Sony is coming out with a “PlayStation 4K” later this year for $400, and its as hilarious as it’s moniker is misleading. Its a slightly more powerful version of the Playstation 4 hardware, with the ability to “output at 4K resolution”. However, the hardware is not powerful enough to actually run games at 4K natively. Even high end PCs with thousands of dollars in graphics cards have issues doing this. Its simply not possible that this hardware is going to be able to do it at $400 and at that form factor. What the console is really doing is upscaling to 4k from whatever native resolution the games will actually be running at (likely still around 1080p).
Supposedly there are already games in development that will be specifically advantage of the increased PlayStation 4.5 hardware. This, in my opinion, completely negates one of the biggest reasons why people go with a console rather then a PC. Lots of people go the console route because PCs are “more expensive”, and that you “have to upgrade all the time”. Historically, console hardware have been pretty static within a generation, with only trivial updates to the hardware over their lifetimes (smaller form factors, more power efficient). With Microsoft talking about doing a similar refresh to the Xbox One, this seems like its no longer going to be the case. So I have to ask, why buy a console now if the plan going forward is to refresh the hardware every three years or so? I get way better life out of my PC hardware, and PCs can actually run games at 4K natively if that’s a selling point for you.
“Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer said. “When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform.”
Sony is essentially splitting its player base for very little gain. What’s really the point? Developers are either going to take good advantage of the extra hardware power and require players to upgrade to play new games, or they are going to use it in trivial ways to keep the games compatible with the old console. I suspect the majority of it is going to be the latter, which makes value of the hardware refresh rather dubious. And if that is true then the PlayStation 4.5 is basically just there to upscale your content, which is something 4K TVs already do a pretty decent job of.
Head over to Digital Foundry for some more technical information. Either way, I think this is now officially the most disappointing console generation ever.