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PlayStation 4 to stream games in real time over Net, says report

Expected to be unveiled on Wednesday, Sony's PS4 will let users play games piped over the Internet, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

At the end of January, Sony announced a PlayStation event but gave few details. We'll get the 411 this coming Wednesday in New York.

Sony's acquisition last year of cloud-gaming company Gaikai may be reflected in a big way in the upcoming PlayStation 4.

The Wall Street Journal is citing inside sources in reporting that Sony's new gaming console, expected to debut Wednesday at an event in Manhattan, will let people play games streamed in real time over the Internet.

The report says the streams will involve games designed for the outgoing console, the PlayStation 3. That could be an effort to deal with backward compatibility: last month the Journal reported that for the PS4, Sony would "likely" go with chips from Advanced Micro Devices, rather than the Sony-IBM-Toshiba-developed Cell chip that's in the PS3 -- a move that could cause compatibility issues with current games. The new report from the WSJ says the PS4 will be able to accommodate new games stored on optical discs. It's not clear if new games would be streamed as well.

Streaming could also help Sony go at least some way toward addressing the popularity of simple games on smartphones and other devices. As CNET's Rich Brown mentioned when Sony bought Gaikai, the acquired firm seemed to offer potential in terms of enabling higher-end mobile gaming: "Imagine playing a core PlayStation...[game] on your console, then picking the game up exactly where you left off on your cell phone or tablet," he wrote.

Sony announced the Gaikai deal in July of last year. The cloud service allows for the streaming of beefier games than those commonly played on iPhones and the like (Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, and so on). Company co-founder David Perry told CNET back in 2010 that the service was a bit like game arcades back in the day: "You wanted to play the latest machines, but they were $5,000 to $10,000. So you stuck your quarters in." Gaikai created data centers designed to run any modern-day game, at any settings, and then focused on piping streams to the end user.

The Journal said it's not clear how Sony might charge for the streams.

For more on the expected PlayStation 4, check out Jeff Bakalar's overview, here.

Also, CNET will be live at the Sony event in midtown Manhattan next week. Be sure to follow along with our live blog to get the very latest on all the announcements.