What the new PlayStation 4 might, and might not, do

By Vince Horiuchi

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: February 14, 2013 09:31PM
Updated: May 21, 2013 11:32PM
image
Vince Horiuchi

After more than a year of declining sales, the video game industry is mounting a comeback for 2013.

On Wednesday, Sony is expected to reveal at a media briefing in New York City the next generation in its PlayStation gaming console, tentatively the PlayStation 4. Later this year, Microsoft could introduce its next-gen gaming box, perhaps titled the Xbox 720. Already, Nintendo has its new console released to the public, the so-far disappointing Nintendo Wii U.

If you’re a gaming enthusiast or a parent of a gamer, it’s going to be a tough year of decision-making.

Not a lot is known about what the next generation of video gaming will bring, but the bigger question is whether it will be a huge jump over the last generation, which was ruled by the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.

By most accounts, the next step probably won’t be a colossal one. But here’s a breakdown of what the PlayStation 4 is expected to offer when it’s announced next week.

Specifications • Many in the gamer world suggest that the new PS4 will be powered by an AMD central processor and a separate AMD graphics processor that when put together will be much more powerful than the PS3 but still a generation behind the most current PCs.

So, the expectation is that games will look better than on the prior-generation’s consoles but not by much. If you still want the best in gaming, a fast PC rig playing the most graphically intensive games such as “Dead Space 3” is still the choice of hardcore gamers. Then again a beefed-up PC would cost three to four times as much as a gaming console.

Price • Which comes to how much the PS4 will set you back. I can’t imagine it costing more than $400 or less than $300. Sony made the mistake of overpricing its PlayStation 3 system when it was first released in 2006, at $600. But that system also was built with a proprietary processor called the Cell, as well as other costly features that bumped up the price. Because the new PS4 probably is being made with what is essentially off-the-shelf parts, the price this time around should be more reasonable.

Controllers • Speculation is swirling that the new controllers will be much like the dual-joystick controllers with the PS3, but with one exception. They might have a small touchpad screen in the middle. There’s also the possibility that the controller could have a motion-controller built in, similar to the PlayStation Move wand.

The concept of a second screen is being pushed heavily with the Nintendo Wii U, but so far games have not taken real advantage of the additional touchscreen.

Backward compatibility • One of the biggest downsides is that the new console may not be able to play old PS3 or PS2 games; in other words, it won’t be backward compatible. Early versions of the PS3 were because they had an extra chip. But that drove up the cost, and the chip was removed. To keep the price down on the PS4, it probably won’t be able to play older games, so keep those older PlayStation consoles.

Used games • Perhaps the most controversial speculation surrounding the PS4 is that it, along with the new Xbox 720, will not be able to play used games. That’s because game publishers are pushing Sony and Microsoft to block them out. Publishers argue that the used-game market is eating into sales of new games. Yet evidence suggests that gamers sell used games to buy new titles, which could ultimately affect sales of new games if that used market is blocked out.

And if they do block out access to used games, it’s possible that both consoles will require an Internet connection to verify the game is new and authorized to play on that specific console. If so, you better have Internet connectivity in your home.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he’ll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech.