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Sony prepares to unveil two new PlayStation 4 models

SONY Playstation PS4
Chesnot | Getty Images

Even in an industry where leaks are commonplace, the relatively slight flow of information about Sony's PlayStation event, scheduled for Wednesday, has been remarkable.

The video game giant is expected to reveal details on a new pair of systems: "Neo," a high-end version of the console that the company confirmed it was working on in June, and a still-unannounced slimmed-down version of the existing PS4.

Both are notable for different reasons. Neo is the next iteration of the PlayStation brand, just as Microsoft's Scorpio is the next step for the Xbox. (As the gaming world has evolved, the definition of "next generation" systems is changing. Rather than hitting reset and launching entirely new consoles, both companies are offering systems that play all existing PS4 and Xbox One games, but greatly enhance the hardware power.)

The PS4 Slim was supposed to be a surprise, but word began slipping out weeks ago — followed by an unboxing video and even a review, despite Sony refusing to officially acknowledge the console's existence.

If anything, though, the buzz factor surrounding those leaks could increase demand for the new form factor. Sony has held a commanding lead over Xbox in this console generation. And a slim-lined PS4 could counter hardware momentum Microsoft was building with the Xbox One S, the smaller version of the company's current flagship system, that began shipping last month.

But, ultimately, Neo is likely to be the bigger story.

The high-end system, which will sell alongside the PS4 Slim (and the existing model, assuming that's not phased out by the Slim), will carry a higher price tag and is designed to appeal to hard-core gamers. It will have greater support for 4K TVs — allowing for greatly enhanced graphics. And the more powerful internal components are expected to make experiences in the upcoming PlayStation VR smoother. (The PS4 Slim is also expected to be compatible with PlayStation VR, it's worth noting.)

Those core gamers will be interested in learning more about the system's specs. Microsoft's high-end system due to release in holiday 2017, code-named Project Scorpio, unveiled a laundry list of impressive processing power in June, including eight CPU cores and six teraflops of GPU power.

"We believe it will be the most powerful console ever built," said Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's Xbox division, during the introduction.

Just as critical will be price and release date. Neo is expected to carry a premium of at least $100 over existing PS4 consoles, though it could be more. And while it might make sense to offer a high-end system head to head against Microsoft, the upcoming October release of PlayStation VR could accelerate Neo's launch. (Analyst Ben Schachter of Macquarie Securities says he expects Neo to go on sale later this year.)

Those questions will likely be answered with some finality Wednesday. But Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment told CNBC.com in June that he felt it was critical that the PS4 user base (which numbers more than 40 million) not feel rushed to buy an upgraded model.

"People invest in a console and they want to have that investment validated over a decent period of time," he said. "That being said, with iterations like Neo we are, to some degree as an industry, acknowledging the pace of iteration has shifted. … People have become attuned to a slightly different cadence of innovation. The critical thing is to give the consumer options, rather than dictate the future for them."