU and GPU contract.
This new generation dev kit is said to be based on AMD’s A10 Trinity chipset, includes a BlueRay drive along with 8 or 16GB of RAM. While the Dev kit won’t exactly match the final consoles specifications developers have suggested the final console will include up to a 256GB SSD and around the back the PS4 will be almost identical to the PS3 with Ethernet, Wifi and HDMI connectors.
Sony seems to have a scratch on its record, with each round of rumours the same line is used, and often. Stating that the ultimate goal for the PS4 is to be able to play games at full speed (1080p @ 60fps) in full 3D. Let’s hope we can take this to be the new systems minimum specification.
The new direction for the PS4’s hardware is actually being done mostly for behind the scenes reasons. The developers will love the new dev system, Sony should be able to avoid losing money but the users will only see evolutionary changes to the new PlayStation’s interface, a very good thing. For example user will now be able to press the PS button mid game and travel anywhere in the system, resuming the game at anytime. Fluid is the word used by Sony’s team to describe what they have been aiming for with the interface.
Sony is keen to avoid the slow start the PS3 encountered; one of the major goals for Project Orbis is to be very affordable while being no slouch. This direction heavily influenced the early stages of development, thankfully they chose not to design their own chipset, it nearly killed the PS3. Even crazier when you consider there are 3 or 4 companies that could have done a far better job for them.
Deriving the hardware from the PC platform makes upgrading in the future far easier and raises the interesting option of allowing different specification consoles. Will Sony use the Crossfire abilities of the AMD chipset to produce an Uber PlayStation, as well as a cheaper entry level version?
Sony will be very keen not to lose money on the new console, a strategy that many console developers seem willing to accept for the early years of a new console. During the first year of Xbox 360 and PS3 the consoles were priced high and were still selling at a loss. This lead to slow adoption rates for the new consoles, along with sluggish game sales.
The PS3 now makes Sony money as does the Xbox for Microsoft, although MS is said to still take a small loss on every $199 (lowest spec) Xbox it sells. AMD technically can supply a number of different spec chips, all completely compatible and all built into a different model PS4’s, from entry level to high end and all with different price points.
The battle of the next generation consoles is beginning to take shape, with both consoles using very similar hardware success will purely be a question of software. Who can produce the best console with the games we all want to play? Will Sony beat Microsoft to market? No matter the answer 2013 is looking to be a very good year for gamers.