There's a precedent for this
Several precedents, actually. So why waste our time having stabs at guessing its future based on the present when history is full of pointers to suggest exactly what PlayStation 4s life will be like?
So lets take a look into our history-honed crystal ball and see how things are going to pan out for PlayStation 4. If the next-generation is like the last three, there are some things we can predict
PS4 will cost less than $599
PlayStation and PS2 both launched at $299. Both turned out to be among the most successful consoles ever seen, combining the appeal of state-of-the-art technology with a just-about-affordable-if-you-really-want-it price point. By comparison, PS3 launched at $599 and everyone laughed. It was necessary due to the expensive development of Cell, but PS4 uses PC components, making it more likely to fall back in line.
While a sub $300/300 price point for PS4 would be killer, we don't know if that's possible. What we do know is that Sony will aim lower, possibly coming in around $400. And even if all that wonderful techno-jiggery costs more than that to produce, its imperative Sony learns from Nintendo (and Vitas) mistakes and takes a hit on console profits in exchange for a large user-base.
PS4 will have hardware revisions in 2016 and 2019
After PlayStation's surprise hardware revision in the shape of the PSone, PS2 got its first Slim model after 4 years. Since 2004, every subsequent hardware revision has come three years after the previous. It's like clockwork.
PS2 had further weight and dimensional reductions in 2007, PS3 Slim was introduced in 2009 and its Super-Slim hit in 2012. Three years seems to have become the trend here, so we'd expect PS4 Slim in 2016 and PS4 Super Slim in 2019. So, in other words, the console itself (which we haven't seen yet) will lose some weight (and likely cost) in 2016--if you can wait.
PS4's aesthetic finish won't be ultra-deluxe
If history has taught us anything, it's that original PS3 was the odd-one-out in many respects. It was the only Sony home console to feature a gloss finish, likely to help justify the premium price-tag.
In 2013, Sony needs to keep costs down as its pockets aren't exactly bulging, but the new machine is also unlikely to look and feel as cheap and plasticky as the low-budget PS3 Super Slim. So some happy middle-ground along the lines of PS3 Slim is the most likely style for the appearance of PS4. That means fewer fingerprints, too.
PS4 will share some early releases with PS3
We already know that Watch Dogs is a cross-generational launch game but history can point to a few more examples. PS3 had new versions of Call of Duty 3 and Need For Speed Carbon because they could easily be prettied-up and sent out with a new price tag. Pretty much any major game that's in development now would logically be a good candidate for having all the sliders set to full and sent out as a next-gen game. The PC version of Tomb Raider is a likely candidate for that, with its hefty recommended specs sounding suspiciously next-gen-like.
Likewise, GRID 2's PC version is clearly impressive enough visually to be released on PS4, despite having been designed to scale back onto current gen machines too. Might we see The Last of Us ported at deluxe settings to the new hardware? It's probably feasible. And then theres the prospect of a GOTY version of Skyrim (one that actually works from Day 1)
PS4 will launch with 250GB and 500GB variants
How do we know this? PlayStation 3's bundled-in hard drive configurations have always come in pairs, ever since the initial 60GB and 20GB partnership on day one. As digital downloads become more commonplace, hard drive sizes have increased, with PS3 seeing higher-capacity SDKs brought in across the various territories worldwide almost every year, currently at 250GB and 500GB.
The next step, namely a 500GB and 1TB hard drive partnership, seems a little too big for a console release in 2013. So we're likely to see the most recent configurations for PS3 duplicated for PS4's launch, with a 1TB model following next year.
PS4 will be discontinued in 2025
PlayStation 2 launched in 2000 and was finally discontinued at the end of 2012. PSone before it was launched in 1994 and was discontinued in 2006. Thats twelve years apiece for shelf-life.
PS3 was launched in 2006 and could feasibly have another 5 years left in it as a Blu-Ray player, cheap console and media hub, bringing it up to 12 years also. Its simple mathematiculations to add 12 to 2013, so unless something hoes horribly wrong--or very, very right--Sony will be retiring its system in 2025.
PS4 will sell over 100 million units
PSone sold 102.49 million units. PS2 sold 153.6m. PS3 has sold roughly 77 million units so far, with a potential five years left in its lifetime to clinch another 23m, which is certainly likely too.
PS4 looks at this point to be set to get the jump on Microsoft's next console, which would mean it would be first to market, as PS2 was. That really helped Sony get a lead on its competition... unless you count Dreamcast, but most people were waiting for PS2 at that time anyway.
What do you think?
That's the future as predicted by the past. But will it be accurate? Don't forget, the past also suggests that The US Air Force will buy a load of them to create a crazy supercomputer and it will be advertised by a talking duck. Might any of our carefully selected precedents actually mean nought in the current climate? Let us know in the comments.