A few weeks ago a rumor began circling the gaming industry that both Microsoft and Sony had been exploring a kind of half-step if you will in terms of a new console. Before we get into how a mid cycle console release would cannibalize the market, especially with the release of VR just around the corner, let’s look at what we know.
Patrick Klepek’s article over at Kotaku was the first I read, there may have been others earlier but Kotaku is my go to source and I trust Patrick’s journalism over almost anyone else in the industry. The sources used here seem to be developers that Sony revealed their plans to in order to receive feedback on the machine and see the perception of their proposed 4K machine. The rumored upgrades are the previously mentioned 4K resolution as well as an upgraded GPU to help support PlayStation VR games in the future. When pressed for answers a Sony representative gave the classic response they’ve been giving press for years “We can’t comment on rumors or speculation.” Perhaps there is more to be learned from head of Xbox, Phil Spencer who stated “I’m not a big fan of an Xbox One and a half.” seemingly being of a mind that a half step is just that, half an upgrade. “If we’re going to go forward with anything, like I said, I want it to be a really substantial change for people-an upgrade.” (Techradar)
It’s interesting that what confirms this Sony rumor more than anything else is a quote from Microsoft, irony at it’s best. Reading between the lines I completely believe the PS4.5 or PS4K (whichever you prefer) is real. Whether or not it will come to fruition or not is yet to be seen, public reception has been mixed, for a few reasons. As of January 5 2016 Sony has sold 35.9 million PS4’s globally. That means in just over two years on the market PS4 has become the eighth best selling home console of all time (not including handheld consoles). So you’re telling me there’s a room of brilliant businessmen looking at those sales figures and what they came up with is a new system? You know what console gamers love? Multiple skus! No, that’s why we’re console gamers and not on PC. Simplicity. Sony has customers, not unlike myself, who can in no way afford to purchase a new console. These are the customers, by the way, that supported Sony and PlayStation 4 during the early stages of it’s release and made it the success it is today. I can’t help but feel slighted that those who have waited will be able to get there hands on a superior version of hardware. And we aren’t taking about a PS3 Slim kind of upgrade here, I understand why changes and improvements are made to systems, to generate sales. But if the rumors are true regarding resolution and GPU upgrades specifically then this is a vast improvement over the current system and almost a brand new box entirely. Which brings me to another dilemma. If both consoles are on the market side by side that means games will be released on both, or does it? We all remember Batman: Arkham Knight and what a huge embarrassment that was on PC. How that game ever got released is beyond me, you’re better than that WB. But this isn’t something new, PC ports get shit on all the time. Now take this harsh truth and apply it to having two separate PlayStation machines with different capabilities. This would end up with dumb downed versions of games for the current version, which would most likely lead to a slow painful death of the current sku. Or an upgraded console that never really takes advantage of it’s power. With Microsoft seemingly uninterested, developers may come to the conclusion that their larger audience is on the current systems and the PS4K may become an afterthought and be ignored in terms of optimization for the platform. There is a trump card though, and that is PlayStation VR.
PlayStation VR will be launching this fall and has already met criticism from some for not being as powerful as it’s counterparts Oculus and Vive. I, along with many other supporters argue that benefits of price of entry and ease of use greatly outweigh this. However, those at Sony may not agree and have come up with a solution, release a more powerful console alongside the system labeling it as the best place to play. This would put a strain on the price of entry argument in favor of PS VR as purchasing a console along side the system would raise the price tag to around $1000. Of course Sony won’t tell the consumer you absolutely must purchase the new console to run VR but as a new consumer technology do you really want a weaker, lite version right out of the gate?
All VR talk is complete speculation as we know very little but it’s an idea I first heard explained by Colin Moriarty of Kinda Funny and it wouldn’t shock me one bit if it came to be true. Another possibility I’ve heard is to try and steal the thunder from Nintendo at E3 who is almost definitely going to be showing off the NX. A major misstep on Sony’s part if it were to be true, though I don’t believe it to be. Nintendo’s fan base has shrunk to almost nothing due to weak home consoles with down right pathetic third party support, no need to worry. I would love to see Nintendo return to glory as the company I once knew and loved as a young boy but if the controller I’ve seen thrown around the internet is true I have zero faith in their direction. But alas, a story for another time.
I really do hope PS4.5 rumors die as quickly as they appeared and this turns out to be nothing. But I fear for the worst. If you’re optimistic about the new system I’d love to hear your opinion as personally I see little to no benefit. Unless you’re sitting on a ton of cash that you can purchase whatever the hell you want whenever you feel like, then I don’t need to hear from you because you’re exactly who Sony’s betting on, which disappoints me. Listening to the fans who supported you through the downright awful years of PS3 and delivering on the PS4 is the reason it is so successful now. Please don’t fuck this up Sony.