Last week Sony held a Playstation Meeting in New York to announce a new slimline model of the current Playstation 4 which will be the standard console moving forward and the Playstation 4 Pro, the long rumoured 4K capable and more powerful PS4. Rumour was rampant and some speculated we may finally get a Red Dead Redemption 2 announcement given the conference was taking place in New York, where developer Rockstar’s headquarters is located. Instead though we were given a lengthy explanation by Mark Cerny, lead architect of the PS4, of what 4K and High Dynamic Range (HDR) do for your PS4 Pro games and little else, even the first real gameplay of Mass Effect: Andromeda couldn’t save what could easily have been put in a press release rather than a conference that dragged.
The Playstation 4 Pro feels like an unnecessary iteration on the PS4 which has quickly become a very successful console. The new console is more powerful and will support streaming in 4K via apps such as Youtube and Netflix. PS4 Pro will also make your games look better than ever on a 4K screen and supports HDR but do we need this console right now and who is it for? Yes, 4K is becoming gradually more ubiquitous but the vast majority of people don’t own a 4K TV and haven’t even heard of HDR which is maybe why Sony went to such lengths to explain the feature in its conference. Rather than clear up the matter though, Sony announced that the current PS4 would be receiving a patch to support HDR and confused matters further by being non-committal about its impact on the games beyond graphics.
The takeaway from the conference was that the PS4 Pro was not a generational leap or even a half step, but instead a console that will make your games look prettier. The irony wasn’t lost on gamers that were streaming the conference worldwide that they were being shown 4K content via a 1080p stream which rather misses the main selling point of the console and that really is the main selling point. Sony mentioned nothing about improved load times or any gameplay improvements because of the new hardware and the £349.99 console doesn’t even come with a 4K UHD Blu-Ray player which its competitor Microsoft has included in its recent Xbox One S which is also at a cheaper price point. This in particular is rather surprising given that the Playstation 3 catapulted Blu-Ray into the new standard for many people. Even Playstation VR wasn’t spoken of much other than VR games will run better on PS4 Pro, but how exactly?
This raises the question of who the console is actually aimed at. The name ‘Pro’ would suggest pro gamers but do you have to be obsessed with graphics to be a ‘pro gamer’? In some ways it seems Sony has misread the typical recent furore around graphical fidelity as the majority opinion rather than the vocal minority and gone all in on the idea. What’s more is that Sony never explicitly said this would be something included in every new game on PS4 but rather suggested to the developer. This is a worrying sentiment because what is the motivation to develop a game for an entirely new console when it isn’t likely to be anywhere near as popular as the standard PS4. Even if you have no interest in the PS4 Pro, the console is going to have an impact. Take for example next year’s E3, are all the Playstation demos going to be running on PS4 Pro? What about current PS4 owners?
Playstation 4 Pro at best is an unnecessary iteration and at worst muddies the water for users of the Playstation ecosystem. Sony’s blunder here was that it started to move away from its successful messaging of games, games and more games. Yes, Horizon: Zero Dawn looks fantastic and Mass Effect: Andromeda will likely be a success but the problem seems to be that Sony thinks graphics are at the forefront of most gamers minds and that is simply not true. Ideally, a new console should spark some excitement or interest but the Playstation 4 Pro has done neither and instead has raised questions over its necessity.
What do you think of the PS4 Pro, are you excited by it? Let me know by commenting below this article!