Checkpoint: Console Hardware Revision Edition
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Checkpoint: Console Hardware Revision Edition

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Sony are working on a PlayStation 4.5 according to Scoops. It will be a more powerful PlayStation 4 equipped with an upgraded GPU to handle 4K gaming.

Do I believe the rumors? Yes. I do not doubt Patrick Klepek’s reporting. But there’s a lot to unpack with this idea of a more powerful “mid-cycle” revision.

Improved GPU

How much of an improvement are we looking at with this hardware revision? 4K gaming is such an ambiguous term because very simple games can be rendered with the current PlayStation 4’s GPU. Are Sony aiming to render games like The Order 1886 in 4K? Or perhaps they’re simply including a hardware scaler that will upscale 1080p to 4K?

The PlayStation VR would be able to take advantage of more GPU power but what would that mean for PlayStation 4 owners who will be purchasing the VR headset this fall? Surely Sony don’t intend to divide a niche segment of their audience even further.

Gradual Obsolesce

I have no problems with introducing a more powerful hardware after 3 – 4 years. The PlayStation 4 is approaching its 3rd birthday later this year, and the Netbook class CPU and 2013 mid-range GPU will be exposed even further as newer and cheaper PC parts make their debut.

The worry for many people is that current PlayStation 4 owners will be left behind if developers target the new hardware. But will that make sense from a developer or publisher perspective? Are the most successful iOS developers only targeting the latest and greatest hardware? Of course not and that’s what I believe will happen if the console manufacturers turn to a more iterative pace with hardware.

I see the API maintaining backwards compatibility like iOS but eventually developers and Sony will choose not to support older revisions. I can see Sony maintaining support for two revisions at a time.

  1. PlayStation 4 (2013)
  2. PlayStation 4 (2017)
  3. PlayStation 4 (2021)
  4. PlayStation 4 (2025)

1 & 2 will be supported, then 2 & 3, then 3 & 4 and so on.

How would developers take advantage of new hardware? If the PlayStation 4 (2013) runs games at medium equivalent PC settings, I can see the PlayStation 4 (2017) running games on high equivalent settings. It’ll involve more testing and resources on the developers perspective but they have the option to make better looking games.

Why would developers do this though? Why would they invest resources on something extraneous? They don’t have to. If they wanted to target PlayStation 4 (2013) and optimize for that, they will have the widest possible audience available to them. But that will be the case for games launching near the second PlayStation 4 revision. Sony will stop selling PlayStation 4 (2013) and eventually PlayStation 4 (2017) will grow to a sizeable share and may even become the dominant segment of the market share. At that point, developers may want to push boundaries and move onto supporting the newer revision.

$399.99 Forever?

I have no problems buying a new hardware revision every 4 years for $399.99 USD. You don’t need to buy the new revision on day one, in fact I can see PlayStation 4 (2017) receive a price drop in 2019 like the PlayStation 4 did in 2015. But this will allow Sony to keep a higher priced game console forever. They can offer the older revisions for $299.99 but they need to make it clear that it may have a shorter life span ahead.

Interesting Times Ahead

This may end up being nothing more than a thought experiment by the hardware manufacturers but even if it amounts to nothing, I am glad they are considering this possible route. It’s been an interesting idea to dissect.

The Division. Fire Emblem. The Division. Fire Emblem. Repeat. I’m almost done with the latter and making progress with the former. I’ve been doing the side missions as they appear and not burning through the main content so as not to create an imbalance of boring content in the end.

 

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