As successful as the current eighth console generation has been for Microsoft and Sony, apparently, they want a “do over,” with a PlayStation 4 Neo and Xbox 1.5 Scorpio. Considering that the original PlayStation 4 and Xbox One haven’t even been out for three years, and they are both selling well, it does seem a bit unusual. However, this generation’s bottom performer, Nintendo’s Wii U is getting a replacement in the NX. Perhaps the other two manufacturers are using the opportunity to jump to the next console generation, or just position themselves better for a longer, and possibly final, run.
Before I talk about Microsoft and Sony, it’s worth mentioning what a disaster Nintendo has become over the last three and half years. Somehow, the company has managed to squander their position at the top of both the home and handheld console markets. While the 3DS still outsells Sony’s PlayStation Vita, the mobile gaming market has exploded. Except for the Nintendo intellectual properties and physical controls, the 3DS gaming experience is vastly inferior to gaming on tablets and even phones. Speaking of tablets, the Wii U offered a lot of promise, but for some reason, possibly financial ones, the company did almost nothing to support it. Their first-party software offerings have been anemic at best, which created a downward spiral of poor sales and third-party abandonment. With the choice of abandoning hardware, like Sega, or giving it one last go, Nintendo has decided on the latter, possibly by combining the handheld and home console experience. Only time will tell.
This whole thing started with talk about Sony wanting to support the 4K video format or a resolution of 3840 by 2160. Considering that both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox one have trouble delivering games at 1080p, 4K was pretty much off of the table. What’s strange is that there really aren’t that many people with 4K televisions. Those that do have them don’t currently have a lot of 4K content available as it is, making the prospect of upgrading somewhat unappealing. For example, except for pay-per view, I can’t even get 1080p out of my DirectTV. Sure, there are 4K streaming options, though getting that kind of internet speed is difficult for most consumers too.
So, with only one out of every ten people owning 4K televisions, is this a red herring? It’s come out recently that the real reason Sony wanted to upgrade was to support PlayStation VR. This makes a little more sense, though the somewhat short history of VR makes that a serious gamble. That being said, I am personally somewhat of a technophile, and I am always up for better resolution, more features, etc. Of course, I realize that I’m not the mainstream consumer. I loved the Vita for everything that it was supposed to do, and actually bought two at launch. Unfortunately, Sony severely under-delivered, and I eventually sold both on eBay.
Microsoft’s position is a little easier to understand. Though they were poised to deliver the most robust feature set of this console generation, what they’re left with is an underpowered and distant second-place machine. With a quick reset, they are able to change that narrative by superpowering their new Xbox One, making it the most powerful console on the market. That’s a place where Microsoft feels more comfortable, as the world’s largest software maker (revenue) and one of the top three most valuable companies on earth. Considering their technology pedigree, the Xbox One’s inferior processing power is really inexcusable.
Unfortunately, a completely new console, at this point is untenable for most people. Only a two year turn around to make the current console owners’ investment obsolete? Nobody’s going to go for that, particularly if the new systems weren’t going to be backwards compatible. So, what will apparently happen is a half-step. Sony and Microsoft with both release new systems that are backwards-compatible, but capable of much more computing power than the current consoles.
To make all of this more appealing to consumers, they’re putting pressure on the developers. The prevailing rumor is that Sony is requiring developers to include a standard version, along with a PlayStation 4 Neo version, of each software release. While Hi-res versions of existing games aren’t THAT expensive to produce, it is still a significant development cost for an industry that is struggling to produce revenue. It remains to be seen whether or not Microsoft puts the same requirement on developers, or just allows them to develop for either system.
Either way, it essentially boils down to a whole new console generation, albeit with 100% backwards compatibility from Sony and Microsoft. It also means we better get our wallets ready. New consoles obviously mean more money, but the software industry might also use the opportunity to finally raise console game prices, which have remained pretty much the same for 25 years. Altogether that’s a PlayStation 4 Neo, PlayStation VR, Xbox 1.5 (Scorpio,) Nintendo NX, and a possible software price increase.
The opinions in this editorial are the author’s and do not represent OnlySP as an organization.
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