PlayStation 4 vs PlayStation Orbis – the naming of Sony’s next-gen console

When the PlayStation Event kicks off on February 20, 2013, one of the first things I expect to hear or see is the new name of Sony’s next-generation console, which at this point seems extremely likely that it will either be PlayStation 4, or PlayStation Orbis. But what do you think will be Sony’s final decision?

What does Orbis even mean?

Orbis isn’t even a word that makes sense unless you delve into its history, and even then there’s confusion about what it actually means and how you can relate those meanings to a games console. Some websites say that in Latin, Orbis means “around the world," while others say it means “circle, orb, ring, disk or orbit.” Yet another site refers to Orbis as a part of the eye called Orbit – “the cavity or socket of the skull in which the eye and its appendages are situated." It’s a word that lacks the clarity and power of Vita, which has a familiarity to it and suits Sony’s latest handheld.


Type Orbis into Google Search and at the top of the pile you’ll see a range of companies using the Orbis name who offer anything from plastic pallets to saving the eyesight of people in developing companies. It’s not a glamorous name at all and it’s not a familiar one that the PlayStation masses will warm to and feel they want to embrace. You only have to look at our PS4 survey conducted last year to see that 86 percent of PlayStation gamers would prefer the consistent message that the PlayStation 4 name would bring.

Orbis could revitalise the PlayStation brand

On the other hand, you could argue that this is exactly the road Sony should go down. It should revitalise its brand and align it with PlayStation Vita by breaking tradition and giving it a brand new name. Indeed, if you put Orbis and Vita together you could say it means “circle of life” which does relate to the future PlayStation brand and its connectivity with everything around it. This could be the perfect time for Sony to break away from tradition and inject its new console with a brand new name and meaning.

Furthermore, the number 4 is the subject of much superstition in Japan so Sony wouldn’t be taking a bit gamble in that territory if it were to go with the PlayStation 4 name. As Staff Editor, Ernest Lin wrote in our PlayStation Meeting prediction article:

“The superstition comes from the sound for the number "four" being a homophone to the word for "death" in many Asian languages, which trace their origins to Chinese. In Japanese, the verb "to die" is "shinu" (死ぬ) with the Chinese kanji character in the word (死) spoken as "shi" and meaning "death." The word for four is also pronounced as "shi." As someone who is Asian, I feel it is a big enough superstition for Sony to avoid the PlayStation 4 name. They don’t want the PlayStation to die!”


Number 4 not present in Japanese lift

It’s difficult to know how big the superstition is unless you’ve been surrounded by it. Ernest should know, and he believes that Sony would be unwise to use the number 4 in its branding. This could either mean we’ll see two different names for Sony’s next-generation console – one in Asia and one across the rest of the world – or we could see Sony take a gamble and name it PlayStation 4 anyway in all territories. After all, despite the superstition, there have been plenty of games released in Japan featuring the number 4 that have done extremely well – Persona 4, for example.

In the Western world certainly, for continuity, brand lineage and clarity in the marketplace, it has to be called PlayStation 4. With numerous console releases there have been internal codenames used for development kits but none of them have seen the light of day, and I don’t suspect that Orbis will either; though, for comedy value, I’d quite like to see a T.V. advert for PlayStation Orbis with the “Circle of Life” from The Lion King playing in the background.

Well, speculation may soon be over later this week as we approach the possible unveiling of Sony’s next-gen console. Join in the debate and let us know what you think prior to the event, which will be streamed live on PSU.