Just because Sony isn't planning to unveil its next game console at this year's E3 doesn't mean the system isn't in the works, or that information about it isn't going to leak out. Case in point: Kotaku is citing unnamed "reliable sources" in reporting that "select developers" are already receiving development kits for the follow-up to the PS3, code-named "Orbis." It will reportedly hit stores in time for the 2013 holiday season.
The new console will use an x64 CPU and a "Southern Islands" GPU provided by AMD, according to Kotaku's sources, which would represent a significant change in architecture from the Cell-based hardware inside the PS3. That may also explain why Orbis will reportedly end Sony's streak of home systems that are backwards compatible with software from earlier console generations (though Sony removed backward compatibility from PS3s released after October 2007).
The most intriguing bit of rumor-mongering, though, has to do with the Orbis's reported system-wide protections against used games, which will tie each new retail game disc to a PlayStation Network account that must be actively signed in when the game starts up. Preowned game discs would supposedly still work in a secondary console, but would only play in a limited "trial" mode unless the new customer pays a fee to unlock the full game.
That bit of the rumor lines up with earlier unconfirmed reports that Microsoft is looking to prevent used games from being played on the successor to the Xbox 360. Still, the Orbis system as described would seem to completely lock out any potential customer that doesn't have a broadband Internet connection in their home. A 2010 study found that 22 percent of PS3 users in the US had not connected their system to the Internet, though that proportion may shrink by the time the Orbis is ready to be released.
As if that wasn't enough in the way of rumors for you, Kotaku also stumbled across a set of subsequently removed illustrations from the website of design firm Coque Design, which were reportedly labeled as "Illustrations & Sketches for new PlayStation Orbis features." The captured drawings show players singing and dancing in front of a screen equipped with a camera as a disembodied hand uses an iPod-touch-style device to control the action. Curioser and curioser...