Checkpoint: Console Hardware Revision Edition

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.

 

Your E3 Wishes Granted

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“It’s a hearts and minds game.”

It’s a phrase that I heard uttered after Sony’s E3 2013 press conference and suspect after this year’s E3 conferences from all publishers, we’re going to hear more and more of it.

It began with Bethesda’s late Sunday evening presentation where they showed off lengthy demos of Doom and Fallout 4; Pete Hines kept the pace brisk but slowed it down when it mattered. Todd Howard was brought on stage to speak to those who were forgoing Game of Thrones and other Sunday night programming to watch a streaming presentation. They knew who they were talking to. He dropped F-bombs when appropriate and tried his best to pitch Fallout: Shelter as a mobile game for those who scoff at F2P trappings.

It was an impressive showing for a publisher who never put on a show before. But was that a one off? Of course not.

Monday began with Microsoft and the announcement of Xbox One backwards compatibility. They followed up with Xbox One Elite controller targeted at the hardcore audience with its swappable components. They would mention its exorbitant price tag away from the cameras but the message was clear: “We’re catering to you, the gamer.”

Electronic Arts gave us more Mirror’s Edge and intentionally reminded us that we’re not going to see Faith pick up a firearm in this game. They tried their best to make their sports and other properties appealing but they knew why we’re here and why we would stick around after Pele and the Hoop God made their appearances. It was no coincidence that Star Wars: Battlefront was played on a PlayStation 4. A PC would have brought skepticism about the console version’s quality. They made sure that we saw those PlayStation prompts.

Ubisoft made us laugh and continued the trend of “one more thing” with the reveal of Ghost Recon: Wildlands at the end. Alicia Tyler continued to win fans over with her enthusiasm and energy. Her debut on Ubisoft’s stage may have been awkward at first but I felt she won everyone over. The annual Ubisoft message isn’t always palpable but she livens it up considerably.

And then there was Sony who transformed themselves into the genie of E3 by granting three wishes. Final Fantasy VII Remake, Shenmue III and The Last Guardian all made appearances on their stage. Not all three were exclusive to them but it was damn obvious that they wanted the PlayStation 4 attached to all of these. There was no lengthy TV show pitch and while it would have been nice to see VR on the big stage, I felt it could have been another Move situation if they demonstrated it on-stage; fine for those who already bought in but a tough sell to those who’re peering from the outside.

Nintendo’s digital event was marred by the fact that it didn’t have much to say this year. Nintendo reminded us that NX is a 2016 thing and we should be content with the likes of another 3D FPS Metroid game on the Nintendo 3DS. They pushed more Amiibos and celebrated Mario but it was evident that Nintendo’s 2015 was considerably weaker.

Square  Enix showed the people what they clamored for with Kingdom Hearts 3 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided footage, they flexed their quality mobile offerings by leveraging a known quantity like Hitman Go and they promised Rise of Tomb Raider would have tombs. They even brought in PlatinumGames to work on a new Nier title while promising JRPG fans that they are committed to JRPGs with the creation of the Tokyo RPG Factory studio.

Square Enix served as a nice summation of everyone else’s E3 presentation. They focused on what worked and showed their audience that they’re understanding what their fans want — or at the very least — starting to listen. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get that Final Fantasy XII HD Remake that I wanted or Half Life 3.

Nearly Everyone Did Well

I have some marks to give out to the E3 press conferences. I’m rating pace, content and the delivery of said content.

  • Bethesda: A-
  • Microsoft: A
  • Electronic Arts: C+
  • Ubisoft: B-
  • Sony: A
  • Nintendo: D+
  • Square Enix: B+

Some personal notables:

  • ReCore and Horizon: Zero Dawn were the two new intellectual properties that immediately grabbed me.
  • A new Nier? Yes, please. The first one was unique but flawed. I’m glad Square Enix are bringing in action experts to help
  • Star Wars: Battlefront surprised me with how well it performed on consoles and if I’m not mistaken, DICE are targeting 60FPS.
  • I hope Tomb Raider Go lives up to Hitman Go’s lofty heights.

Next-Generation F.A.Q

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question-blockI thought it would be a good idea to answer some of the hot topic questions people have been raising after the PlayStation 4 reveal. Many of these questions aren’t new and I’ve shared my opinions on some of them already but it would be a good idea to consolidate it all in one post.

 

1. How much would you pay for a PlayStation 4 and the next Xbox?

$499.99 CAD. I’ve paid over $599.99 CAD for a PlayStation 3 because I saw value with the backward compatibility but that was then. I don’t regret it per se but I don’t want to pay that much for a console again.

2. What is your stance on backwards compatibility?

Nice to have but not essential. I wouldn’t mind having the a premium version of a console with the old hardware chips included but if it means we can have more complex next generation systems at a lower cost, I am willing to give it up.

3. Would you pay $69.99 for next generation games?

No I wouldn’t but I also wouldn’t switch platforms or stop gaming because of that price point. All it means is that I will be further behind the curve while I wait for the price to drop to a number I’m willing to pay.Canadians already paid that price early in the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 days so that price point isn’t completely foreign to us.

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Some PlayStation “4” Rumors Are Ruffling Feathers

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Kotaku posted some rumors on the next PlayStation. Some were nice-to-knows like the codename, but others are causing a bit of a backlash.

Here’s the breakdown for easy consumption:

  • Codenamed ‘Orbis’
  • AMD CPU and GPU (Southern Islands aka Radeon HD 7000 series)
  • Will launch in 2013
  • No backwards compatibility with PlayStation 3 games
  • Anti-used games DRM

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