According to multiple reports, Sony will ship a more powerful version of its flagship PlayStation 4 video game console this year. It looks like this new PS4 version—let’s call it the PS4K—will be optimized for 4K and virtual reality (VR) gaming.
This development—which I believe is unprecedented—is quite interesting on a number of levels.
First, Sony’s PS4 is already outselling its nearest competition, by a factor of up to 2-to-1, with an estimated 36 million units sold.
Second, Microsoft has been talking about doing something like this as well—more on that below—but has been attacked by gamers for even considering this.
And while the PS4 is already more powerful than the Xbox One, such a move would widen the gap, while possibly introducing fragmentation within the PlayStation ecosystem. I think of this as Sony adopting the “tick-tock” methodology Intel used to use, but for console releases. Things are changing, that’s for sure.
The firm will release a new PlayStation 4 model/version in time for the holiday selling season. This PS4K will have “increased graphical power” and will support 4K gaming. Current PS4 owners will not be able to upgrade to the new capabilities, short of buying a new console, but PS4 games will continue to work on both console versions, with the PS4K providing better graphics.
I’m curious now if this new console will be a requirement of PlayStation VR, but that’s not clear. And I suppose Sony will continue selling the existing PS4, perhaps at a lower price. (With the PS4K commanding a more premium price.)
I think this will work, though I hear the complaints. Think of it this way: Sony could dictate that game developers who target 4K for the new console must also support 1080p on the normal PS4. So no one is every immediately obsoleted. And for developers, it’s not that onerous: They’re already used to targeting different resolutions on mobile platforms and across consoles.
As for Microsoft, if this is true it should clear the way for what Phil Spencer hinted at—and was abused for—earlier this month.
“We will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen,” he said at the time. “You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible.”
This has to be the same plan, but for Xbox One. It has to be. It’s a good plan, and it can—will—work. Now I can’t wait to hear how Microsoft addresses this change, since this new half step in this console generation gives the software giant a chance to catch up—dare I say, even surpass—Sony as well. And that would be amazing.
Either way, I like this a lot.