The latest model or iteration of Playstation 4 has been spoken about by everyone apart from Sony and at this point it looks like a certainty.
It’s fair to say that the reaction to the various rumours and leaks of recent weeks about the codenamed ‘Playstation Neo’ (or as it is referred to by the media, the Playstation 4.5/4K) have been mixed at best.
Some are open to the idea of greater graphical fidelity, smoother frame rates and the possibility of 4K gaming output but others feel a little cheated as they already bought a Playstation 4 recently or at launch and feel there should be a few more years left of Sony’s latest console.
Much is still unknown about the console, its price and how Sony is going to market the device but there are some conclusions that can be drawn from recent revelations.
Splitting the Market?
Sony’s Playstation 4 has been leading the way in terms of sales for a few years now and is outpacing its main competitor Xbox in the console space. The device has continued to sell at pace after launch and is breaking records with its sales success. It perhaps seems like odd timing to bring out a new version of the Playstation 4 when the current one is doing so well.
The biggest issue I thought of when hearing about the rumours is the discrepancy between consoles and splitting the Playstation user base. The leaked documents and information has put some of this to rest already. Apparently, there won’t be ‘Neo-only’ games or features that are exclusive to the new console.
The improved titles will still be on the same Playstation Network and current Playstation 4 users will still be able to play with Neo users online. Importantly, the games have to work on each console.
However, there are still issues to unpick here. If Neo games run at a smoother frame rate, does that not give Neo players an edge over those with the older hardware when it comes to playing multiplayer, however slight that advantage may be? Which will be the lead console moving forward?
It could be controversial if Sony now only uses Neo to showcase its game demos and trailers at places such as E3 when the majority of user’s games don’t look as good as what’s being marketed and advertised.
Sony isn’t doing anything overtly wrong by introducing an improved Playstation 4 but some gamers will take issue if Sony manoeuvres the Neo and original Playstation 4 into separate markets.
A Marketing Nightmare?
How on earth does Sony market this new console? Is it the new Playstation 4, similar to Nintendo’s New 3DS? Is it the Playstation 4 moving forward and will the older models be gradually sold off? Or is it something else entirely?
How Sony markets the ‘Neo’ will be really interesting to watch because this isn’t the Playstation 5 and it’s certainly not as simple as the usual ‘slim’ models that come out a few years after release because they usually have efficiency and cosmetic changes rather than upgraded hardware. Sony has to walk a fine line between not upsetting its large base of Playstation 4 owners while still explaining to the average gamer why this new console is worth buying.
If the rumours are true and the new console will release in October, then Sony’s marketing departments are certainly going to be busy this year with the release of Playstation VR also imminent.
Is this all for VR?
The various pieces of information that have come out about the ‘Neo’ have suggested that one of the reasons for this improved Playstation 4 is to benefit Playstation VR. VR headsets usually require a high-end PC to run them and Playstation VR is shipping with its own processing box to take some of the pressure off the Playstation 4. This might not be needed in the Neo because of its extra processing power which would also allow VR games to run better and presumably would allow for more complex VR titles.
If VR is a part of Sony’s plan then they are being very forward thinking and perhaps making a statement about how well Playstation VR is going to sell. The added horsepower will of course aid non-VR titles too but its a distinct possibility that the new console is designed with VR users in mind.
Bad for Developers?
Developers will surely welcome the idea of more powerful hardware to put their creative vision onto. Nevertheless, is this more trouble than it’s worth? In addition to third-party developers currently developing for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC, there’s now a secondary Playstation console to contend with and maybe even another platform with Nintendo’s next console. This costs studios time and money no matter which way they look at it. It could be possible that developers choose to focus on Neo first and then original Playstation 4 which could lead to a lack of polish or quality in the final product however the opposite is likely true.
The Playstation 4 ‘Neo’ has to start from the beginning in terms of an install base while millions of gamers already have the current hardware, so is there really an incentive to develop for the ‘Neo’? A neat idea that has been suggested in the leaked information is that developers will have the option to revisit older titles and add a ‘Neo’ patch, that will upgrade the graphical fidelity and frame rate.
I probably sound pretty negative about the new Playstation 4 or ‘Neo’ partly because we don’t know enough information yet and partly because I don’t understand who this console is for. Is it for VR users to improve their experience? If that’s the case how many VR units is Sony really expecting to sell? Is the device for those who care the most about frame rate and resolution and who own a 4K TV? Right now, that’s not very many people but Sony could be looking to the future.
While the idea of an upgraded console sounds nice it also takes away from the reasons consoles exist – ease of use and ubiquity. True, the console cycle could simply be shrinking from 5-7 years to 3-4 years but whatever the intended audience, Sony should come out sooner rather than later with a response.