What do we know about the successor to Sony's PlayStation 3 games console? PC Advisor has rounded up all the news and speculation about the PS4 launch date, price, specs and other details. See also PS4 release date, specs and rumour round-up. UPDATE: see our story - PS4 launching Holidays 2013 full details.
Updated, 6 June 2011: Sorry, everyone, but a Sony executive has poured cold water on the rumour we reported below, releasing a statement clarifying that the "platform" referred to by Masaru Kato as being "in development" is in fact the NGP. "We have nothing to announce at this time," the company stated in reply to queries about the PS4.
Will there be any PS4 announcements from Sony at E3?
Sony's press conference at E3 is tonight at 5pm, Pacific Time, which we make 1am tomorrow morning UK time. So look out for more information on the company's launch plans then - but expect the main topic of conversation to be the NGP.
In fact, IGN reports from E3 that Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony's worldwide studios, thinks the time is not yet ripe for another PlayStation launch. Yoshida said he "does not feel the need to introduce a new PlayStation console" at this time.
Updated, 27 May 2011:
PlayStation 4 'already in development'
Sony has told investors that work on the PlayStation 4 is already underway, but that the company will spend less heavily on the PS4 than it did on the PS3.
Discussing the company's R&D expenditure in a conference call, Sony chief financial officer Masaru Kato explained that part of the coming year's budget will be devoted to the next PlayStation console.
However, Kato stressed that the PS3 has plenty of life left in it, and didn't reveal any details about the PS4's specs or pricing.
"The PS3 still has product life, but this is a platform business," he said. "So for the future [of the] platform, when will we introduce it? What product? I can not discuss that. But development work is already underway."
According to andriasang, however, Kato added that, because of changing economic conditions in the semiconductor industry, "It is no longer thinkable to have a huge initial financial investment like that of the PS3."
Sony was willing to make significant investments in order to push the PS3 platform: "In the past few years a lot of PS3 technology platform incorporates the results of a large gap between cost and selling price," Kato said (translated from Japanese using Google Chrome's translator).
This is the first official word from Sony that an eighth-gen console is on the way, and could lead to counter-announcements about the next Xbox from Microsoft in an attempt to grab publicity ahead of the E3 games show in June.
Updated, 20 May 2011: Nintendo has twitched first with Project Cafe, so we can expect to hear some more details - and plenty more rumours - about the other eighth-gen consoles. Check back for regular updates about the PlayStation 4 launch.
What specs will the PS4 have?
Too early to say, but it ought to be pretty tasty. In fact one analyst reckons Sony's commitment to high-end hardware - along with the fragility of the US economy - may be what's holding it back from launching the PS4 in the near future.
"I don't think either Sony or Microsoft are interested in a new console until they can advance the technology, and they certainly don't want to launch at a $600 price point," Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities said to the games website Kotaku.
"It may take until 2014 to get 2TB hard drives, uber-fast CPUs and state-of-the art graphics, and sell at $400."
There have been some rumours that Sony could move to an IBM PowerPC processor for the PS4, but that currently seems unlikely - in December, Sony bought the factory that makes the Cell processors from Toshiba, which suggests it's commited to this platform. And sticking to Cell would simplify matters for software developers.
When will the PlayStation 4 launch in the UK?
The PS4's launch is still looking a long way off. According to Kotaku's sources, Sony and Microsoft are both targeting 2014 for the launches of their next consoles, although if one starts moving, the other's hand may be forced.
"Sources with access to first-party companies said that they are hearing that 2014 is the target date, though some believe 2013 could happen if either company feels pushed," the site wrote.
"I think we'll see a game of chicken between Sony and Microsoft," commented industry analyst Billy Pidgeon of the firm M2 Research. "Sony definitely isn't launching a successor before 2014 and could stand to benefit by having Microsoft launch first as PS3 builds into North America and builds a strong position in Europe. Microsoft claims there's a lot more room in Xbox 360 for developers to max out, but here PS3 could have a strong advantage."
As for the UK, expect to wait about six months after the PS4 launches in Japan - we waited eight for the PS2 and four for the PS3 after the Japanese launches.
Couldn't we see the PS4 earlier than that?
It's a long shot, but maybe. Pidgeon adds: "If Nintendo does very well with the next console, Microsoft and Sony will quickly get a lot more serious about next generation."
The absolute earliest we can realistically expect the PS4 is probably 2012, which would at least match the six-yearly release schedule of previous consoles (1994 for the PlayStation, 2000 for the PS2 and 2006 for the PS3). But 2013 seems more plausible at this stage.
Will the PS4 come out at the same time as the Xbox 720 (or whatever's it's called) and the Wii 2 (or Project Cafe)?
Not necessarily - as I said in our Wii 2 rumour round-up, the big three gaming hardware firms are unlikely to synchronise their launches exactly. The seventh-gen machines were spread out over more than a year, and Nintendo waited 18 months after the original PlayStation came along before launching the N64.
Still, Daily News Pulse argues that of all companies Sony should know the value of getting a games console to market reasonably quickly. Its PlayStation and PS2, which each utterly dominated their respective console generations, were in there right from the start - the PS launching within a month of the Sega Saturn and well ahead of the N64, and the PS2 beating the GameCube and Xbox to market by two years.
The PS3, on the other hand, came to market about a year after the Xbox 360, and while it's certainly holding its own, it's failed to achieve the same dominance that its two predecessors managed.
(The down side to this theory, of course, is that the Wii came to market even later than the PS3, and has been the most successful seventh-gen console of all. But it does hold true that Sony consoles seem to be more successful when they get to market first, or nearly first, and prevent rivals from building up a strong fanbase.)
How much will the PlayStation 4 cost in the UK?
At this stage we've got absolutely no idea of a launch price for the PS4, let along a UK launch price. Sorry. We'll let you know when we do.
Will the PSN hack and data leak affect the PS4 launch?
It shouldn't do, although cynics will point out that Sony now has an extra incentive to move the news cycle along by making some sort of announcement. Stories across the tech press saying "Sony: PlayStation 4 will have 3D and a quad-core processor" might help people to forget the PSN debacle.
What will the PlayStation 4 be called?
After the success of the PlayStation, PS2 and PS3, this one seems easy, right? It'll be called the PS4, of course.
Well maybe. But maybe not. As our colleagues at GamePro pointed out in a future-gazing piece back in 2006, the number four has more than a little superstitious baggage attached to it in Sony's homeland.
"In Japanese, the number four (pronounced "shi") also means "death" and is widely considered unlucky in a superstitious sense," the piece noted. "This cultural wrinkle is leveraged in films and manga, some of which contain the Japanese kanji character for four to add an aura of edgy danger. But many Japanese people consider the number and its derivatives to be highly unlucky. Because of its negative connotations, it's highly unlikely that a mainstream Japanese product would contain the number four."
The name PlayStation does have astonishingly strong brand recognition, though. This writer's view is that Sony will brazen it out and go with PS4 in the West, and maybe come up with something different for its home market. But we shall see.
Keep an eye on this page for more PS4 news, rumours and speculation. We'll update it whenever we hear anything new.