Just as the mobile market has seemingly conditioned us to buy slightly upgraded phones and tablets every two years or so, it would seem that the video game console market is going the same way. Kotaku has a compelling report about a supposed "PS4.5" upgraded version of the PlayStation 4 in the works over at Sony. The new half-step console would bring some added horsepower to the popular console required for 4K gaming and more detailed virtual reality experiences. Patrick Klepek reports:
Based on conversations with developers who have spoken with Sony, this ‘PS4.5’ will include an upgraded GPU both to support high-end 4K resolution for games and add more processing power that can enhance the games supported by PlayStation VR, the headset Sony will launch this fall. It’s unclear if ‘PS4.5’ is an official name or just a nickname that developers have been using. One developer jokingly called it the ‘PS4K’ while telling me about the device.
First let's get the negativity out of the way. While I'd love to get involved with all of this new technology, I don't have plans to buy a 4K television or a PlayStation VR any time soon. This stuff is expensive! I don't like the idea of the next big PS4 game I want to play requiring a PS4.5 just because some people will be able to use VR and 4K screens with it. Like Philip Fry said in the classic "I, Roommate" episode of Futurama when confronted with the idea of renting an apartment based on the famed M.C. Escher print "Relativity", "I'm not sure we wanna pay for a dimension we're not gonna use." I'm also against my PS4 heading for semi-retirement so soon. I'm still dragging my feet on replacing my Nintendo 3DS with a New Nintendo 3DS and I've had my original 3DS for five years now.
On the other hand, technology transitions do take time and nothing happens overnight. Sony is only just releasing its PlayStation VR later this year and how large an actual audience there is for VR is yet to be seen. Rather than take a wait-and-see approach to upgraded hardware, the company is being proactive and exploring its options now so that if VR takes off, it can get upgraded hardware to stores sooner rather than later. Sony would be foolish to wait for sales data before starting to explore the idea of a PS4.5 if its projections indicate an upcoming healthy market.
Technology companies explore new options all the time, and considering how open Sony's PS4 team was with third-party developers about designing the original console, it would make sense that they'd bring the development community in on plans for an upgraded console. The PS4.5 could be a year or more away from store shelves depending on how quickly Sony wants to lock it down and start production. It's possible that increased adoption of 4K and VR by that time means that an upgraded console makes sense (assuming we're not headed for another 3DTV situation — remember when 3D gaming for PS3 was supposed to be the next big thing, glasses and all?).
This is all just speculation from the outside looking in and I'd love to hear thoughts and reactions from all of you out there. Anecdotally, I knew plenty of people who bought their first HDTV back in 2006 in anticipation of getting a PS3. Who's to say history wouldn't repeat with 4K televisions and VR if there were highly anticipated games coming that would essentially demand an upgrade? Perhaps Sony is just following the old adage, "If you build it, they will come."
Unless, of course, what we really have here is a Sega 32X situation. Then nobody's coming.