The business of dedicated video game consoles has entered a state of flux, as a confluence of industry-wide changes seem poised to change the state of the medium in ways few would have forseen: Nintendo is poised to launch another potentially game-changing device, Microsoft is letting Xbox make friends with other company's platforms for online play and Virtual Reality -- promised as "the next big thing" since the early-1990s -- might finally be ready for prime-time.
Now, a new set of rumors have begun circulating, as reports suggest Sony may already be launching an upgrade to the Playstation 4 -- not even three full years into the console's life.
At issue is the jump in availability (and consumer popularity) of 4K resolution displays. While the PS4's graphical capabilities remain fairly powerful for a current generation device, it wasn't built to output in 4K and its Blu-ray player doesn't support 4K-optimized discs. While the market for physical media has been impacted by the growing ubiquity of streaming platforms, the market for high-end physical media like 4k Blu-rays and 3D media has been strengthened in recent years -- something Sony (which also manufactures 4K televisions and controls the patent for Blu-ray technology) is more directly familiar with than perhaps any other console manufacturer.
But the driving concern behind a 4K Playstation 4 (tentatively nicknamed "Playstation 4.5") may be less about any of those avenues and more about the growing power of streaming services. News that Sony was considering a major upgrade to the PS4 hardware was first broken not in relation to the gaming industry but through the streaming giant Netflix, which was telling it's investors and business publications that 4K streaming would be bolstered by "promised" upgrades to the Playstation brand by Sony back in the fall of 2015.
Sony has not had much to say on the matter publically, but reports that an official announcement is expected to drop in advance of the (already announced) launch of the Playstation VR platform could be telling: VR technology and 4k have become inextricably bound in each other's narrative, with the promise of high-end resolution gaming and a the immersive capabilities of VR being seen by many as complimentary avenues of advancement. Playstation VR is expected to launch in October, with a $400 US price tag and a promise of a hefty library of support by year's end.
If true, the move is likely to be embraced by big-spending high-end consumers who've become integral to the success of increasingly expensive consoles. But it could also serve to further drive a wedge between wealthier consumers who can afford the expensive technology upgrades (and add-ons) and mainstream audiences who have increasingly abandoned such consoles for mobile and streaming game platforms. The reports currently touting the Playstation 4.5's imminence have not yet offered any indication of a launch window or a price point for the still-hypothetical console. If the upgrade does come to pass, Sony is expected to continue selling the original models, which currently retail for around $350 US.
Screen Rant will have more details for you with regard to the PlayStation 4 as they are made available.