There's a lot we don't know about the upcoming next gen console war between the Xbox 720 and the PlayStation 4. For starters, we don't even know if they'll be called that. Gizmodo is reporting that the Xbox 720 will likely just be called 'Xbox.' And Kotaku reports that the PS4 could be called the Orbis, in part because the number four is considered unlucky in Japan. But, in terms of what the Internet wants to call these systems, the democratically-selected SEO phrases are Xbox 720 and PS4. So, until we get the official name from Microsoft or Sony then for the purposes of this and all future articles I will refer to them by their search-friendly names. Capiche?
Regardless of the utter lack of any official ANYTHING from either company, there is still a lot to discuss in the rumors and speculation floating around the ol' interwebs. Some rumors are firmer than others, like the rumor that the Xbox 720 will support Blu-Ray. This is kind of a no-brainer, since it's old tech and Sony has it, but that's what makes it a firmer rumor than, say, the speculation that the PS4 won't play used games.
The used game rumor really refers to a system that would allow Sony to limit access on certain features on used games, not ban them entirely. Kotaku points out that the PS3 had a similar rumor. However, it's easy to see why fans would think Sony would go this route since techradar is reporting it's all but guaranteed that the PS4 won't have backwards compatibility. The Xbox 360 DOES feature backwards compatibility, so it's reasonable to assume that the Xbox 720 will have the same. Nukezilla reported in May that they saw documents confirming the tech for backwards compatibility would be part of the Xbox 720 build. So, when it comes to delivering the fan-friendly feature the edge goes to the Xbox 720.
The specs for both the Xbox 720 and the PS4 are nebulous at best. Official hardware specs haven't been announced yet, but some tech reporters have uncovered clues as to what both Microsoft and Sony are planning to put under the hood for their next gen systems. Some analysts are anticipating that the Xbox 720 would have at least 8 GB of RAM and four hardware cores. Considering that the Xbox 360 currently runs on a (rather paltry) 512 MB of RAM, 8 GB would be a monster improvement.
Xbox 720 rumors also suggest that the device will have a few features in the 'cool gadget' department, including an 'always on' mode, energy-saving functions during media playback, true 1080 support with 3D capability and PVR functionality that will let you record TV onto the Xbox 720. Given the high cost of memory, 8 GB has some speculating that the final price point for the Xbox 720 will be in the $500-$700 range.
As for Sony's next gen PlayStation, techradar is reporting that the PS4 dev kit (the package sent to game companies) includes an AMD A10 APU (a combo CPU/GPU), between 8GB and 16GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and a Blu-ray drive. Also part of the package is standard Ethernet, HDMI and Wi-Fi capabilities. Like the Xbox 360, the PS3 currently runs on 512 MB of RAM. Beefing up the RAM seems to be the name of the game for the next gen consoles, and industry insiders are expecting both Microsoft and Sony to keep the actual number secret as long as they can. PlayStation Lifestyle speculates that the PS4 was originally going to have just 4 GB of RAM, but that rumors of Microsoft's 8 GB Xbox 720 forced them to reconsider to upping the RAM to 8 GB or (fingers crossed) 12 GB. PSLS reports that all this hardware in the PS4 could retail in the neighborhood of $650-$800.
When it comes to the Cool Gadget Dept., Sony is gearing up for a unique gaming experience via PlayStation Cloud Gaming. After a $380 million acquisition of streaming gaming specialists Gaikai in July, Sony hasn't given many details about its forthcoming PlayStation cloud Gaming. But being able to stream PS4 content to a smartphone could be a HUGE sales advantage over Microsoft, who is attempting a similar experience via Xbox SmartGlass technology. Both companies are obviously trying to tap into the mobile gaming experience, albeit in different ways.
Ok, so both next gen consoles will feature LOTS more RAM, Blu-Ray and mobile/cloud gaming connectivity. When it comes to the rumored specs, both the Xbox 720 and the PS4 are pretty even. I give the Xbox 720 a tie-breaker advantage right now for its inclusion of backwards compatibility. It's not something most gamers would use often, but in the early release days when title selections are a little thin it would be nice to be able to fire up some classics to pass the time (although PS4 is boasting an impressive list of potential launch titles right now). What I'm really curious about is if the backwards compatibility extends to online play. Because, unless they come out with a launch title, there are plenty of Call of Duty and Halo fans who are going to be loath to part with their stats.
The answers to all these speculations will come when we get the answer to the BIG speculation: When? When will we get official word about the systems? When will they be released? Reliable rumors put the Xbox 720 announcement date at this year's E3 conference, although it's possible that Microsoft would announce something prior to E3 to get the hype machine going. For the PS4, rumors suggest that Sony will be making some kind of PS4 announcement at their closed-door press event called Destination PlayStation on Feb 25. The release of the Xbox 720 is being hampered by lousy chip production, according to a September report from SemiAccurate. It reports that Microsoft was originally planning a September 2013 launch date for the Xbox 720, but that the number of usable processor chips needed to increase drastically by the end of February for that target to be reached. Again, the problem isn't that they can't physically make enough of the core processor chips, just that of the ones they make most don't work properly. OXM explains the problem that "for every wafer, or sheet of silicon chips, created, only a tiny percentage are actually usable. Think of it like a sheet of baseball cards. If one sheet makes 30 cards, but only one card comes out without any issues or defects, that's a bit of a problem."