Sony’s PS4 Slim Is The Most Ridiculous Gaming Story Of The Year

Posted: September 1, 2016 in Opinion Piece

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by Paul Tassi via Forbes

Every year there are a number of gaming controversies or odd new stories that end up being memorable, but this year, the one that takes the cake is the absolutely bizarre saga of Sony’s PS4 Slim. It’s a video game console that Sony will not acknowledge officially exists, but it’s made its worldwide debut all the same in something that transcends the very concept of a “leak.”

A “leak” is when we hear whispers about the horsepower of the Neo and Scorpio, or the concept of Nintendo’s probably-portable NX. But with the PS4 Slim, despite Sony not admitting the system exists, the unit itself has already made its way into the wild via allegedly broken street dates, and has even been reviewed in full by one reporter who got her hands on one.

The obvious notion is that Sony is waiting until its September 7th PlayStation show to announce the Slim alongside the Neo, but the timeline of events here has been nothing short of bizarre.

August 21st – Images of the PS4 Slim, including full packaging for the unit,first appear on NeoGAF via a listing on the UK’s Gumtree, offering the system for sale.

 August 22nd – Eurogamer tracks down the person who bought the console on Gumtree, and publishes a video demoing the system booting up, attempting to prove its legitimacy, and that it’s not some 3D-printed fake. Eurogamer later takes down the video for unspecified “legal” reasons, and many assume it’s under pressure from Sony, who makes no public comment. Eurogamer itself refuses to go into greater detail about why the video was taken down.
August 30th – Laura Kate Dale posts a full review and video of the PS4 Slim on her website, having gotten access to the console through a retail store manager who sold the unit on eBay, and claims it was not stolen, merely that the street date was broken. She thinks it’s pretty good, though it may offer less than the Xbox One Slim (no 4K upscaling).

August 31st – Kotaku interviews Dale about her review, and she says that she had to be vague about some aspects of the system and its acquisition in the off chance the system was stolen, and she could be accused of “handling stolen goods.” She talks about how she shopped the review around to many big gaming sites but was turned down because they didn’t want Sony to come after them or be forced to take the review down, among other reasons. Since publication of the review on her own site, however, Dale has not heard anything from Sony at all.

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Even now, some of the most die-hard fans believe the unit to be a fake, but at this point, it would be one of the most elaborate fakes in tech history, and the common notion is that in a week, Sony will reveal the system to the public. The situation is almost unprecedented, however. A working console unit making its way to the wild to the point where it can be officially reviewed…before it’s even announced? There’s almost nothing to compare it to. The only thing that comes to mind is when Gizmodo paid to get their hands on an iPhone prototype that was left at a bar, and started writing about it, much to Apple’s dismay.

What’s going through Sony’s head here is unclear, because they’re not saying word one about the console or the leak to anyone, despite repeated requests for comment. From the timeline of events, it seems possible that they originally tried to squash coverage of the system using legal threats (or the outlets in question self-censored to avoid potential issues), but now they’re close enough to their event to simply let something like Dale’s review exist without forcing her to take it down. Doing so would probably only draw even more attention to this already ridiculous leak, and now they simply have to sit around and wait a week. If they have a sense of humor about it, they could slide in a joke or two about how crazy this has been during the reveal itself (“And now, for the first time seen anywhere, the PS4 Slim!”).

Fans have wondered why Sony didn’t debut the Slim at E3 when Microsoft showed off the Xbox One Slim, but perhaps it wasn’t ready for primetime yet. Some would argue that it still isn’t, as despite improvements in size and performance, much ado has been made about the system being rather ugly, compared to the PS4 itself, which is usually praised for its sleek design.

Others are unclear about why Sony would bother with a Slim at all, given how heavily Microsoft was criticized for debuting a Slim and the Scorpio at the same time, making it hard to justify a purchase of the former, when fans knew the later was on the way. But now Sony will presumably be doing the exact same thing, revealing the Slim alongside the Neo.

Both Sony and Microsoft seem to want to create this tiered “choice” situation, where you can get a slimmer, cheaper base Xbox One or PS4, or if you want the “upgrade” you can pay for a new Neo or Scorpio, which will have increased power and an unknown number of new features. Both companies seem to really be pushing hard for the idea that this is not a fully new console generation, and they want to sell both systems alongside each other. Whether that will play out like they imagine, remains to be seen.

It has certainly been a weird couple of weeks with the PS4 Slim, which despite all the fuss, is a relatively uncontroversial unit, offering mild improvements over its predecessor, according to all this early analysis. If this turned out to be a crazy hoax, that would be the ultimate twist in this tale, but at this point, the safe bet is to think we’ll see the official reveal of the Slim in a week, along with what Sony has to offer with the Neo, a console some still believe will make it out in time for this holiday season.

It’s a strange time for video game hardware, and the saga of the PS4 Slim is the strangest story yet. We’ll see how this all ends in a week, I suppose.

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