The past couple of weeks have been filled with speculation and rumors over what may potentially be Sony’s stopgap console, the PlayStation 4.5 if you will. Both Kotaku and Eurogamer report sources confirming that the console does in fact exist, though there were some slight differences in the two reports.
The Kotaku report states that the PS4.5 will have increased graphical power to support high-end 4K resolution for games, and add more processing power that can enhance the games for PSVR. Eurogamer’s report states, however, that while the PlayStation 4.5 would have increased graphical power, it would be nowhere near enough to “provide native 4K gaming at the same quality level as current 1080p titles.” Instead, the PlayStation 4K as it’s named in the Eurogamer report, would be “capable of playing current and next-generation ultra HD media, while also offering support for other aspects of the 4K spec, such as high-dynamic range and a wider colour gamut – aspects of the 4K spec that could be introduced to gaming.” In one of its ‘options’ for what the PS4.5 could be though, they do state that technological advances could allow a new microprocessor the same size the the PS4’s current chip, but twice as powerful. Essentially, both reports state high-end components to increase graphical fidelity, and some form of 4K capability.
Though details remain unclear, a notable chunk of PlayStation players are justifiably concerned over the possibility of an updated, mid-gen console. Yes, many PlayStation fans would welcome a new, more powerful PS4 to the world, but some still worry what the move would bring to the future of console gaming.
One of the main selling points for consoles is that you buy one and for a number of years, you’re relatively futureproof. Yes, your console may not be able to make the latest games look quite as pretty as PCs, but for the most part, consumers buy a game and it works at a set level. By releasing something like a PlayStation 4.5, which enhances the graphical fidelity of games and improves general performance, Sony could start a trend of tiered, multi-powered consoles that, depending on their success, could show up a lot more in the future.
With the exception of the New Nintendo 3DS, minor console upgrades have never been prevalent in the market. Those wanting a variable gaming platform that allowed for a number of different entry points and specifications opt for the far more diverse PC market. It’s understandable that console manufacturers want to keep up with the rapid advances in technology within a shorter time-frame than previous console life cycles have allowed, but its a valid concern to wonder whether the console market will lose value if it loses the simplicity and convenience it has historically offered consumers.
Simplicity and convenience can be tackled however, if the console’s similarities, and its differences to its predecessor, are clearly defined from the beginning. If Sony was to release the PlayStation 4.5, the company would have to be exceptionally careful in their marketing. One need only remember the Wii U to know that unclear promotion during an atypical, mid-gen console release can definitely confuse consumers and affect sales. With two PlayStations on the shelf, both with the same lineup of games but one with a couple exclusive features, it would be necessary for Sony to get its messaging right.
So for argument’s sake, let’s say that Sony completely nails the messaging for the PlayStation 4.5 and everyone is well informed of their differences. The problem then is that this improved tech is almost definitely going to come in at a higher price point. While those with enough cash or brand loyalty to PlayStation would be willing to go and drop another $400 on a PlayStation 4.5, there are many more (judging by the comments section of Eurogamer’s post), who would not.