Why Sony's PS4 'Neo' is a natural evolution of the console cycle -

PS4.5, or Neo, it says here, is real. According to a report over at Giant Bomb it's going to do all manner of things, most of them relating to both playing games with performance and graphics upgrades and making people who already bought the plain old PlayStation 4 downright furious.

Which is great, obviously: there's nothing better than people moaning about stuff. Oh, and the new features – including potential 4K video – sound good as well. But back to the moaning. To some people, the thought of a slightly more powerful machine is an affront to all the sensibilities they hold dear: consoles as monoliths, (mostly) unchanging hardware that stands strong against a world gone insane with technological change. A nice, safe space for both consumers and developers to play and work on, a fixed target to aim for. Sure, there were hardware revisions before, some of them significant – PS2 Slim's form factor and CPU/GPU integration – but nothing really changed.

That's over now, motherfuckers. This is the future, and the future is all about VR headsets and games coming out in twenty-five parts and Kickstarters for shit which will never get released because Disney or whoever have sent the Stasi round to taser everyone involved into copyright oblivion (they didn't do this – Tom). Besides, is the concept of upgraded hardware being introduced halfway through a cycle really so bad?

From a personal perspective, I'm going to say no. I got a PlayStation 4 around launch and have, from PES and Bloodborne alone, had more than enough playtime out of it to justify the investment. That it's a great-looking machine with a simple and elegant front end also means that it's the heart of my – and I can't believe I'm actually going to say this – media center. It's been a fantastic console so far, a minor miracle when you consider the absolute atrocity exhibition that was the PS3.

Crucially, if Giant Bomb's report is on the money, it's also not going to be truly rendered obsolete any time soon. Yes, the Neo/4K/4.5/whatever may be able to pump a few new more effects on screen, or run certain titles better. But it's not going to be a generational leap, and nor is it going to run Uncharted 4 at true 4K resolution. It appears to be an incremental upgrade with some nice bells and whistles – 4K video is a good one for people who have the TV to support it – but it's not going to make your Mega Drive look like a Master System, if you know what I mean.*

It seems, then, that the biggest issue with Neo isn't its prowess, but its precedent. As mentioned earlier, video game consoles have been seen to be motionless, frozen in time. The problem is, that's not even remotely true. Wanted to play upgraded versions of certain Mega Drive games, with HIGHER QUALITY SOUND and WANK FMV? Mega CD for you pal. Want Doom on your Sega machine? 32X it is. Upscaled 1080p on your Xbox 360? Buy a new one with an HDMI port, asshole. The ability to play all those lovely 2D Saturn fighting games at a rate above 'slideshow'? RAM Cart. You couldn't even fucking play most of Perfect Dark without ponying up for the 'Expansion Pak'. And that's just the hardware side of things: what if you lived in the arse end of nowhere? Or parts of America; loads of Australia? No internet for you, buddy boy, no expansions, no upgrades.

Granted, this may be the first time that a major player has actually made a console revision which has these improvements built in, rather than making them add-ons, a distinct unit... but then that's not true either. Nintendo has done it with its newer 3DS revision, and that thing has games which can only be played on it and not older machines, something which Giant Bomb's source claims won't be happening on PS4. Some of those walled off games are SNES titles. Right.

Games are changing, gamers are changing, the way we interact with our games is changing. Static console hardware won't be around forever, and the industry has been experimenting with upgrades of various sorts for decades. Microsoft's making a move into software which can be played across boundaries with UWP and cross-platform saves. Remote/cross play has been a thing on PlayStation Platform for years. Then there's streaming to PC, and all the other ways of playing your games. Is it annoying that you'll have to fork out more to see games at their best? Yes? Do you have to? No. If Sony can actually deliver on keeping Neo (or whatever) an incremental upgrade, then most of its audience probably won't even notice. The rest will have to make a decision, like they have done for years.

*You probably don't.

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