Time to dust off that hype machine. The next generation of video game consoles may debut as early as February 20. That's the date Sony has set aside for an event in New York City, leading some to believe this could be the first-ever announcement of the PlayStation 4, the inevitable successor to the company's current PlayStation 3 game system.
Attached to the invitation is a short teaser video that consists only of a trippy flythrough of the iconic PlayStation shapes, not offering much transparency as to the true purpose of the event. In any case, it has certainly reignited the buzz surrounding next-gen hardware and added strength to rumors that Sony and Microsoft's new consoles may debut before their traditional E3 unveiling. (A new report, too, lends even more heft to the rumors; see the update note at the end of this story.)
CNET will be on-hand to cover the event in full, so be sure to keep it here for the latest.
Update, 8:15 p.m. PT: The Wall Street Journal cited "people familiar with the matter" in reporting this evening that Sony will indeed unveil the PS4 on February 20 and that the device will go on sale "later this year." The Journal's sources also said Sony will add more social gaming features to the new PlayStation and will focus not on juicing up the gadget's hardware but on how players interact with the device.
Sony had thought about dumping the PlayStation's optical disk drive in favor of making gamers download new games over the Internet, the Journal reported, but it's decided against that because of concerns over download times. Finally, the Journal said Sony will "likely" go with chips from AMD, rather than the Sony-IBM-Toshiba-developed Cell chip that's in the PS3, a move that could cause compatibility issues with current games and would end Sony's partnership with graphics-chip maker Nvidia.