With rumors of an upgraded PS4 continuing to rumble in the background, one writer looks at how the release of such a console could be disappointing for PlayStation users.
Recently, speculation has begun to surface that suggests Sony is planning to work on an upgraded PS4. Dubbed the PS4.5 or the PS4K, the updated version of the top-selling console will allegedly include an upgraded graphics processing unit to assist with the support of 4K resolutions in the future. Apparently, the release of the PlayStation VR is also a reason for the company's desire to boost the power of the console.
Sony is not the only company that has been subject to these rumors, either. As early as last year, it was also suggested that Microsoft had plans in place for the future of the Xbox One. At the moment, neither Microsoft nor Sony has confirmed any of these rumors, but with such speculation circulating with regularity, it's no surprise to see the gaming community get suspicious that such plans will fall into place.
There are plenty of positives that both companies could find in releasing upgraded versions of their consoles, of course. Additional processing power will no doubt help with virtual reality functionality, and a number of industry heads have placed a lot of faith in the new technology. Meanwhile, with 4K resolution set to become the standard in the years to come, it's perhaps no surprise to see the likes of Sony and Microsoft heading in that direction.
However, some fans may feel a little disappointed if it is confirmed that upgraded consoles will arrive in this generation. In particular, fans may grow concerned about exactly how much content will still be provided to users of the previous models. After all, if an upgraded processing unit is on the cards, then it may result in older models being unable to run certain games, particularly within the virtual reality sphere.
I myself am a relatively recent adopter of the PS4. Picking up the console last year as a way to allow my PC to have a bit of a breather, and having drained the last few drops of life out of my Wii U, it's certainly been an impressive addition to my device roster. However, having purchased the console so recently, it would be disappointing to then see its functionality reduced through the release of a newer model.
After all, there's every possibility that an upgraded PS4 or Xbox One could offer up a massive change to the dynamics of the system. In particular, with virtual reality a focus of a number of major publishers, gamers with an older model of a current gen console may be left out in the cold should its lower processing power mean that developers simply decide it's not worth the effort or not feasible with a certain build of a game. With PlayStation VR selling out immediately at European Amazon stores, there's every chance that the incoming technology makes a big dent in the industry as a whole.
It would not be the first time that a developer decided to pull back on development for devices within the same console generation. Acclaimed racing title Project CARS was due to receive a Wii U release on the back of its successful crowdfunding campaign, but developer Slightly Mad found it difficult to get its build of the title running on Nintendo's console. The end result was the game's Wii U release being pulled, much to the disappointment of fans.
It's not only developers that have made a two-tier system within the same generation, either. Nintendo themselves have seen certain 3DS titles split between older and newer models of the console. The first example is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, which can only be played on the new 3DS, while the handheld is also only capable of SNES emulation in its updated format. The upgraded console was released in 2015 in North America, after the original 3DS had been on the market for four years.
It may seem a little naive, but gamers purchase a console expecting a certain length of life cycle for the platform. The Xbox 360 is still seeing games released, a full eleven years after the console originally broke onto the market. Meanwhile, the hugely popular PS2 was in production for an incredible thirteen years. Regardless of which year a user's console was originally from, they would still be able to pick up a game from the end of its cycle and play it.
Within that time frame, both Microsoft and Sony released different builds of the consoles, with the Xbox 360 receiving the 360 S build in 2010, and the PS2 getting a slim version during its run in production. Sony continued this trend with the PS3, releasing a slimline model in 2009. However, the library of new games available to users was never questioned, although different models of the PS3 had different modes of backward compatibility.
Should the plans for a virtual reality build of the PS4 go ahead, then the general life cycle of the console will be brought into question, with two tiers of consoles potentially available. Hopefully, there will still be parity with regards to future releases, but eventually Sony will have to make a tough decision. After all, the older models will struggle to handle some of the most straining new games to reach the market, since they would lack the sheer processing power required to run them.
With both the Xbox One and PS4, it also seems that both consoles are only just beginning. There is untapped potential in both of the platforms, much like any other console generation. However, this generation in question offers up something that previous consoles have lacked, in that the games themselves are not necessarily the only function of the console.
Instead, different applications and online functionality are huge factors in the success of both the PS4 and Xbox One. Both have tried to position themselves are more than simply a console, instead offering up a varied home entertainment package. Should an upgraded PS4 or Xbox One offer up easier service for non-gaming apps, or even make it easier for potential cross-platform play to be implemented, then who's to say whether future content will even be feasible on the older versions of the consoles?
Hopefully, should the rumors of an upgraded PS4 prove to be true, then Sony will remain true to earlier adopters of the console, and keep at least the vast majority of future libraries and functions available to both newer and older users. However, with gaming now such a fast-paced industry, companies will do all they can to keep ahead of the curve, attempting to deliver as fresh and new a technological experience as possible. Should Sony decide that a two-tier user base is required, then it's bound to be disappointing for those who play an older version of the console - particularly those who came to the system late.