It's all fun and games - until someone loses an empire

Three new consoles, Death Star demands and another evil empire

PS4

February is a great time for gamers: it's when firms gear up for the annual GDC games developers' conference, and it's when those firms' plans start to leak like a great big leaky boat.

First up: the PS4!

We've known about the PlayStation 4 for ages, of course, but this week we finally got some concrete details: Sony's going to spill the PS4 beans on the 20th of February, and it won't be cheap. Never mind the hardware, though: is Sony going to try and kill off the second-hand market?

As James Rivington reports, "Current industry wisdom suggests that future PS4 games might be tied to your Sony Entertainment Network account and will thus then have no resale value." Valve's Steam has a similar approach, but that "doesn't mean we're happy about it."

Xbox and PS4
It's time for a new Xbox and PS4 - and details are leaking

We're not happy about Microsoft's plans either. As has been discovered, it looks like "you won't be able to play second-hand games on the forthcoming Xbox 720": it'll need an always-on internet connection, "meaning every single game will be verified as you fire it up."

Don't you just love it when anti-piracy moves make life worse for law-abiding customers and help push high street retailers a little closer to bankruptcy? Perhaps the next time we go into Game, someone from Microsoft or Sony will punch us in the face.

If they do, we'll say: Ouya!

By happy concidence, Ouya just happens to be the name of a brand new and potentially very exciting console. The company is now taking pre-orders for the innovative Android console, and promises that all games will be free to play. That doesn't mean they'll be free, but it does mean that you'll at least get a demo. The hardware is open, hackable and can potentially run anything Android-y.

Ouya hit the headlines thanks to a very successful Kickstarter campaign, where it promised to build the device if enough people backed it. Could the same thing work for Darth Vader? Apparently so: the Kickstarter campaign to build a Death Star raised more than £50,000 in its first day. Unfortunately that's still a bit short of the final goal which, as we report, is £54,300,000,000,000,000. It looks like the Evil Empire has a long way to go.

Ouya
Is Ouya the next big thing in consoles?

Microsoft keeps Dell on side

Did someone say evil empire? They can't have meant Microsoft, because Microsoft is all nice and just gave Dell two billion quid. The reason? To help founder Michael Dell take the company private and point it in a new direction.

Is that all? Gary Marshall wonders, because Dell wants to get out of the consumer PC market - a market Microsoft would very much like Dell to stay in. "The prospect of Dell dumping its consumer products or worse, staying in the business but embracing other OSes, is something Steve Ballmer doesn't want to see," he argues. "And if that means handing out a few billion? For Microsoft, that's small change."

You'll need more than small change if you fancy Microsoft's latest product, the Surface Pro: the full-fat Windows 8 laptoptabletthingy Surface Pro launches this week with a starting price of $900. That's for the 64GB; the 128GB is $1,000, and you'll need to buy the snazzy keyboard or touch cover separately. Is it any good? We sent Windows wizard Mary Branscombe to find out, and she says it's quite nifty. It even comes with a free pen.

Office 2013 doesn't come with a free pen, but it does have lots of new things for you - and as ever, Mary Branscombe has the low-down. The new subscription model makes it cheaper to buy (although you can't skip a year), and every app has something new and great in it.

The only real downside? Windows XP users will have to look elsewhere, and if you don't like the Metro design language you'll have to use it with your eyes closed.