The more things change, the less they stay the same.
Video game consoles as we know them will soon be a fading memory. Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY) introduces the high-def, tablet-toting Wii U later this year. Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) is dragging its feet a little by reportedly launching a low-cost Xbox 360 next year based on ARM Holdings chips, and delaying the next-generation replacement even further. And now the rumor mill starts to show us Sony's (NYSE: SNE ) direction in the venerable PlayStation product line.
According to gaming site Kotaku, Sony is about to leave the PlayStation moniker behind. The next console, slated to hit stores in time for the 2013 holiday season, is apparently known as “Orbis,” either as a working title or maybe even the planned release name.
And the new console may not be able to play PS3 games, breaking a long tradition of backward compatibility. That's a downer if you've built up a large game library for the current generation, and doesn't exactly inspire a strong desire to upgrade from one Sony box to the next generation.
Furthermore, Kotaku says that Sony has found a way to lock your games to your console, and only yours. It's bye-bye to buying used games or selling them back when you lose interest.
More important, the not-exactly-Playstation-4 will feature very different hardware. The PS3 was built around the unique Cell processor, developed by Sony and partners and ridiculously overpowered for its time. But the architecture was also notoriously difficult to develop games for, which explains why the PS3 never sold quite as well as the Xbox or Wii -- Sony never had enough top-notch and exclusive games.
If Kotaku's sources are correct, Advanced Micro Devices (NYSE: AMD ) will snag both the main processor and graphics chip slots this time. AMD has provided graphics solutions for consoles in the past, but to the best of my knowledge, this'll be AMD's first bow at center stage.
If you thought the new iPad's screen resolution was ridiculous, AMD's Southern Islands graphics reportedly supports even higher pixel counts, though admittedly, you'll watch them slathered over a much larger big-screen TV set.
So by 2014, we'll have a whole new generation of gaming consoles to fight the good fight against a rising tide of mobile and online gaming. I'm betting that at least some of the new hardware will attempt to hook into that trillion-dollar revolution; if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. The Wii U tablet might have uses outside the living room, for example.
Are you excited about this refresh in the gaming industry, or is the current generation good enough for another decade? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.