The Dangers of the PlayStation 4 Neo
The PlayStation 4 is about to get a more powerful successor according to some sources. Giant Bomb obtained insider information considering an incrementally improved PlayStation 4 with improved GPU, CPU and RAM codenamed the Neo. This is complimented by internal reports saying that starting October of this year, every single project to be released on the PS4 are required to run not only at a “base mode” but also a “Neo mode” which will most likely entail the usual advantages of better hardware such as smoother frame-rates and greater overall stability. It is also speculated that this hardware upgrade is to help improve the overall experience of PlayStation VR. No information has been given regarding its pricing or its release date but, in a recent interview with The Financial Times, Sony Interactive’s President Andrew House confirmed the Neo as being in development but added it will not be showcased at E3.
It’s a gutsy move by Sony to effectively sell a slightly more powerful version of the best selling console this generation, but this attitude if left unchecked will lead to problems.
First of all, the presence of the Neo denigrates the strengths that have carried the PS4. From the outset, the PlayStation 4’s hardware was built from the ground up to be as accessible as possible to develop for, not just major AAA productions but smaller independent projects as well. It’s a key reason why so many indie games that have seen success on Steam and GOG have gotten a PlayStation 4 port, to say nothing of the success story that happened with the simultaneous PC and PS4 release of Rocket League. In the case of the Neo, if Sony wants to properly support both the original and the improved console, developers will have to submit two different versions of the same game, so expect development time to go up as well as development budget. It leads to a raised bar to entry for anyone wanting to publish on Sony’s platform, and for all the benefits some extra processing power will allow and the company’s stance on supporting both versions of the PlayStation 4, it is antithetical to how they have maintained such a position in the market thus far.
Furthermore, there is the matter of PlayStation VR. While regular games will continue to be supported, the divide in the market will be the greatest depending on how much Sony’s take on VR gaming takes off. VR games are immensely hardware extensive and getting a computer that can handle them isn’t cheap, so despite the modest power of the current PS4, it will most likely struggle or have to be technically compromised in order for the experience to work. That will be less of a case with the Neo, however, as its improved hardware will allow for easier development of the project and an overall better performance. It’s a far cry from Nintendo’s introduction of its poorly named New Nintendo 3DS which only has a small number of exclusive titles to its name so as not to alienate anyone who only have the original model. This is an entire experimental area of gaming effectively walled off to anyone who bought the PS4 at launch, which is at least a few million, by the way, that will want to buy a new console and the stuff needed for PlayStation VR.
Finally, there’s the elephant in the room: no one is going to buy the same machine twice. The PS4 Neo is not the beginning of a new console generation, it’s a hardware upgrade that is completely alien in the console market that hasn’t worked out before. Most people who have a PS4 already get exactly what they want out of the machine and there’s only so much a hardware improvement can do to entice someone to double dip on what is already a steep monetary investment.
This is to say nothing of the can of worms that comes with hard drive compatibility between the two consoles. This isn’t just a matter of convenience but also preservation, lest we forget the unceremonious removal of the pivotal P.T. from the digital storefront.
Details are still coming in and Sony still haven’t revealed pricing or hardware problems and I truly hope I am proven wrong on these fronts. But as a concept, the PlayStation 4 NEO is walking on eggshells with what it is proposing for console gaming going forward and these are dangers that are well worth considering before you get your wallets out.