The rumour that Sony has been working on an improved console, or a Playstation 4.5, has been going around since it was reported by Kotaku’s Patrick Klepek in March and it appears that some more details have emerged. According to Giantbomb, the new PS4.5 is codenamed NEO and that when it comes to hardware it will “feature a higher clock speed than the original PS4, an improved GPU, and higher bandwidth on the memory”.
More specifically they cite the hardware differences as:
The higher specs mean that developers will be able to create two kinds of Playstation 4 game; games that run just fine on the standard PS4 and games that make use of the extra power offered by the NEO system “to offer increased and more stable frame rate and higher visual fidelity, at least when those games run at 1080p on HDTVs.”
Fortunately, according to Giantbomb, Sony has no plans allow these kinds of games to exist seperately. Instead from October 2016 all PS4 games released will have a “base mode” for the original console and a “NEO Mode” for the new system. Sony have no intention of releasing games or content exclusively for the NEO system. Rather, the report says that from October 2016, every single PS4 game that’s released must have a “base mode”, which would work on older consoles, and a “NEO Mode” for the new machines with Giantbomb saying in an attempt to keep the user bases of the two systems as connected as possible, Sony “will not let developers separate NEO users from original PS4 players while playing on PSN.” Giantbomb also say that developers who created and released their games prior to the release of the NEO will still be able to take advantage of the hardware through creating patches.
Overall, I’m tending to see the development of the PS4.5 as a positive necessity than anything negative. Perhaps it’s a sign that the console market is evolving again; where once users expected to get up to six years before their console’s power was outdated, they’ll now get three years. Or perhaps, something that seems more likely to me, rather than signalling a permanent shift, the PS4.5 is simply a development that’s appeared as a result of the need to accommodate the greater system demands of Playstation VR (codenamed Morpheus).
The thematic naming of NEO and Morpheus, the focus on stabilising frame rate, and the October start-date for “base” and “NEO” versions of games seems to suggest it is a development prompted by VR rather than a plan to change the life cycle of consoles. In fact, if anything it extends the life of the current generation; with this update it’s going to be a while before we have to start mourning and cloaking our Playstation 4 games in black because the Playstation 5 is coming.
A really good thing about this development is that Sony aren’t dividing the market. In fact, it seems like they’re trying their damnedest to avoid it. By ensuring that developers don’t create games only for the NEO system they avoid any horrendous intra-console war, because god knows we don’t need that happening. Players happy with the standard system, perhaps especially those completely unenticed by VR (yes, they exist in abundance) aren’t made to feel that they’re being left out; they can still play the latest games and even try VR without upgrading their hardware. For the consumer who always likes to be playing with the highest specs and wants their VR experience to be as smooth as possible this will be possible by purchasing the NEO system. Simple.
For Playstation 4 owners who have just recently purchased a console, particularly those who made their purchase in anticipation of the launch of VR this could be a bit of a slap in the face. It’d be nice to see Sony offer, at the very least, some kind of discount for players who wish to trade their original Playstation 4 for the upgraded system.
Image via Flickr © Playstation 4