When the PS4 launched in 2013, it sold like hotcakes, due in large part to the extensive life-span of the PS3. It had been 8 years, and fans were clamoring for a new device on which to play a brand new generation of games. Much ado was made of the fact that the PS4 was developed using "off-the-shelf" components and ran on x86-64 architecture, which made it much easier to develop games for the system, compared to the PS3 and its esoteric Cell processor, which befuddled many developers for years after that console's initial release.
As time went by, however, both the PS4 and its rival, the Xbox One, were hit by the realization that their improvements over their predecessors, while vast and numerous, were not quite as revolutionary as many gamers were expecting. Despite their massive and unprecedented success, Sony and Microsoft both started development on new and improved versions of their current consoles. First rumored as the PS4.5, and then given the codename Neo, Sony has earmarked an event on September 7th which will unveil the tightly-guarded console to the public. Here are 15 Things We Want From The PS4 Neo.
15 Official Name
When it was first rumored, the new Playstation 4 was dubbed the PS4.5 or the PS4K by the press. It was succinct and got the point across that it was a bridge between the PS4 and whatever the future may hold. Eventually, the new PS4 became known by its internal Sony codename, "Playstation Neo." Interestingly, Playstation VR was initially developed under the codename, "Project Morpheus." Neo and Morpheus are main characters in the science fiction trilogy, The Matrix, so we wonder if both projects were developed at the same time, to foster better communication and interactivity between the two devices -- or perhaps our world is merely an allusion...
If it were up to us, we'd look back at history and words associated with the Playstation brand. The PS2 and PS3 both had improved re-releases which were referred to as "Slim" editions of the consoles. Furthermore, Playstation Plus is a tremendously popular service which bestows free games and other perks to Playstation players (in addition to being a requirement for online play on PS4). We're not taking bets, but if we had to guess, we'd call it the "Playstation 4 Slim Plus."
14 Release Date
Back when it was first rumored, it was believed that the PS4 Neo would come out before the end of 2016. Here we are in August, and the landscape has changed; at E3 2016, Microsoft announced their Project Scorpio, which they hyped as being "the most powerful console ever." Meanwhile, Nintendo's mysterious NX console is expected to have its own unique tricks up its sleeve.
Will Sony stick to its initial rumored plan and bring out the PS4 Neo in time for the holiday rush, or will they go back to the drawing board and bolster the specs to match those of Project Scorpio, likely pushing the console out of 2016? Despite the numerous unconfirmed leaks, Sony is playing its cards close to its chest. This means that whatever we think we know, it bears little to no significance to what will ultimately be announced on September 7th. It's still up in the air whether the PS4 Neo will launch in 2016, and this may be a bold guess, but we're going to pencil in October 13, 2016, which is the day that Playstation VR launches. Could a dual product launch be in the cards? Time will tell.
13 Higher Frame Rates
The Playstation Neo will be a more powerful Playstation 4, and, as such, many are hoping that it will fulfill one of the pipe dreams of next-gen gaming: a constant 60 frames per second. Of the PS4 titles that can maintain a steady 60 FPS, many of them are also available on PS3 and Xbox 360. Titles like Wolfenstein: The New Order, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, and Battlefield 4 are all visually impressive games, but (with the exception of MGSV and its hugely versatile FOX Engine) don't exactly scream "Next Gen" from the hilltops.
Most of the PS4's heavy hitting exclusives, like Uncharted 4, Killzone: Shadowfall, and The Order: 1886, all run at 30FPS, though Uncharted and Killzone's multiplayer suites run at a full 60, probably due to the lack of complex AI systems and graphics-intensive setpiece moments. Uncharted 4 is undoubtedly one of the most visually stunning games ever made, and the complete lack of any of those irksome jagged edges is absolutely worth cutting the framerate in half in the minds of many players, but... Wouldn't it be great to have both?
With the extra horsepower of the PS4 Neo, perhaps future titles like God of War, Death Stranding, and Days Gone will have room to wow audiences with tremendous graphics and massive setpieces, all while maintaining a lightning-fast frame rate of 60 FPS.
12 Higher Resolution
4K televisions are all the rage right now among tech aficionados and users of high-end PCs. The PS4 Neo is expected to double as an Ultra HD Blu Ray player. It remains to be seen if the 4K Blu Ray market will ultimately be able to become the new industry standard, but there's no denying that the difference between a 4K disk and a normal Blu Ray is immediate and apparent.
As for playing videogames in 4K, the truth may be a bit more complicated. Any tech-head who has analyzed the PS4 Neo's rumored specs will say that the console, though stronger than the original PS4, is simply not powerful enough to run most games in Ultra HD. For example, natively running Uncharted 4 in 4K would result in a crippling hit to the title's frame rate, and probably reduce the amount of effects and extra visual flourishes that help the game to stand out... Either that, or it would simply melt the PS4 Neo.
The fair and likely compromise is that the PS4 Neo will be capable of upscaling games from 1080p to 4K, making use (if not full use) of high-end 4K displays without having any detrimental effects to a game's framerate.
11 Graphical Improvements
Leaked specs are nothing but numbers. The average videogame player knows the difference between 30 and 60 fps, and will notice the leap from 1080p to 4K resolution, but beyond that, a great many avid gamers don't know what all of these numbers mean. The current PS4's GPU features 18 computer units with speeds of 800 Mhz, compared to the PS4 Neo, which may ultimately have twice as many computer units running at over 900 Mhz. To the vast majority of gamers, that last sentence made absolutely no sense, but we get the impression that bigger numbers means better graphics... Right?
We're hoping that beyond faster frame rates and Ultra HD resolution, the PS4 Neo will also allow future games (and older games with Neo Mode, more on that in a bit...) to display more particle effects and feature larger draw distances, as well as other bells and whistles that consumers have come to expect from the biggest and best games.
10 Is 4K Really The Future?
Look at Uncharted 4. Play any of the myriad encounters in the game and watch how nearly every gunshot damages the architecture of the levels, how enemies can crash through fruit stands in the market, and how alive the world feels compared to its predecessors. All of that action on-screen, while maintaining a resolution of 1080p, comes at the cost of the frame-rate, which is locked to 30FPS.
Unless you're a die-hard PC connoisseur, you can't have your cake and eat it too when it comes to juggling framerate, resolution, and impressive graphics. The technology just isn't there yet for the home console market. If the rumors hold true, then 4K resolution will be left out in the cold, so to speak, as games will almost certainly be upscaled from 1080p in an effort to maintain a steady framerate and graphical fidelity, and we're totally cool with that.
4K may be the future, but we're not quite there yet. How many of us have 4K television sets? We're definitely going to get them eventually, but not particularly soon, and we're absolutely fine with 4K home console gaming being upscaled, rather than native, for the foreseeable future. Maybe by the time the Playstation 5 rolls around...
9 Older Games With Neo Modes
According to rumors, all games scheduled for release in October and beyond must include a "Neo Mode" -- in addition to being playable on an original PS4 -- in order to take advantage of the new system's increased power. Older games without a Neo Mode will likely look identical across both platforms, with the possible exception of 4K upscaling.
Still, there's nothing stopping publishers and developers from releasing patches to improve the framerate, resolution, or other changes for older Playstaion 4 games for the Neo. Going back to Uncharted 4, we have our fingers crossed that we may yet be able to play the game, with all its impressive effects and stunning anti-aliasing, at a full 60 FPS. The Witcher 3 is a gorgeous game, only held back by its occasional framerate stutters; a Neo patch could fix that! Finally, with the rumors of a Metal Gear Solid V re-release mounting, will that game (and other Game of the Year collected editions) be required to include a Neo patch? It might be a lot of work, but if the results are as spectacular as we're anticipating, then we hope so!
8 Add-On For Existing PS4s?
To some, the prospect of having two PS4s in the house is nothing short of a blessing, since it will enable family members to play games online with one another which don't support split-screen. Anyone who's wanted to play Destiny, Dying Light, or Grand Theft Auto Online with their friend, sibling, or significant other will find that the new-and-improved PS4 is the perfect excuse to start rocking a two-television setup.
However, some players are lone wolves who don't care about playing multiplayer and see no reason to own more than one Playstation 4. Will they have to sell their current PS4 to buy the new one? Or perhaps Sony will have some kind of add-on for existing consoles that will boost them up to the Neo specs?
The Sega Genesis was infamous for its numerous hardware add-ons, but the Nintendo 64 was praised for its Expansion Pak, which increased the RAM of the console by replacing an easily accessed component of the hardware. An approach like this (perhaps a simple USB accessory) could go a long way in easing the pain of early adopters who may feel obligated to upgrade.
7 Virtual Reality Improvements
As mentioned earlier, it's tough for a PS4 game to maintain a constant framerate of 60 FPS without making heavy sacrifices to other parts of a game's visual presentation. Most games can settle for 30 FPS; it's not quite pristine, but it's perfectly playable and remains the industry standard. However, it's a different case when it comes to virtual reality gaming. Due to the immersion of essentially strapping a television screen onto your face, a steady 60 FPS is no longer a luxury, but a requirement; anything lower can break immersion and cause motion sickness.
It seems likely that part of the impetus for the Playstation 4 Neo was to make Playstation VR more competitive with the Oculus Rift and HTC Vibe, its PC-based competitors, and to make the the platform more viable for developers who don't want to be held back by the PS4's comparative weaknesses. Games like Resident Evil 7, which are fully-featured titles with complete VR integration, will benefit the most from being played on PS4 Neo. Without Neo, players will have to choose to play on VR for improved immersion, or on their television for superior graphics. With Neo, players will get both!
6 Backwards Compatibility
Sony has an interesting history with backwards compatibility, or the ability of one console to play games original to its predecessors. The Playstation 2 was capable of playing PS1 games, and the first PS3 models were praised for being able to play both PS1 and PS2 games. However, later-model PS3s dropped PS2 support entirely, though they curiously retained the ability to play PS1 disks.
To many, the PS4 was a huge step backwards in this regard, being unable of playing PS3 games, PS2 games, PS1 games, or even audio CDs. To make up lost ground, Sony introduced Playstation Now, a streaming service with hundreds of titles available to rent, either individually or as part of a Netflix-style subscription service. Additionally, Sony has started releasing classics as part of its PS2-on-PS4 program, adding trophy support and upscaled graphics to older games like Max Payne, Dark Cloud, Rogue Galaxy, PaRappa The Rapper 2, and more.
Still, until the PS2-on-PS4 library really starts to grow, and they start including PS1 games (we want to earn trophies in vintage classics like Metal Gear Solid and Legend of Legaia!), we would like to see some form of backwards compatibility included in the PS4 Neo, for all the gamers out there who made the mistake of letting go of their old consoles.
5 Will The PS4 Become Obsolete?
So far, Sony has stated that the vanilla PS4 will continue to be their primary platform, and that the PS4 Neo will serve as a companion for players who want to get more from their Playstation experiences. That's a great line to comfort the loyal early adopters who went out and bought a PS4 the day it came out, as well as the recent purchasers who might feel like they totally wasted their money on a soon-to-be-outdated device, but is the promise that the PS4 and Neo will coexist one that Sony intends to keep?
Honestly, it depends on how impressive Neo's performance proves to be, and how 2016's suite of games fare on both consoles. If games on PS4 continue to look as solid as they do today, and the Neo simply smooths out the framerate and gives them an extra coat of polish, then we see no reason that the PS4 can't thrive alongside its new brother. But if developers take full advantage of the Neo's improved specs and develop their games primarily for that, then versions for the original PS4 would suffer by comparison.
In the end, it's up to consumers. If PS4 sales continue to thrive and the Neo only appeals to VR enthusiasts and graphics junkies, then the status quo won't likely change. However, if sales of the default PS4 stagnate in favor of the new model, then we suspect the original PS4's days of relevancy will come to an end.
4 New Design
Redesigned consoles are nothing new to the industry, and we fully expect the PS4 Neo to come with a sleek new design. The Playstation 1 got a slight redesign in its waning years, but the PS2 really set the precedent for Sony consoles getting smaller and cooler. The PS3 got two redesigns, each being smaller and more power-efficient than the one before, culminating in the adorably cute PS3 Super Slim.
If our prediction holds true and the PS4 Neo is called the "Slim Plus," then we'd expect the design to reflect its legacy of increasingly portable revisions. At the very least, we hope that the new PS4 doesn't get as blazing hot as the original does. We also still don't feel comfortable standing our PS4 on its side, considering where its vents are located, so if the new design is more amenable to vertical placement, then we would be most appreciative.
This is the big issue. 4K playback, even just for video, isn't cheap, and the new system's increased specs all but ensure that the PS4 Neo will be a premium version of the PS4. When it launched back in November 2013, the original PS4 cost $400 dollars, and its price today is just fifty dollars cheaper, a manageable $350. Playstation VR will launch for $400 dollars in October, and many are predicting that the PS4 Neo will be available for $500 dollars.
Perhaps we're being too optimistic, but we predict that the Neo will sell for $400 dollars, the same as the original PS4 when it first released. In addition, we would like to see the original PS4 drop to $300 dollars, the current price of the Xbox One, although with the arrival of the Xbox One S, we're seeing many retailers selling the original Xbox One for even less than that.
2 PS4 Neo/VR Bundles
Our optimistic predictions notwithstanding, it's entirely possible that the Playstation Neo could cost $500 dollars or more. Coupled with the $500 dollar price tag for the Playstation VR Bundle with Move controllers and the PS4 Camera, new players are looking at throwing a full thousand dollars down to get in and start playing virtual reality titles on Playstation 4.
Sony should try to rope in new consumers and gamers who want to get in on that VR action by selling PS4 Neo/Playstation VR bundles. Something like... $800 bucks for a Playstation Neo and the premium VR bundle. At this stage in the VR game, Sony needs to get a lot of units out there to prove the viability of VR, which will justify developers spending resources working on VR-exclusive titles and VR modes for existing games. It's been said that, surprisingly, Sony won't be selling Playstation VR at a loss, so it can likely afford to bundle it together with the new PS4 at a reduced price.
1 Will Sony Sponsor Trade-In Programs?
If Playstation Neo doesn't involve some kind of Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak-style add-on for existing owners who don't want a second console, Sony should offer some kind of trade-in program. Retailers often do this themselves, offering extra trade-in credit for consoles when their successors inevitably come out, but we think that for something as unprecedented in the console space as a mid-cycle hardware upgrade, Sony needs to take the lead and establish guidelines for how retailers should compensate gamers who wish to trade in their now-vanilla PS4 for a shiny new Neo.
Sony stepping in and making their guidelines would help stop retailers from ripping off consumers by saying that the PS4 Neo is making the PS4 worthless. Additionally, early PS4 adopters should be rewarded for their loyalty in making the PS4 the fastest-selling console of all time by getting great deals when it comes to upgrading their hardware.
What do you think? Have you already decided to get a PS4 Neo, or are you waiting for September 7th to see what all the fuss is about? What would you like to see in the new PS4? Sound off in the comments!