For the past few months, rumours surrounding incremental console updates designed to replace the PS4 and Xbox One mid-generation cycle, have been gaining traction. Speculation about an updated Playstation 4 have been the most prevalent; it being the focal point in a frankly ridiculous number of leaks. These leaks appear to detail everything from the power of the new machine, to how it would deal with base PS4 models. These leaks make it clear that such reports are far more than just abject rumour-mongering; such a console most likely exists, and it appears to be coming soon.

This speaks to a growing sentiment held by some that consoles would be better severed following the PC model, especially as parity between the two grows. A five or even ten-year-old console will struggle to meet the demands that modern game software requires, and in turn holds up the progress of the medium.

These leaks make it clear that such reports are far more than just abject rumour-mongering; such a console most likely exists

However, responses to these rumours have been largely negative, with many lamenting what they consider to be an ill-considered move, and it’s not hard to see where they’re coming from. Imagine yourself as one of the people who first bought a PS4 back in 2013: it’s thanks to your support and hard earned cash that Sony have managed to climb to the top of the console space during this generation with record breaking sales. Three years later, Sony are telling you that the machine that you purchased is now inferior, and that if you want to continue having access the high-end gaming that you’ve been used to, you’re going to have to shell out another large sum of money.

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Sully seems practically horrified by the notion of an incremental console. Image Credit: SCEE

While Sony may attempt to assuage this panic by assuring gamers that titles must be able to run on both the incremental and base consoles, it is likely that after some time, the base versions will begin to suffer. This is unlikely to be a malicious move by developers, but rather a by-product of stretched resources as they’re forced to optimise for an increasing number of platforms. While the Neo will most likely run at a crisp 1080p at 60 FPS, owners of the base console will inevitably receive a product with sub-par graphics and stuttering frame-rates at some point.

This only further highlights the wider ramifications of such a move. It doesn’t just seem like a slight against gamers, but also developers as well. Having two versions of the same console out there with completely different specs is most definitely not going to make things easier for developers. They will have gone from already having to cater for differences between the Xbox and PlayStation, to now having to cater to possibly a further two machines. Even now, AAA develops and publishers struggle to optimise their games across all consoles; one can only image how difficult such a move will make optimisation for smaller, indie companies with more finite resources. Ultimately, this may force some to abandon the console space together and stick solely to the PC market: a move that harms developers, consoles manufactures, and gamers in one fell swoop.

Snake sheds a tear for his launch day PS4. Image credit: Konami

The move only seems more baffling when taking into consideration the timing. These rumours come at a time when the PlayStation is approaching 40 million sales worldwide, an astonishingly huge figure which, at its current pace, puts it in a position to become the fastest selling console of all time. Sony, quite simply, don’t need to do this. It makes far more sense to simply wait a few years and announce the Playstation 5, a move that most consumers would be content with. It would allow them to upgrade the performance of their console without creating the impression that they’re attempting to shaft consumers in the process.

But thanks to these rumours, they’re likely to now damage the sales of the PS4. If they are true, then there’s no reason for buyers to purchase PS4 at this time: they can either wait and purchase the incremental update, or purchase an original PS4 at a reduced price in several months’ time. Such a move could stop Sony’s momentum dead and, at a time like this, makes little rational sense. This stance is particularly worrying for Sony, considering it seems indicative of a return to a less consumer-aware approach, something which permeated the life-cycle of the PS3. It seemed as though Sony had learnt from these mistakes this time, with a more consumer-friendly stance and reasonably priced console, but the update could wipe away all of this goodwill.

It makes far more sense to simply wait a few years and announce the PlayStation 5

Perhaps such a move is a masterstroke on Sony’s part, a carefully crafted and market researched strategy that we as consumers simply can’t yet comprehend. But in reality, the move is most likely a misstep on the part of a company that has made many in the past. We can only wait and see what the ultimate reaction to the console will be, but one thing’s for sure: it’ll be controversial.

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