Could the PS4 Really Be On the Way?

BitMob reports that an anonymous source claims the words "PlayStation 4 in 18 months" were uttered during a "high level meeting" at Sony. Sony, naturally, responded with the usual "we don't comment on rumors and speculation" so beloved of tech companies and so frustrating to people actually wanting answers.

BitMob's reporter Rus McLaughlin believes that the source from Sony is reputable and trustworthy, but has his doubts over whether the company is really likely to launch a PlayStation 4 on the world within the next 18 months.

I'm inclined to agree, vagueness of the statement and the source aside. The PS3 launched in 2006, putting it roughly five years into Sony's much-publicized ten-year cycle. Its predecessor, the PS2, launched in 2000 and is still just about limping along today, eleven years later. Several publishers, including 2K Sports, are still putting out PS2 versions of their new titles, and the fact the console is cheap certainly doesn't hurt its sales -- particularly when you take the huge back catalog of titles into account.

In fact, arguably the only real reasons that the PS2 isn't still the leading console are the advent of HD and the growth of online console gaming. Standard definition graphics certainly don't stop a game from being great, as anyone who has played Xenoblade Chronicles on the Wii will tell you. Some may see the lack of constantly being bugged by online notifications and Achievements as a good thing, allowing the player to focus their attention on the game itself, rather than the metagame. And you certainly don't have to worry about palette-swap DLC and Season Passes on the PS2.

Then there's also the fact that the PS3 is arguably starting to hit its stride. While it has always trailed somewhat behind the Xbox 360 in Western territories, Sony's products have always enjoyed strong performance in Japan, and this year in particular sees a wide range of exclusive PS3 titles which may well prove to be system sellers -- chief among which is Uncharted 3, but it's also worth taking more niche titles like Dust 514 into account too.

And this isn't even considering the fact that there's no real need for new tech at this point -- TVs that accept pictures of higher than 1080p resolution are several years away at this point, and even further away for mainstream acceptance. Meanwhile, 3DTVs are still treated with suspicion and skepticism by the public right now. So all that could be feasibly improved within 18 months would be graphical performance and frame rates at current resolutions -- and that might not be a big enough jump in fidelity to convince people that a new system is worthwhile. Unless Sony wants to go down the virtual reality route -- which, as Nintendo will tell them, is probably not a great idea.

In short, the PS3 is still very much alive and well -- as is its predecessor, for that matter, thanks in part to the evergreen nature of casual titles such as the EyeToy series, Singstar and the original Guitar Hero games. Sony bringing a PS4 into the picture within 18 months would potentially mean that they had five systems in the marketplace at once -- PS2, PS3, PS4, PSP and Vita. And dividing the market that much seems like a really, really bad idea -- unless each platform was designed to cater to a very specific subset of gamers rather than being the "universal entertainment system" which both Microsoft and Sony seem to be gunning for with their current consoles. That said, Sony isn't averse to making really, really dumb decisions once in a while -- PSP Go says hello.

Exactly how and why the "PlayStation 4 in 18 months" soundbite got out or what it means is something we can't be sure of right now. But as with so many of these "anonymous source makes vague statement" stories so beloved of the industry, it's highly likely to be nothing more than that thing Sony doesn't comment on -- rumors and speculation.

This article originally appeared on GamePro.com as Editorial: Could the PS4 Really Be On the Way?

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