We’re just three years into this console generation, but new iterations of the current hardware are looming on the horizon. The PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio both boast some hefty improvements, including upgraded processing power, 4K display capabilities, and more hard drive space. Anyone that plays video games has a lot to be excited about with these new consoles, but realistically what appeal will they hold for the average consumer?
The Entertainment Software Association puts out a yearly report with statistics on player demographics. According to their data released in 2015, the average gamer is roughly 35 years old with a with a split between 56% male and 44% female. Nearly 42% of Americans play games for at least three hours a week, and the ESA says the most frequent game players spend up to 6.5 hours a week playing with other people.
For anyone not spending copious amounts of hours playing video games – let’s say, upwards of ten hours a week – purchasing a new system may just not be worth it. Especially when older models will have dropped in price alongside the Pro’s release. When the PS4 Pro comes out this November, it will cost $399, while the new Slim model of the PS4 will be dropping down to $299. Both systems are going to play the same exact games, although the Pro will be able to display them with much higher resolutions and graphics quality.
The level of improvement offered versus the upfront price may well be something unimportant to the average consumer, someone who’s pleased with their console’s performance and uninspired by the higher end focus of 4K output. For first time console buyers this holiday, the existing PS4 and PS4 slim will feature a huge library of games, with the Pro offering no exclusive titles. Shoppers on a budget choosing the respectable Slim will find themselves an extra $100 to spend on games.
Sony may also face an uphill battle when it come to technological education. Their entire PlayStation Meeting was dedicated to explaining the features and improvements of High Dynamic Range and 4K, but not everyone is in the loop on what these terms mean, still. We saw how a lack of communication hurt the Wii U, with some consumers not even knowing that it was a brand new system with exclusive games. This level of confusion won’t be that drastic for Sony, but they’ll still need to make it abundantly clear what their new system can do, and why you want one over the existing hardware.
There’s another vital aspect in all of this to take into account as well, and that’s the fact that most consumers just probably won’t be able to experience the full benefits of the Pro. One of the big selling points is its 4K and HDR display capabilities, something that could really move console gaming forward graphically. The catch, though, is that you also need a device capable of displaying these.
4K TVs aren’t yet widespread, the cheaper models starting around $600-700. The dominant display in most households right now is 1080p, and that’s something that isn’t going to change quickly.
Buying a new version of a console is one thing, but buying a brand new TV to go along with it is a new beast entirely. Games look really good right now, visually, and the price point may just be too much for the average consumer to get them to look that much better.
Ultimately, it seems like the upgraded consoles will really only hold appeal for people who are deeply invested in the gaming industry. But consumers that don’t play a ton of games, or don’t use game consoles on a frequent basis? The price of entry is just too much, and could either push them away or push them toward the cheaper options that are readily available.