The next PlayStation, codenamed Orbis, will make extensive usage of cloud gaming. A new report from the Wall Street Journal suggests that this next-gen console will be able to stream current PlayStation 3 games.
Sony purchased cloud gaming service Gaikai last summer for $380 million. Gaikai allows for the streaming of AAA games to a variety of internet-capable devices. The service launched with demos of current-gen games like Dead Space 2, The Sims 3, Spore, and Mass Effect 2. The idea behind the technology is that the actual games are stored on the company's servers and processed there, so that the user can play the game on a device that might not ordinarily be able to run it.
The WSJ report doesn't mention what you would have to pay to stream PS3 games. Maybe it will be included as part of PlayStation Plus membership? Plus, the optional premium subscription for PSN users, currently gives members access to a selection of full games. If the Instant Game Collection used streaming, it would save gamers the trouble of having to download the titles to their console's hard drive.
It's not clear whether the PS4 is capable of playing PS3 discs. I wouldn't expect so, considering the limited backwards-compatibility of the PS3 console. Only select models of the PS3 were able to play PS2 discs. This meant that PS3 players generally had to wait for those older titles to be re-released through PlayStation Network.
Cloud computing might be intended as a substitute for backwards-compatibility. It's not a perfect replacement, as cloud computing requires a strong Internet connection and sometimes results in noticeable lag. However, the upside is that gamers would be able to play a number of PS3 titles on their new console right away.
The streaming technology of the PS4/Orbis is expected to be unveiled, along with the console, on February 20th.