Sony's plans for its PlayStation 3 successor were once to build a download-only console devoid of an optical drive, according to "people familiar with the matter," as reported
by the Wall Street Journal. That is no longer the case, however, as Sony's internal machinations decided that internet connections the world over are too inconsistent to sufficiently support a console incompatible with traditional physical media. Relying entirely on some future version of the PlayStation Network for distribution could potentially cripple the console in countries with less developed networking infrastructure.
It's also possible that Sony has learned a valuable lesson from its first foray into download-only gaming, the monumentally unsuccessful PSP Go
. The Go's inability to play previously purchased UMD games, coupled with the fact that new releases hit the device weeks after they hit retail and that the system itself was more expensive than the comparatively more functional PSP-3000 spelled doom for the handheld.
The next PlayStation, in whatever form it ends up taking, is supposedly set to launch in 2013 with components built by AMD, according to the Wall Street Journal's sources. We've reached out to Sony for comment.