A new patent filed by Sony in the KIPRIS (Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service) has revealed that the company is developing a new storage device for the upcoming gaming machine. The storage device looks pretty similar to the memory cards used by Sony for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2, but it is not clear which system will be used for.
Unfortunately the patent revealed little information about these new memory cards. We have a few pictures and a note that reads "the cartridge for the electronic game." This tells us without a doubt that these devices are intended for a new game console, but leaves everything else for us to speculate about.
One possibility is that Sony is ready to finally produce a successor to its PlayStation Vita, which has been on the market since 2011, and is scheduled to be discontinued in 2019. Sony has not announced any plans for a successor at this time, so it's It's hard to say if the company will remain in the mobile gaming space or not. As mobile phones have become more and more powerful, the mobile gaming space has been highly competitive in recent years and it would be understandable if Sony opted to leave this section of the market.
Another strong possibility is that these storage devices will be used for a new home game console. The PlayStation 4 is five years old now, but it would not be surprising for Sony to have already started work on its successor. It would also make sense for Sony to want to move away from optical drives on its next gaming console. Optical discs have been used to distribute games since the mid-1990s, and the technology has not exactly aged well. Nowadays, many gamers are opting to buy their games in a digital format, which has significant and very real benefits.
Unlike optical discs, digital copies of games can not be destroyed and they do not clutter up your home. Digital copies of games also have a significant advantage in terms of performance, as they are stored either on hard drives or solid-state drives, both of which can load data in a hundred times faster than the fastest Blu-ray drive. This is important for gamers, as it will also accelerate the speed at which games load when they are played. Optical drives also can not accept new data, and they have a fairly limited storage capacity that is not enough to hold some of the newest AAA game titles. It's also worth noting that optical drives take up a fair bit of space on home game consoles.
However, buying games in a digital format has one serious disadvantage, however, as they can not be re-sold. Digital games may also take a long time to download, and obtaining games in a digital format may be problematic for people with limited Internet access. Transitioning [back] to game cartridges as a medium for distributing games could be a novel solution to replace optical disks. Flash memory chips, which are capable of storing large amounts of data, have become increasingly common in recent years. Most flash memory is also capable of transferring data at speeds several times higher than the fastest optical drive. Although no measurements were listed on the patent, memory cards are also fairly small as well, which would help to reduce the clutter.
Looking at the bottom of the memory chip, we can also see what looks like a proprietary connector. It's also worth noting that using flash-based media would also make it possible for game updates to be saved directly to the memory card, which could in turn reduce the load on the game console's primary storage device.
Until Sony releases more details, we can not say for sure what these memory cards will be used for, or if they will even come to fruition as a finished product. If Sony does not begin to use game cartridges to distribute games for its next gen gaming devices, however, it will be an interesting turn for the gaming market. Since the Nintendo 64, released in 1996, and although Nintendo uses game cartridges for its handheld gaming devices, Sony has always used only optical discs, which was a key factor in success of the first PlayStation. But as optical disks are becoming increasingly outdated, making a return to game cartridges may be in the best interest of us all.