Sony may not have plans to announce or release PlayStation 5 anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean they won’t want to some time in the future. Console manufacturers tend to release new platforms, with upgraded hardware every “generation” – ranging anywhere from four to ten years – so that consumers have the option of upgrading to new systems that provide modern quality of life improvements and features, whether that be higher-definition visuals and frame-rates or support for new medium and apps (4K UHD discs or Netflix, etc). It’s only when people start to see the quality of games plateauing and severely lagging to PC gaming that manufacturers begin to formulate plans to move into the next generation.
The video game industry is currently in the eighth console generation, which began five years ago and accounts for systems such as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Wii U, as well as several handheld consoles and microconsoles – a new field that consists of platforms such as the Ouya, Nvidia Shield, and Steam Machines. Since technology increases at rapid paces and the mass adoption of 4K screens has progressed at a much faster rate than the mass adoption of Full HD screens, console manufacturers – namely Sony and Microsoft – have been forced to release updated versions of their current generation systems, while maintaining a certain level of parity with their already released consoles, thereby not kickstarting a new cycle and leaving the majority of their player bases behind.
Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro released last year, offering consumers an upgraded version of the PlayStation 4 that enables upscaling and the playing of games and streaming at 4K resolution with improved performance. The Pro’s release has raised some concerns that this could be the final traditional console generation and that systems would go the way of smartphones, releasing new, updated versions every few years, instead of another full-blown generation. Speaking with Golem.de (translated by VG24/7), Sony Interactive Entertainment President and CEO Shawn Layden believes those notions are unfounded.
“With the PlayStation 4 Pro, we have for the first time implemented this kind of innovation within the life cycle of a console. The Pro is really only to offer advantages such as 4K resolutions and HMD for players who can and want to use that. Add to this a more stable image rate and larger hard disk space. But [PS4 owners have] no real disadvantages. Each of our games will continue to run on the classic PS4 and possibly slightly better on the Pro.”
In addition to consumers having the option of purchasing Sony’s PS4 Pro, Microsoft is also releasing a similarly-constructed console later this year, the Xbox One X. Aside from their notable differences (the Xbox One X is more powerful and expensive, designed for premium gamers), both consoles are merely meant to provide better experiences for current generation games, and both companies have emphasized that these new systems are not meant to be taken as new generation consoles.
Thanks to the mass adoption of 1080p/Full HD screens, console manufacturers were forced to release new platforms to support the demand for better-looking games in the mid-2000s. It was during that new cycle – the seventh console generation – that companies began to release minor upgraded versions of their consoles within the same cycle, typically releasing slimmer versions of the same platform (e.g. PS3 Slim and Xbox 360 Slim) which are built in a more cost effective way.
Sony and Microsoft’s new consoles – the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X – are designed to offer higher quality versions of the same games, specifically for the types of console players who want the best experience possible; similarly, it’s why some users choose to build top-tier PCs compared to the vast majority who build mid-range PCs, which are capable of running most games, but not playing them on ultra settings. Although these new systems may extend the current generation, that doesn’t mean there won’t ever be another PlayStation system. Obviously.
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