PS4 “Orbis” rumours – no used games or backwards compatibility

A rumour has recently surfaced regarding the next PlayStation console, codenamed “Orbis.” The most important points being:

  • Is called, or at least carries the working codename, “Orbis”
  • Is scheduled for a Holiday 2013 release
  • Won’t be backwards compatible with PS3 games
  • Will lock new games to a PSN account as an anti-used games measure
  • New games can be bought either on Blu-Ray or downloaded
  • Current specs are an AMD x64 CPU and AMD Southern Islands GPU


With the rest of the points being either details or expected (such as the release date), the two in bold are the ones I’d like to comment on.

The lack of backwards compatibility with PS3 games would come as no big surprise. We’ve already seen it happen with the PS3 (except the launch window units), and it’s no secret that a great number of PS3 games, especially the most popular ones, will be accessible on the PlayStation Store. The PS3 hardware is also quite complex and it would be no easy task to emulate it on a PS4 unless PS3 hardware components were included in the new machine. PS3 is also HD, so there’s no inherent advantage to playing PS3 games on PS4 like upscaling was in the PS2 -> PS3 scenario. Naturally, my preference would be for the new console to be backwards compatible, but it’s no deal breaker. The real loss would be for gamers who have never owned a PS3.

The next point, however, is a very shocking one. So far, no mainstream console has tried to crack down on used games. A great number of gamers still play used games on a regular basis, due to new games’ prices being too much for their pockets. Many of them are still in their teens or early 20s, with no stable source of income to allow them to buy new games all the time. Such a measure on the PS4 would be a great hit on them and would most likely result in many, many lost PS4 sales. Sure, we’ve heard a similar rumour for the next Xbox, but that’s no excuse for Sony to also go down this path. The only way this could possibly work is if new games’ prices go down a third to a half, which is but a pipe dream.

I’m all for GameStop’s shady practices with used games (like selling them $5 off the price of the new game instead of at half the price like a reasonable person would expect) being put to a halt, but that would be a small gain compared to what the gaming world would use. Yes, digital distribution is dawning on us, Steam being the finest example, but I have major doubts regarding a console store having sales half as amazing as Steam’s – even if they did away with physical media entirely.

Locking new games to a PSN account would destroy buying used games, renting games, borrowing games from friends… All activities which have saved us a lot of money in the past. And ultimately, the consumer votes with his wallet. Sony would lose big time if they proceeded with such a plan.

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