Back in the day of MC Hammer pants, tie dye t-shirts, and overly bombastic (and extremely cheesy) T.V commercials; console gamers knew of one truth: You buy one gaming console by your company of choice to be able to play all the latest and greatest games for the next 7 or so years, until the next generation of consoles are released. These consoles would be fitted with the latest processing ding dongs and doo-hickeys that would allow developers to create high-end games, for years to come. You would be hard-pressed to find a machine that could compete with the performance power of these consoles, at a similar price point; even for years to come. But it’s 2016, and Moore’s Law has continued to prove the reality of the rapid growth in technology. When once consoles would “wow” the consumers with the technology they provided at launch, now have gotten a resonant “meh.” Both Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PS3 touted decent specs at launch, but fast forward merely 8 years and both those consoles seemed like Fisher Price toys when compared not only to PC’s, but even Nvidia’s incredible Tegra K1 processor, a mobile processing chip, which matched, if not beat, both those consoles in benchmark tests. And it’s been two years since the K1, and mobile processing capabilities have yet again taken massive strides in performance.
It’s been over 2 years since the PS4 and Xbox One’s release, and already it’s clear that the consoles are struggling to keep up with the rest of the industry, PC primarily. How many times have we seen developers give excuses on why their games are locked at 900p/30fps, rather than the now basic 1080p/60fps? Sure they may say this, that, or the other; but the reality isn’t that they don’t have the means to achieve that feat, but rather that they are blocked by the hardware constraints of these consoles. So when Kotaku releases an article that suggests that Sony is working on an upgraded PS4, currently simply known as the PS4.5; my immediate reaction is, “Oh, of course, that makes sense.” Senior reporter Patrick Klepek of Kotaku reported the following:
Based on conversations with developers who have spoken with Sony, this ‘PS4.5’ will include an upgraded GPU both to support high-end 4K resolution for games and add more processing power that can enhance the games supported by PlayStation VR, the headset Sony will launch this fall. It’s unclear if ‘PS4.5’ is an official name or just a nickname that developers have been using. One developer jokingly called it the ‘PS4K’ while telling me about the device.”
Sony is not the only one who is looking into upgrading its current console. Phil Spencer of Xbox has recently been emphasizing the future of Microsoft’s console and that it too, much like what PC gamers are used to, be “upgradeable.” Whether that means the ability for gamers to actually physically tear open their console and add better parts, buying external dongles to simply connect and increase the machines power, or the console getting more power wirelessly via the cloud, is all up in the air and clearly is being talked about by the R&D team at Xbox.
Now many people seem to be upset by both Microsoft’s announcement and these looming rumors by Sony. Regarding an upgradeable Xbox One, Microsoft’s “Universal Windows Platform” and slashing exclusivity of XBONE titles to include them on PC; it seems that the platform is transforming to be much more like a PC, and so I can see why many would wonder, “What’s the point in having an Xbox One then?” I understand the disdain by fans to some extent. You buy a console not only to play games, but to play exclusive games. Games that you can show off to your friends and tell them why they should but this console and not the other. But take that away and there isn’t really an incentive to buy the console. Exclusive titles give a console its personality. So sure, that I understand. But why are people annoyed at them wanting to make the console upgradeable? We all see how fast technology is going and how quickly hardware becomes outdated. Heck we get new beastly smartphones every year, that are leaps ahead of their previous year iterations. 7 years is a MILLENIUM when it comes to technology. We all had a feeling that this console generation would be truncated because of this, but none of us knew that the hardware would become outdated this fast, and so it’s understandable that both companies want to extend the lifespan of their current consoles by finding ways to improve their performance. Now sure a lot of us buy a console for the ease of use – you simply buy a box, shove the plug behind your T.V, and bam, it works. Many of us, however, don’t enjoy the constant tinkering and headache of upgrading a gaming P.C, which is why we choose to buy consoles. But I’m more than sure that both Spencer and Yoshida know this quite well. Spencer even went out to say the following on a podcast:
Am I going to break open my console and start upgrading individual pieces of my console? That’s not our plan…There is something special about what happens with a console. You buy an appliance-like device; you plug it into your TV; it works when you plug it in. It’s not like I’m going to ship a screwdriver set with every console that comes out.”
So there you go. Most likely they’re going to find a simple solution to upgrade your console, whether that be via the cloud, or through an external attachment much like what Sega did with their Genisis (But hopefully A LOT better). And quite frankly, I much more prefer Microsoft’s route with the whole upgrading fiasco. Sony wants, supposedly, to release a whole new mid-cycle console. Sure past generations have had refined console releases, but they were more cosmetic – especially in their compact size – than adding power. It seems that if a new console were to release that had more power, and cost upwards of $300, it would receive tremendous backlash from current PS4 owners, which there are a lot of. There better be a trade-in, or discount option for current owners, or else believe me the internet will be up in arms. Maybe Sony will do something that allows all future games to work on both the PS4 and PS4.5, only difference being that with the 4.5 there would be an option to play the game at a higher resolution (not 4k, because let’s be real here, that ain’t happening, no matter what you say.)
Whatever the case, I do think that this is a good move by both companies. They realize that developers have the ability to pump out visually stunning games, but can’t do so because of the hardware. All I hope is that
- There is a simple way to “upgrade” the system that’s both cost effective and simple for anyone to do. Again, simply buying a new console is the easiest method, though I would much rather have it be something you connect, or better yet, receive more power via the cloud. (I have no idea what that means by the way, people keep saying it but I have absolutely no clue how a machine gets “more power via the cloud.”)
- Make sure you’re not screwing current owners over and have a way for us to easily transfer over to the new system or allow us to still be able to play all future games (no exclusive titles for the new system!)
What are your thoughts on Sony supposedly coming out with a “new” system? Will you pick it up? Do you think it will fail? Let us know in the comments below!