Samuel Brace on the PS4 Pro…
In 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, enacting operation Barbarossa, a huge tactical error on its behalf that eventually led to their own downfall. It was one of the biggest self inflicted wounds in history. If they hadn’t felt the need to end the Soviet Union, the world could look very different today. In 2016, Sony announced the PS4 Pro. Am I comparing Sony’s potential blunder to that of Barbarossa? No, that would be stupid. But an unforced error by Sony, this is likely to be. Having held their PlayStation Meeting earlier this week, the company announced their new addition to the PlayStation family, not the next generation of console, but a new, slightly improved PlayStation 4 — emphasis on the world slightly.
PlayStation 4 has been a gigantic success; their lead over Xbox One (trending ahead of 360 itself) is quite remarkable. Going along like this, it would not be too early to say that Sony have won this console generation. They did everything right early on where Xbox certainly did not. PlayStation is no doubt the console of choice; homes around the world are replete with Sony’s gaming device. A year or two more of doing exactly what they are doing, delivering excellent games on an excellent console that people love, then releasing a slimmed down cheaper version (which they have also done), and then announcing the fifth chapter in the PlayStation saga, and there you have it, done and dusted, that’s all she wrote. Bizarrely however, Sony had a different path in mind. Things are apparently going too well for them.
Peculiarly, we are in a place now, where Sony, somehow, unfathomably, could be in danger of messing this whole thing up. When word originally hit of the then titled ‘Neo’, there were already a fair share of naysayers. It seemed like an idea that would confuse the market and offend existing Ps4 owners. But this was when we weren’t entirely sure of what the device was going to be. Back then, depending on how they sold it to us, it wasn’t implausible to think this could work for them. Well, now we know what we know, things have turned out even worse. Now we know that the Pro will just make SOME games look a little nicer if a developer DECIDES to take advantage of the new tech. Or IF you have a 4k TV, you MIGHT get a prettier looking game, which was presented to us often last Wednesday via games that we haven’t even seen yet in their regular poor man’s Ps4 versions. Oy vey.
The whole endeavour just seems kind of asinine. An excellent way of knowing this is all surplus to demands is by looking at how they presented the console. If you have to describe and explain in such fine detail what this thing does and why you need it, then it’s obvious that it’s unneeded. It’s like a bad joke. If you have to explain to someone why the joke is funny, then it probably isn’t. If you have to explain so laboriously why one would need the PlayStation 4 Pro, then one probably doesn’t. A lot of the rebuttal to such arguments comes from people who say “but I want prettier graphics, I want slightly enhanced pictures”. Well that’s fine and dandy but if you cared that much about graphical fidelity then you’d be playing your games on PC. And this is the problem, just who is then designed for? And why is it here at all? You were winning! No… you had won! Why do this? Why not wait? Why not save this incremental iPhone S like upgrade and release your next generation of console in a year or two? Was anyone really asking for this? It’s set point and you just sliced the ball into the net.
Listen, this could all work out, if anyone can make it work it’s Sony, but golly this seems unforced. Will we be looking back in five, ten years time and say “this is where things changed; this is where the tide was turned?” It’s possible. Xbox have their Scorpio on the horizon, which seems to be an actual tangible improvement from their current box and will, depending on how they market it, be easier to see as the next big step forward in gaming. The gap is probably too far between Ps4 and Xbox One for the latter to bridge it in time, no matter what happens next, but they could certainly steal the momentum, they could certainly swing public opinion on this thing. A scenario is likely where — despite what the actual numbers say — people at the back end of this cycle are looking at Xbox as the winners. Public perception is what matters here, and that could be the inch they need going into whatever happens next.
Xbox have learnt from the mistakes they made at launch. Sony, despite having arguably a better catalogue of games and IP, seem awfully eager to shoot themselves in the foot. The question is, why would they want to limp across the finish line, when they could have coasted across with Xbox nowhere in sight?