This Week in Computer Hardware 416: It’s Official, Liquid Cooling has Jumped the Shark

Surface Pro gets a Kaby Lake upgrade and optional LTE. Water cooled power supplies? Maybe liquid cooling has jumped the shark. Can an SSD upgrade speed up your PS4? Also, hey, go ahead and fly that unregistered drone! All that and more in TWiCH episode 416!


Report: Xbox One and PS4 use up to three times more power than Xbox 360 and PS3

Many folks will be getting an Xbox One or a PlayStation 4 console for Christmas this week (a few people might be getting one of each product). However, a recent report claims that both consoles will use up to three times more energy than the older Xbox 360 and PS3, even though Microsoft and Sony have put in features that are designed to make the Xbox One and PS4 more efficient.

The non-profit Natural Resources Defense Council claims to have \”completed rigorous measurements of the power use\” of both consoles. On the plus side, the group praises Microsoft and Sony for putting in features such as charging accessories while the consoles are in a lower powered \”sleep mode\” and reducing power when left on for 10 minutes.

However, the same report claims that because the Xbox One and PS4 use more power overall to play games and watch movies, the energy efficiencies that the companies have put into the console are overridden. It states, “For example, the Xbox One uses approximately 40 percent more power to play a game than the Xbox 360, and the PS4 consumes almost twice as much as the PS3.”

In a head-to-head study, the PS4 uses a lot more power than the Xbox One when playing games, streaming movies like Netflix and navigating through its interface. By the same token, the Xbox One uses more power when it is in Connected Standby mode than the PS4, as well as when both consoles are turned “off” but still connected to a power socket.

Because the Xbox One uses more power in Connected Standby mode, where it is waiting for its owner to say \”Xbox One” via its Kinect sensor, this report claims that it will consume more electricity annually than the PS4. It estimates that Microsoft\’s console will use 253 kilowatt hours per year, which will cost about $150 a year in energy bills. The PS4 is estimated to use 184 kilowatt hours per year.

The NRDC claims that both companies can make efforts to improve the energy efficiency for their new consoles via software updates, such as reducing the amount of power needed to stream video. The report also says Microsoft should try to cut down the Connected Standby power mode on the Xbox One.

via Report: Xbox One and PS4 use up to three times more power than Xbox 360 and PS3 – Neowin.

DailyTech – Deathmatch: PS4s See “Blue Light of Death”, Xbox Ones Chew up Discs

Sony is the first OEM to respond, claims only 1 percent of consoles experience defects

The earlier bird certainly didn’t seem to get the worm in the eighth generation of console wars. Nintendo Comp., Ltd.’s (TYO:7974) tablet-equipped Wii U console hit the market first debuting last year and seeing decent sales during the Holiday 2012 season. But sales have since plunged amidst a lack of compelling titles and disappointment in Nintendo’s new controller.

I. PS4 — Blue Light Special

But so far Sony Corp. (TYO:6758) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) look to be off to an even rockier start, despite seeing strong initial sales.

The $399 USD PS4 launched last Friday and almost instantly reports of broken consoles started popping up. Sony, to its credit, responded relatively quickly, saying that some consoles had shipped broken and it would be working with customers to replace these models.

Chinese language nternet posters claiming to be employees of Hon Hai Precision Industry Comp. Ltd. (TPE:2317) subsidiary Foxconn — the Chinese firm responsible for assembling the PS4 — posted in forums that they were disgruntled with working conditions and had purposefully sabotaged PS4s.

[WARNING: This video contains potentially NSFW language]

Whether or not those claims are true, what is clear is that many broken PS4s shipped. The most common symptom appears to be an eerie “blue light of death” (BLoD, for short).

Sony says this may be due to more than one issue. Sony Spokesman Dan Race states to Forbes, “There have been several issues reported, which leads us to believe there isn’t a singular problem that could impact a broader percentage of PS4 units. We understand the frustration of consumers that have had a problem and are working with them and our retail partners to help troubleshoot issues and ensure affected units are exchanged.”

A second Tokyo-based spokesman, Satoshi Nakajima, claims poor shipping may be to blame. He tells Bloomberg, “There have been several issues reported, which leads us to believe there isn’t a singular problem that could impact a broader percentage of PS4 units. We also understand that some units were reportedly damaged during shipping.”

Sony estimates 1 percent of consoles, roughly, are defective in some way. If true this would indicate about 10,000-20,000 total defective units (given that the PS4 sold 1 million units in its first day (last Friday). That wouldn’t be so bad — if accurate — as new console often have a small number of non-working unit. Even the WiiU — a relatively reliable console had a few failure reports in its, Inc. (AMZN) reviews.

That said, the numbers on some sites seem to be a bit higher than 1 percent. On Amazon there were 800+ one star reviews (~23 percent) — mostly due to defective consoles, versus 2,300+ five star reviews (~66 percent). Of course such statistics always need to be taken with a grain of salt as people with defective products are more likely to bother to leave a review.

II. Microsoft — Fresh Ground Discs

But lest you think Microsoft was going to storm in and capture the day, its $499 USD Xbox One console launched today (priced at $100 USD more than the PS4) and already reports of problems are pouring in. Of 619 reviews on Amazon 206 of them (~33 percent) are 1 stars, while 340 of them (~55 percent) are 5 stars. In other words, so far a higher percent of users are claiming to have defective Xbox One consoles than defective PlayStation 4s — on Amazon, at least.

The leading problem appears to be the “The Disc Grinding Noise of Death”, which is reportedly ruining/chewing up game discs. The noise certainly sounds rather epically bad.

There\’s also growing reports of “green screens of death” — a tendency for the Xbox One to freeze on its green boot-up screen. Or on a subsequent screen showing the controller.

Microsoft actually reportedly started pushing an emergency update. But that update to customers, an update which apparently was not ready for prime time. This \”fix\” messed things up even worse, with it flagging some users consoles as \”banned units\”, which has now been flashed into those consoles\’ memory.

In the past Microsoft’s bans — typically reserved for cheaters and extreme trolls — were permanent and could not be easily undone. So Microsoft might have to replace these consoles. It was widely reported that one user who got their console early was “banned” for posting videos. It’s possible they instead ran into this bug.

Other users apparently experienced infinitely updating loops — a so called “E100” error.

Last, but not least, some Xbox One consoles appear to be experience odd artifacting issues for some reason:

Some Xbox One games are also lagging/freezing.

Could more sabotage be afoot here? Amazingly it seems like Microsoft’s issues may be even worse, as at least Sony’s consoles haven’t experienced in-game issues for those whose consoles survived that far.

It looks like Microsoft and Sony’s consoles are having a deathmatch — a literal one. And somewhere Nintendo must be laughing — sure its consoles aren’t selling like its rivals’. But at least they’re not breaking as often.

via DailyTech – Deathmatch: PS4s See “Blue Light of Death”, Xbox Ones Chew up Discs.

The PlayStation 4 is officially here, some systems experiencing HDMI issues

The wait is finally over, Sony fans, the Playstation 4 is officially out. Many cities across the United States saw individuals flood midnight releases at a variety of retail locations to get their hands on the newest console. Pair that with all of the gamers picking up their secured pre-orders and you can imagine just how many people were burning the midnight oil in order to enter the next generation of gaming.

It has been quite the wait for those who lived in the current generation of Sony gaming for approximately seven years with the PS3. This is the longest that Sony fans have had to wait for a next-gen system, with prior releases coming only six years apart — 1994, 2000 and 2006. The next few months will be important in judging whether or not the wait was worth it, and hopefully there won\’t be a slew of bugs plaguing the console.

Sony is already well aware of one issue, however, which was spotted in a group of early release Playstation 4s. According to IGN, some players who received early access to the console are complaining of broken displays and unresponsive HDMI outputs. The systems are reported to turn on, accompanied by a pulsing, glowing blue light, but no display is available. Sony is sending out replacement units to these individuals, but it could take some time, which promptly negated the “play the PS4 before anyone else” prize that some of these gamers were promised with their pre-orders. This shouldn’t be a widespread issue though, and a Sony representative told IGN that the affected systems will equal only 0.4 percent of all the consoles shipped.

It\’s going to be interesting to see how the gaming community adopts the PS4 in the next couple months, and with the impending release of its rival, the Xbox One, things are going to get very heated, very quickly. If any of you TechSpot readers out there got your hands on a PS4, we\’d love to hear about your early experiences!

via The PlayStation 4 is officially here, some systems experiencing HDMI issues – TechSpot.

The Xbox One and PS4 share similar specs, but the devil’s in the details

In the past, it’s been difficult to do truly apples-to-apples performance comparisons between game consoles because of the vastly different architectures of the various systems. You can get some raw numbers—clock speeds, memory bandwidth, FLOPS—and compare them that way, but how games looked and ran often had just as much to do with console-specific optimizations and tweaks from the developers as it did with the theoretical capabilities of the hardware.

With the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, things have changed. In lieu of expensive custom-designed chips, both Microsoft and Sony have opted to commission semi-custom CPU/GPU hybrids from AMD based on the same basic architecture that AMD is already selling in PCs. There are still variables to account for, but these new consoles are more alike on the inside than any others in recent memory. In advance of the new consoles’ imminent launches, we’ll take a quick comparative look at how the consoles’ CPU, GPU, and memory configurations stack up. Hopefully, this will give you a better understanding of what the hardware differences mean for the first wave of launch games soon crashing down upon us.

The CPU: within a stone’s throw

Enlarge / The Xbox One’s main chip up close.

Both the PS4 and the Xbox One’s CPUs use the exact same number of computing cores and the exact same AMD “Jaguar” architecture. In terms of raw performance, the only real point of differentiation between them is clock speed.

We know that the Xbox One’s CPU clock was recently raised to 1.75GHz from the 1.6GHz of the original devkits, a respectable 9.37 percent boost. Sony hasn’t stated an official figure for the PS4’s CPU speed, though rumors point to it being the same 1.6GHz as the pre-boost Xbox One. Depending on the CPU speed, this means that for CPU-heavy games the Xbox One may have a slight edge over the PlayStation 4. This different won’t be very noticeable, though, unless the game is coded to be absolutely desperate for every drop of performance it can squeeze out of the CPU.

In any case, Jaguar isn’t AMD’s fastest CPU architecture—it was actually designed first and foremost for low-power systems like tablets and low-end to mid-range laptops. Eurogamer’s Digital Foundry did an in-depth interview with Microsoft’s Andrew Goossen and Nick Baker, two members of the Xbox hardware design team, to get a sense of why Microsoft chose the components and made these design decisions (it’s a very long interview, but it’s worth reading in its entirety for the insight it provides into both consoles’ hardware design). Baker summarized why a company designing a new console would choose to go with more, slower Jaguar CPU cores rather than a chip with fewer, faster cores based on AMD’s speedier Piledriver architecture.

“The extra power and area associated with getting that additional [instructions per clock] boost going from Jaguar to Piledriver… It’s not the right decision to make for a console,” Baker said. “Being able to hit the sweet spot of power/performance per area and make it a more parallel problem. That’s what it’s all about. How we’re partitioning cores between the title and the operating system works out as well in that respect.”

Enlarge / Using many CPU cores and a few dedicated blocks for audio and video processing lets you do many small tasks at once. Having some resources to dedicate to the system UI helps keep things smooth and prevents interruption of gameplay.

In other words, given the size of the chip and the box and given that these consoles will often be called upon to do many small tasks at once, it made sense for both console makers to go with more cores rather than faster ones. It’s also worth noting that, at least for some tasks, the consoles will be able to offload processing duties to the GPU and to other onboard coprocessors to lighten the CPU load, especially when it comes to non-gaming and multitasking functions. Both consoles include, for example, dedicated blocks for encoding and decoding video, as well as audio processors that can take some sound-related pressure off of the CPU. PS4 lead architect Mark Cerny brought chips like these up in an interview with Gamasutra in April.

“The reason we use dedicated units is it means the overhead as far as games are concerned is very low,” said Cerny. “It also establishes a baseline that we can use in our user experience. For example, by having the hardware dedicated unit for audio, that means we can support audio chat without the games needing to dedicate any significant resources to them. The same thing for compression and decompression of video.”

The GPU: Microsoft has more MHz, but Sony has more hardware

Enlarge / Inside the Xbox One. The large chip near the center surrounded by the RAM chips is the main processor, which combines the CPU and GPU among other things.

The two consoles diverge more sharply when it comes to their GPUs. They again share the same underlying architecture (AMD’s Sea Islands, which has come to market in some of its Radeon 7000 and 8000-series GPUs), which makes comparisons between the two simple. The Xbox One’s GPU runs at 853MHz (another late-in-the-game clock speed boost) while the PS4 GPU runs at 800MHz. However, the PS4 GPU has much more hardware behind it—18 of AMD’s compute units (CUs), rather than the 12 CUs in the Xbox One.

These two GPUs support all of the same APIs and hardware features. The Xbox One can render a 3D image that looks exactly the same as one rendered by the PS4, it just can’t do it quite as quickly. It’s the reason why a Radeon HD 7790 clocked at 1GHz delivers worse performance in PC games than a Radeon HD 7850 clocked at 860MHz. There’s just more silicon there to do the heavy lifting.

In their Digital Foundry interview, Microsoft’s Goossen and Baker argue that, for the Xbox One’s launch titles, the clock speed boost to the GPU was more effective than adding extra CUs would have been. For some games, that may be the case, but what we’ve seen in the PC market for years and years is that GPUs with more CUs (assuming an otherwise similar architecture) are going to perform better. This will potentially give PS4 developers additional headroom to make their games more detailed, make them run more smoothly, or make them render at a higher resolution than on the Xbox One. There’s also more silicon there to help out with any GPU-assisted compute tasks that need to be run.

Especially on the GPU side, software and API optimizations will play some part in how quick the two consoles will be, but from what both Microsoft and Sony are saying, the companies’ strategies won’t differ much here. Both of them are trying to get typical PC APIs out of the way where possible, increasing performance by reducing the number of layers between game code and the hardware. Back in March, Ars gaming editor Kyle Orland wrote about some of Sony’s statements to this effect.

Sony is building its CPU on what it’s calling an extended DirectX 11.1+ feature set, including extra debugging support that is not available on PC platforms. This system will also give developers more direct access to the shader pipeline than they had on the PS3 or through DirectX itself. “This is access you’re not used to getting on the PC, and as a result you can do a lot more cool things and have a lot more access to the power of the system,” [Sony Senior Staff Engineer Chris] Norden said. A low-level API will let coders talk directly with the hardware in a way that’s “much lower-level than DirectX and OpenGL,” but still not quite at the driver level.

In the Digital Foundry interview, Goossen said much the same thing of Microsoft’s software implementation.

“To a large extent we inherited a lot of DX11 design,” he said. “When we went with AMD, that was a baseline requirement… We’ve been doing a lot of work to remove a lot of the overhead in terms of the implementation and for a console we can go and make it so that when you call a D3D API it writes directly to the command buffer to update the GPU registers right there in that API function without making any other function calls. There’s not layers and layers of software. We did a lot of work in that respect.”

You’ve also got to account for the fraction of GPU resources the system may reserve during gaming for non-3D-rendering purposes. Goossen noted that about 10 percent of the Xbox One’s GPU would be reserved for Kinect and other system-level processes. As of this writing, Sony hasn’t gone into detail about just how much of its GPU would be reserved for system use.

via: ArsTechnica

AMD: We will have no problem supplying silicon for PS4, Xbox One

It’s way too early to declare a winner in the next generation console race but with Microsoft’s recent decision to do away with daily check-ins and used game restrictions, the playing field is much more level now. One thing is for certain, however: Microsoft and Sony are poised to sell a ton of new consoles this holiday season and beyond.

That of course presents another interesting question. Will the console makers be able to keep up with supply or will gamers have to submit to typical price gouging on eBay to get a system at launch? That’s yet another question that remains to be seen but according to chip maker AMD, there won’t be any production delays on their end.

If you weren’t aware, AMD is supplying silicon for both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. AMD corporate vice president Saeid Moshkelani recently told GamesIndustry they have a strong manufacturing base for their APUs and discrete graphics and that they leverage the same manufacturing infrastructure to develop for game consoles.

As such, volumes were not something that raised eyebrows for AMD because they already manufacture in high volumes, Moshkelani noted. From a manufacturing perspective, they can ship tens of millions of units within a year.

AMD also supplied hardware for Nintendo’s Wii U which is all part of their plan to be the dominant player in game consoles, handhelds and cloud gaming. Gaming has always been a part of their business – “gaming is in our DNA,” Moshkelani concluded.

via AMD: We will have no problem supplying silicon for PS4, Xbox One – TechSpot.

Let’s talk PS4: will it take console gaming to the next level?

Sony announced the new PS4 this week, and here at Ars we calculated the size of its DualShock 4 touchpad, reported on its horsepower, found out whether it will block used games, and we even learned that Jimmy Fallon is pretty special. So, as the PS4 approaches, it’s fair to say the new console is under our editors’ microscopes, but also those of our readers.

What kind of impact is the Playstation 4 going to have on console, social, mobile, and PC gaming? The console won’t be arriving until the holidays, but in the meantime, the confirmed details give us lots to speculate about. Ars OpenForum readers are discussing these details in the thread “The Next Generation: Playstation 4 and XBox Next.”

About that processing power

The Playstation 4 is going to feature eight cores, a “highly enhanced CPU,” GDDR5, among other new upgrades (full list in our report).

Matrices is not particularly impressed: “What is it that can actually be expected from this memory speed and size specification? Because based on what we know of the rest of the hardware—namely, that the GPU is pretty anemic on its own terms—there will be plenty of hardware bottlenecks long before those memory specs are even relevant when it comes to rendering power.”

Members in the thread have speculated what all this hardware will mean for the cost of the console. Wwen says, “it needs to be $400 or lower. The gaming industry doesn’t exist outside the rest of the economy, which is mostly down around the world…I expect this generation’s life span to be the norm for the next as well, but in my opinion, the library of games is going to make more of a difference than extra radical shaders or polycounts or bifuricated motion blur with multithreaded steam valves or whatever those game makers are into today.”

When it comes to the cost speculation, Throatwobbler Mangrove also joins in and draws some comparisons to Nintendo’s newly released Wii U, a next-gen console that many OpenForum members feel is underpowered: “Again though, rumours (cough) are that Nintendo is not making a profit on the WiiU. Sure the controller is an expense, but it’s only 1 resistive-touch screen with the processing done at the WiiU. The anemic hardware specs, and Nintendo is still selling it at a loss at ~$300? So how in the heck the PS4 cost will be reasonable without Sony taking a bath (when they’re already pretty wet) is just beyond me.”

How will social play out?

The new social elements of the PS4 have been covered in some of our previous reports, but OpenForum member Draxlith has some thoughts about them: “How come no one mentioned the “watch friends’ playing” bit yet? I think that’s one of the coolest bits. For those that didn’t catch it, you can invite friends to watch you playing, and can even pass control to them all via PSN. That’s nuts, and yes, gimmicky, but friggin cool. They also said it has built in support for uStream to stream gameplay, if you’re into that.”

HappyBunny agrees: “I think the video sharing and live streaming stuff is going to be a big deal. Streaming gameplay or sharing videos of games is becoming pretty popular, and having that integrated as a core system feature is going to be really nice.”

Wwen adds that part of the appeal of the social features is not just the ability to watch others’ gameplay, but also to record. “I thought it was interesting, because I watch a lot of Lets Play while playing Skyrim or something. IIRC, it currently takes some expensive kit to record gameplay from consoles for an LP. Unless you’re set on becoming an LP Superstar (Mortus?), not many do that. Cam LPs are awful. That’s a niche category of people though.”

Full Story: Let’s talk PS4: will it take console gaming to the next level? | Ars Technica.

Everything we think we know about the next PlayStation

In 2012 Nintendo was supposed to start the next generation of game consoles with the launch of the Wii U. To make a long story short, the release of the console seems to have hit a major sales speed bump in January, just two months after its launch in the US in November. Does this mean that the public is not yet ready for the next wave of console hardware?

We are getting closer to finding out if this is an industry problem, or just a Nintendo Wii U issue. While Microsoft has yet to confirm anything officially about working on a successor to the Xbox 360, the general consensus is that the company is working on such a machine for a launch late in 2013.

Before that happens, however, it looks like Sony will beat Microsoft to the punch, at least as far as announcements go. On Wednesday at 6 pm Eastern Time, Sony will hold a press event in New York City which will also be livestreamed on the Internet. It’s definitely a PlayStation-related media event and all the signs point to the company revealing the first official details what’s to come beyond the current PlayStation 3, which launched in 2006.

While Sony may finally be ready to go on the record about the future of the PlayStation brand, the truth is that rumors about the new console have been floating around for years. While all of these reports should be treated with a grain of salt (some more than others), let’s take a look through them, and try to figure out what we know – or what we think we know – about the next PlayStation.

What will be the name of the next PlayStation console?

Most of the rumors online have referred to the console under the code name Orbis, and that’s apparently the name that the SDK hardware kits use. Don’t expect Sony to use Orbis as the final name for the console. In fact, it looks like the company is playing it safe and will likely call the successor to the PlayStation 3 … the PlayStation 4. Yes, it’s a little on the dull side but the PlayStation brand name is simply too big to mess with at this point for Sony.

What kind of hardware will be inside the PS4?

The PlayStation 3 used the Cell processor, a chip co-designed and manufactured by Sony, Toshiba and IBM. It was powerful hardware for its day but was also hard to program for, according to game developers. Additionally, because the Cell chip was basically made just for the PS3 (with plans to expand to other hardware products later) it was expensive to produce.

All indications are that the PlayStation 4’s main CPU will be based on an AMD processor, using the company’s Jaguar design with eight processor cores and running at a clock speed of 1.6 GHz. The graphics chip for the PS4 is also rumored to be made by AMD and will reportedly use a version comparable to the Radeon 7970M.

There seems to be a little debate as to the memory of the PS4, with some reports claiming it will have 4 GB of RAM and others raising that number to 8 GB. The PS4 will have a hard drive inside, but it’s believed that it will be relatively small at 160 GB. The PS4 will also supposedly have a variety of ports, including four USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, an HDMI video port and more.

While there were rumors that Sony was considering launching a version of the PS4 without a disc drive, most reports state that the console will have a Blu-Ray disc drive included inside for the games that are still sold in retail stores, as the PS3 did. There are also rumors that the next PlayStation could even support 4K video resolutions. recently claimed that the PS4 would support an improved version of the PS3 EyeToy add-on, with two wide angle cameras and a microphone. However, this report has not showed up on other websites so we have our suspicions that this claim is not true.

What will the controller of the PS4 be like?

Based on recently leaked images that supposedly show an early PS4 dev kit, it seems that the biggest change in the PS4’s controller compared to the PS3 will be the one inch touchscreen that’s been placed in the center of the gamepad. The controller is also supposed to have motion sensing features that are similar to those put in the PS3 controller as well.

Other than the touchscreen, the images seem to suggest a gamepad that in design terms does not venture too far from the established DualShock controllers. The familiar triangle, circle, square and “X” symbols are still in place in the leaked screenshots and the analog sticks and the left gamepad buttons are still there, albeit slightly tweaked. The trigger buttons are also still in their same places. There does appear to be a headphone jack placed in the bottom of the gamepad in one of the leaked images.

Even if these gamepads are indeed what game developers are using to test PS4 games, there’s no guarantee that the final version will look like the leaked shots.

What will the online service for the PlayStation 4 be like?

The PS3 has the PlayStation Network, which lets people sign up to play online multiplayer games free of charge, and to access streaming video services such as Netflix (by contrast, you have to pay for online play and video streaming on Microsoft’s Xbox Live network). Sony later added PlayStation Home, a free 3D virtual world that was similar in some ways to Second Life. However, the service has never really taken off.

In April 2011, the PlayStation Network got hit with a massive cyber attack that caused Sony to shut down the service worldwide for weeks, and in some countries it took months to bring it back online. We suspect that whatever online network will be set up for the PlayStation 4 will be checked, rechecked and then checked again to hopefully prevent a similar embarrassing incident.

Kotaku reports, via unnamed sources, that the PS4 will allow more than one gamer to log into the PlayStation Network on one PS4 machine by associating a gamer’s PSN account to a game controller, rather than just one console. This could allow, for example, four gamers to play multiplayer co-op games online at the same time, each logged into their own PSN account, but on one PS4.

It’s likely that the new console will have some sort of integration with Sony’s Xperia mobile phones, tablets and the PS Vita portable console. As with the PS3, we can expect the PS4 version of the PlayStation Network to offer downloadable games, movies, TV shows, music and access to streaming video and music services.

The biggest single new online feature for the PS4 could be a cloud-based streaming game service. Sony acquired such a company, Gaikai, in the summer of 2012 for $380 million. It would seem almost inevitable that such a feature would be incorporated in the PS4. Indeed, there are rumors that it will be used to stream PlayStation 3 games, giving the PS4 some kind of backwards compatibility with its predecessor.

What will the PS4’s launch titles be like?

The above screenshot is from Killzone 3 on the PS3

Sony will almost certainly have plenty of first-party PS4 games from its many development studios available at launch. Here are just some of the games we think might show up for its launch:

  • Killzone 4: The latest game in the sci-fi shooter series from developer Guerrilla Games would seem to be a perfect way to show off the PS4’s hardware and graphics.
  • Little Big Planet 3: The sandbox platformer game is rumored to be a PS4 launch title by, although it may be developed by Sumo Digital rather than the game’s originators at Media Molecule.
  • The Last Guardian: Originally announced for the PS3, and developed by Team Ico, there are now rumors that the fantasy action-adventure game has moved its platform to the PS4.
  • Beyond: Two Souls: Sony announced this supernatural action-adventure game from developer Quantic Dream as a PS3 exclusive last year, but since then there’s been near silence about the game’s progress which has led many to believe it will now be a PS4 launch game.
  • Evolution Studios racing game: The developer behind the Motorstorm arcade racing series has hinted strongly in recent days it will be making an announcement about its next game around the same time as the Sony press conference.
  • Sony Online Entertainment MMO game: We certainly think that Sony’s MMO game team has something in mind for the PS4 launch; the question is what could it be?
  • Sucker Punch Studios: The Sony owned team behind the inFamous series hasn’t released a game since 2011. It would seem to be a good time to launch a new game for the PS4.

Sony could also have something up its sleeve that no one outside the company knows about for a first party PS4 launch game or games. You can also expect to see quite a few PS4 launch titles from third party publishers, including some that will likely be exclusive to the console. We suspect that games such as Dragon Age III, the next Call of Duty game, the next Assassin’s Creed title, and a number of EA’s sports games will be available in PS4 editions.

What will the price be for the PS4?

Sony was highly criticized for the high launch prices of its two PS3 models for its 2006 launch, at $499 and $599. Since the PS4 is supposed to use hardware parts that are “off-the-shelf” components that have been modified for the console, it stands to reason that the launch price for the PS4 could be much cheaper. A recent rumor claimed that Sony could price the PS4 under $400, which would be far more acceptable for both hardcore games and a more general audience.

When will the PS4 be released?

If Sony does announce the console on Wednesday, it doesn’t seem likely that the company plans to make people wait too long for its sales debut. It’s very possible that Sony is aiming for a launch date sometime in the fall of 2013 for the PS4. However, Sony has pushed back the announced launch dates for its consoles before. The PS3 was announced in May 2005 for a launch in the spring of 2006 but those plans got pushed back to the fall of that year.

In other words, even if Sony does announce a fall 2013 launch time period for the PS4, you should not expect that date to be written in stone. Launching new console hardware is sometimes a tricky business; issues with both hardware as well as game launch titles have caused previous console sales dates to be pushed back.

What other open questions are there about the PS4?

Sony will likely not reveal everything about the PS4 at Wednesday’s press conference. For example, it may not reveal which parts of the world will get their hands on the console first. We wonder what other kinds of accessories will be made for the PS4 besides the controller and the rumored EyeToy. There’s also the question of how open the PS4 will be. The PS3 allowed users to switch out their hard drives with most kinds of 2.5 inch SATA hard drives and we wonder if that same kind of feature will be present in the PS4.

With more and more game developers releasing games on their own via download stores for the iOS, Android and Windows 8 operating systems, we also wonder if Sony will offer up the same kind of feature in the PS4. We also don’t have a clue at the moment about the actual case design for the console. In fact, Sony might not reveal that design on Wednesday and may wait until closer to the PS4’s launch date to fully reveal the console’s final shape.

What will happen to the PS3 after the launch of the PS4?

Sony typically keeps making its previous consoles well after the launch of their successors. It only just recently stopped production of the PS2, over 10 years after its launch. We expect the PS3 to continue that tradition, with Sony continuing to manufacture the console for several more years at least. PS3 games will also continue to be made for a number of years after the launch of the PS4.

In fact, some rumors claim that the PS3 could get a permanent price cut to just $199 the day after the PS4 press announcement on Wednesday. Sony sold the PS3 for that price as part of holiday sales promotions during the fall of 2012.

The biggest question of all: Will the PS4 be a success?

When the PS3 launched in 2006, it enjoyed a brief spurt of massive interest, but within a few months the early adopter crowd had gone ahead and bought the console at its high price while the mainstream public stayed away until Sony lowered its price. A recent estimate by IDC claims that Sony has now sold about 77 million units of the PS3 worldwide – a more than respectable number, but not as many as the PS2.

However, the game industry has changed a lot since 2006. Many believe that the low sales of the Wii U show that many consumers have moved away from TV-connected game consoles in favor of downloadable mobile gaming. Sony has to be more than aware of the rapidly changing trends in gaming, and we suspect the company will almost certainly try to sell the PS4 as a broader multimedia box rather than purely a games machine. Will that be enough? We won’t know for sure until months after the console finally goes on sale, and sales figures begin to emerge.

As with all game console launches, there is a ton of anticipation for the announcements to be made on Wednesday. Will the PS4 reveal live up to the hype and the long wait since the launch of the PS3? We will soon see if our first glimpse of the PS4 will get us excited again about the new generation of game consoles.