Sony pretty much popped out from behind everyone, scaring the shit out of them today, by announcing a surprise press conference for February 20th. They're teasing the future of the PlayStation brand, showing the traditional PlayStation face buttons (cross, circle, square, and triangle), with the date February 20th.
The biggest shocker? Sony is actually keeping their goddamned mouth shut.
Recall back to my Wii U editorial that I published late last year, I called Sony out for their numerous leaks in the past. Just about any piece of hardware (PSPgo comes to mind) or major software (PlayStation Home) is leaked well before Sony's intentional release. They know they fucked up - and was even humble enough to joke about the PSPgo leak during their E3 09 conference - and they're making sure it doesn't happen again.
Some are already pointing out stills from the 45 second teaser, that there may be hidden images of the system itself. Such as the one below, seen at 0:04 in:
Sorry, Polygon, but I'm not seeing it. I see what you're getting at - and it can look like a piece of hardware - but I doubt they're showing it there; watch it in action, and you'll see for yourself.
Now, it's not common for the major companies in the industry to push their hardware announcements outside of the comfort zone of E3, but there have been a few instances. Microsoft unveiled the original Xbox at CES 2000. Nintendo (prematurely) announced the 3DS in March of 2010. The Vita was announced in January of 2011. Some announcements come either at E3 - Wii (then unveiled as the Revolution) and PS3 - or within a month or so of E3 (Xbox 360). Why would Sony hold a major presser for their next home console in February? I can understand for handhelds, such as the 3DS and Vita's case, but home consoles?
I see this as Sony actively preparing - and attempting to steal thunder - for Apple. In recent history, Apple has been using the first quarter of the year to announce new iPads, and those announcements usually come in late February or early March, with a launch shortly after. The gaming industry needs new hardware, and Nintendo's been dragging their feet with the Wii U; when Iwata apologizes for their performance, you know they know they're fucking up. Sony's February announcement could be a kick in the ass for industry, drumming up interest. They did a full unveil of the Vita during their little presser in January 2 years ago, showing up details and games, but holding off on the final name until E3. There was a lot of interest in the little handheld that could leading up to E3.
Sony's learned a lot from the Vita. They know, just like Nintendo, they can't release a handful of games in the first few months, delay anticipated launch-day/window titles, and not have anything on the plate for a library until a year later. Your system needs functionality out of the gate. Rumors are flying of system-locked games, preventing pre-owned games to be played on systems other than the one it was first played on, or them ditching the DualShock controller (please) for something that may draw features from the Vita. It may ditch physical media and go download only. Sure, they sound outright stupid, but knowing Sony, keep an open mind, and don't discourage yourself.
Will Sony announce the PS4/Orbis next month? I say yes. Sony isn't doing this for themselves, but for the gaming industry. Nintendo fired the starting pistol. Sony is (presumably) second out of the gate, and all signs point to E3 2013 for Microsoft to unveil the Xbox 720/Infinite. The industry needs it's customers to be all riled up for new hardware. This is the longest running generation for video game hardware ever, with 8 years in-between the Nintendo DS in 2004 (or 7, if you start with the 360 in 2005), and the Wii U in 2012. Apple refreshes it's hardware 6-12 months, and people go fucking crazy. The newest iPod touch can power games that rival the visual quality of games on the 360. That's insane.
Sales are sluggish. You put a new toy in front of customers, and they piss themselves stupid and swipe their credit card at Best Buy.
Pay attention come mid-February. Sony will blow your fucking mind.
Now, whether that's a good thing or a bad thing, we'll find out in just under three weeks.