With the rumour mill going wild, it seems almost certain that we will be getting a PS4.5 (or PSNeo, as it’s rumoured to be referred to internally at Sony). This new ps4 will see an upgrade in specs but will run all the same software as the PS4 launch model. So why is Sony doing this and is it the right thing to do? Both valid questions with no definitive concrete answers.
Many arguments online compare console gaming and PC gaming. PC gaming is known for using more diverse hardware and as such, it’s true that you can run a game on PC at both high and low specs. With console gaming however, hardware has remained consistent and primarily only iterated upon in cycles with periods lasting as much as 7 years before new hardware replaces the old. This has historically always been the case but with analysts predicting the fall of console gaming for the last ten years – odd considering at this moment in time the industry is still thriving – is it now the time to shake up the tried and tested model?
Console hardware improvements of course are not a new thing, some companies have relied on expansions to boost performance of machines in their twilight years in the past, aiming to squeeze the most out of them via expansion packs such as the Megardive 32x or Nintendo 64 Expansion PAK. In recent times companies have more regularly started to do mid-cycle refreshes of their current generation with slim versions and new branding – presumably in an attempt to refresh consumer awareness in the market.
With the PS4.5 (or whatever it will be called) there is a potential to really fragment the market – in a similar albeit larger scale than previous console expansions have. Leaked information states that Sony has no intention of doing this and both systems will play nice, using the same online features, games and peripherals. However, the fragmentation occurs when the choice gets muddled. I can already hear the long winded conversations between Game shop workers and parents : ‘I want to buy a PS4’ ‘ok which one would you like?’ ‘I don’t know what’s the difference’….and so on. Inevitably this plays into the hands of Sony and their sellers as it does provide a greater opportunity for up-selling. Not to mention some people always have to buy the newest version of something and with Sony fans at an all time high perhaps this is a smart move from Sony to increase revenue.
Sony needs to be careful not to mess up their momentum. A straight slim model would be fine, consumers now know how to deal with that, it is a given that things now get a refresh over the course of a consoles lifespan. Having two systems that run the same games but do slightly different things is a little concerning. The day may come when we see slapped on the box of a brand new AAA game the words ‘Exclusive to Sony Neo’ and this would be a problem. Could this be a sign that the console industry may move away from the traditional 7 or so year cycle to a model more akin to mobile phones with incremental updates? I really hope this isn’t the case.
This generation is yet to fully kick in, there’s still so much potential to work with in the hardware that we have – it’s concerning then that Sony is freaking out about having outdated hardware. Lest we forget seminal games like the Last of Us only arose toward the end of the PS3’s lifecycle with developers really pushing it to the max, especially when you compare games released in the twilight years to those in its launch where there’s a huge jump in quality. Surely the smart thing to do is wait it out, push for a new console generation sooner and provide user a new experience on new hardware without convoluting their understanding. Shuhei Yoshida President of Sony Studios has recently been quoted by IGN as not being sure if there will be a PS5 (something I highly doubt). We are only 3 years into this gen but you would assume that work on PS5 R&D has been started at least?
I do agree that the console model is a little outdated, but it works and people are still hungry for it. Optical media still won’t die and the internet is yet to be strong enough to deliver the full streaming experience to everyone. So what does the console future look like? Even with all my moaning, are we heading for a milestone in console gaming? After all, Rumours state that Microsoft is also planning an update for XboxOne. Gaming is a Luxury, and the PS4.5 would be an even greater luxury. I for one don’t look at my PS4 and think the graphics suck, I still think there is plenty of wiggle room left to innovate and utilise the current system to it’s maximum potential.
People may be going nuts for no reason, it could all still be rumour, but one thing is for sure, it is an interesting time for console gaming.
Jake Buchanan / @HDD_Heart