The current console generation has introduced numerous new trends into the industry. First, it took part in the greater shift between disk and digital gaming, with brick-and-mortar gaming shops like Gamestop being devastated by this trend as both the Xbox One and PS4’s storage limitations struggling to keep up with climbing file sizes. Next came the issue of hardware specs, which were put to the test almost immediately into the console generation, with some games struggling to hit steady framerates or suffering drastic freezing and stuttering issues. Finally, this generation also saw the introduction of mid-gen console upgrades that directly improved the hardware specs of the previous console (While Last generation’s Xbox Elite or PS3 Slim mostly aimed to fix system crashes, bump up memory space or make the console less cumbersome). The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X were striking upgrades to the processing power of either original console, but came at the cost of making the term “next-generation” lose some of its shock and awe, replaced by the “gradually improving” upgrades offered by the console’s upgrades.
Sony, however, has stood by its PS4 Pro as the final iteration of the Playstation series, at least for the near future. In an interview by The Wall Street Journal, Sony CEO John Kodera has confirmed that the PS4 Pro will remain the latest Playstation until 2021 at least. Kodera went on to elaborate on the company’s reasoning for this decision. He explained that the company would need to focus internally on their next move in the Playstation sphere, so that they could “jump higher in the future” for upcoming consoles.
But there’s a disagreement as to whether this announcement falls into the category of good news or bad news. Some fans have expressed relief over the announcement, hoping that game designers will learn to better utilize the hardware of the PS4 and Pro as well as being relieved that they won’t be pressured into shelling out a few hundred dollars more in order to experience the best of what Sony’s gaming engines have to offer. Others, however, are less pleased, whether due to the anticipation of yet another jump in graphical capabilities or hoping that the upgraded hardware would fix framerate drops in their favorite PS4 games.
This controversy is important because it marks a dramatic shift in the way the gaming console market works, a shift that Kodera openly acknowledges, stating that Sony must “depart from the traditional way of looking at the console life cycle.”
Many are speculating as to what the future of console gaming could look like, but as games begin to more and more aggressively push the limits of console hardware, the “traditional” release schedule of gaming consoles – releasing a single generation every 10 or so years – is clearly becoming outdated. Consoles may look to adopt a modular design similar to a gaming PC, where the base model comes with certain plug-in components that can easily and cheaply be removed and upgraded in the future as better hardware becomes available. This could help consoles keep up with the accelerating pace of gaming technology, but it would not come without its own set of issues: First, the modular pieces would need to be extremely user-friendly and easy to remove and replace, features which would likely add on to both their size and costs. Second, this more frequent cycle of upgrades may prove quite costly – especially for those who want to keep their consoles top-of-the-line – which diminishes the price point advantage a console has over a gaming PC. Finally, making a game run well on console would become just as hard as making a game run on PC, as developers would have to tirelessly test and optimize their games to maximize performance over as many different setups as possible. Whether Sony will adopt a modular design and choose to take on all of these issues or opt for a completely different idea entirely remains to be seen, but the next console generation, whenever it comes, will very likely be drastically different from those that came before.
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