How people managed to get their hands on the next PlayStation before it’s even announced

If you go to a GameStop, Best Buy, or your local Walmart, this is the PlayStation 4 you’ll find there for sale:

PlayStation 4
This is the PlayStation 4 that Sony announced and released in 2016: a pretty black rhombus. Sony

That’s the only PlayStation 4 that exists. Or at least that’s what we thought until last week, when a slimmer, round-edged PlayStation 4 started popping up in online gaming forums. This is the so-called PlayStation 4 Slim:

PlayStation 4 Slim Neo (leak)

Make no mistake: This is the real deal.

Sony hasn’t officially announced it, nor has the company even responded to request for comment. But it’s very much real, and expected to get an official debut on September 7 — Sony’s holding a “PlayStation Meeting” press event (which Business Insider is attending).

So, how do we know it’s real?

A few days after this one popped up from a Twitter user named “shortmaneighty2,” Eurogamer went to his house and filmed it in operation. The European gaming publication sent Richard Leadbetter, the site’s longtime hardware guru. Here’s an image from that video:

PlayStation 4 Slim
The PS4 Slim is in the media center, under the TV, in operation. Eurogamer

We can’t embed the video for a bizarre reason: it was taken down by Eurogamer the same day that it went up. “Upon taking legal advice, we have removed the video previously referenced in this article,” an update reads.

Publications tend not to un-publish content. It’s a moral and ethical red line in journalism — even if something is factually incorrect, it should be updated to reflect the facts and the changes (so the logic goes).

When Gizmodo paid for a lost iPhone 4 prototype and started publishing stories about it, late Apple CEO Steve Jobs notoriously called then Editor-in-Chief Brian Lam to ask for it back. Jobs allegedly made legal threats, and Lam said he’d go to jail over it if need be. 

When Rolling Stone got a major story about a college rape case wrong, the magazine did un-publish it — and replaced it with lengthy examinations of what it got wrong, how it went wrong, and what’s going to change as a result.

PlayStation 4 Slim (leak)
The PlayStation 4 Slim sitting on top of an original PlayStation 4 (in white). Twitter user ‘shortmaneighty2’

When reached for comment, Eurogamer publisher Oli Welsh said, “There’s no statement on the removal of the video beyond the update in the piece.” 

Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4 Slim continues to sell on UK classifieds site Gumtree. There have been multiple listings since the original one popped up.

PlayStation 4 Slim listing on Gumtree
Like this one right here, for instance. Gumtree

The pictures you see above are all of the same PlayStation 4 Slim, from a 33-year-old man in Manchester, England, who happened upon it. He asked not to be identified by name.

When we spoke over Twitter Direct Message, he told BI that he, “Needed a new PS4, as my original PS4’s HDMI broke [the plug from console to TV].” When he went looking on his local classifieds, he found a curious new console that looked an awful lot like a PS4, but not one that he’d ever seen before. “I had been saving for months for a Neo [the more powerful PS4 that’s also in the works], so I used the money for the Slim,” he said. 

PlayStation 4 Slim (leak)
The power and eject buttons are physical buttons on the PlayStation 4 Slim. Twitter user ‘shortmaneighty2’

He said he hasn’t been contacted by Sony, even though he’s been publishing images of the console in use on his Twitter account — though neither Sony nor Eurogamer would comment, it seems likely that a legal threat was made against the video Eurogamer published. 

But wait, things get even stranger.

PlayStation 4 Slim

Yet another PlayStation 4 Slim was purchased and subsequently unboxed on video by a UK freelance journalist named Laura Kate Dale. She even outright reviewed the console (and likes it!).

Her video is still up:

In her review, she starts with a fascinating disclaimer — it’s worth reading in full:

“Before we start this review, we must acknowledge the elephant in the room: the PlayStation 4 Slim has not yet been officially announced by Sony, nor is it meant to be on sale at this point. Our review unit originated from a retail store manager who sold the unit on eBay. The retail store manager claims that while they broke street date, they did not steal the stock. I believe the public interest angle of reporting on this piece of hardware should be protected under UK journalistic protections. It is in the public interest to know about a piece of upcoming technology that can be verified to exist, even if that confirmation did not come from the manufacturer itself.

I do not own the unit reviewed here, nor is it any longer in my possession.

Basically, please do not sue me Sony. I am just doing my job as a journalist. Issuing takedown notices when many other outlets have reported on the existence of the new model does nothing to hide its existence and only serves to harm the state of journalism within our industry.”

Thus far, the video hasn’t been taken down using YouTube’s standard DMCA takedown system, nor has Dale been contacted by Sony. “After 18 hours live, it’s fairly safe to say my PS4 Slim unboxing and review are not getting pulled by Sony,” she wrote on Twitter.

So, how is it that a major multinational hardware manufacturer like Sony accidentally loses several unannounced PlayStation 4 Slim consoles? And how do they end up in the hands of the public?

According to the sellers we spoke with in the UK (there are still several listings as of publishing), it’s a simple measure of sending out the console to retail stores ahead of launch. Every seller we spoke with described the same thing: Either they own a retail store or know someone who does, and that store got the PlayStation 4 Slim in ahead of an imminent launch. From there, it’s just a question of breaking what is called “street date” — when a product that’s been shipped to a store is allowed to go on sale. 

PlayStation 4 Slim
The same two USB ports are up front, spaced further apart than in the past. Eurogamer

Which is to say: It’s extremely likely that Sony is going to announce the PlayStation 4 Slim on September 7 and say, “It’s on sale right now!” 

Although, of course, the truth is that it’s on sale as of last week.

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