(Updated 19/4/16) Upgraded Console Hardware? No Thanks.

newps4Rumours abound yesterday that Sony is planning to release some kind of upgraded PS4, with improved hardware and full 4K support. This comes just a couple of weeks after Microsoft’s Phil Spencer was widley misquoted as suggesting that they were considering doing something similar with the Xbox One.

Although I would be astonished if said rumours actually proved to be true, I have to say, I am vehemently against incrementally upgraded console hardware. It fragments user bases, penalises earlier adopters and pushes up the cost of playing the latest games substantially.

The central appeal of consoles has always been value for money; they have traditionally  come with the implicit assurance of a 5 or so year lifespan. Consequently, when successor hardware arrived, you could be sure that it would represent enough of an upgrade to be worth the money. Am I willing to play at least the current RRP of a PS4 or Xbox One for souped-up model before then? No, and neither should you be.

Let’s compare the music and console industries for a second. In many ways, the traditional album cycle is a relic. Artists could easily put out individual songs digitally within seconds of completing them, should they want to. The reason that they usually don’t, in my opinion, is that fans have become so accustomed to the value proposition, and even the very concept of, the ‘album’ and subsequent supporting tour. In other words, artists and labels hit the sweet spot in terms of what consumers are willing to pay, and with what frequency, for the product on offer a long time ago, and deviating from that risks alienating them.  Console gamers have similarly established expectations of what they’re buying into, both on launch day in the following months and years, so to my mind, the same logic applies.

If iterative hardware revisions do become the norm, I may well just give up on console gaming altogether. I’ve long favoured PCs anyway, and the prospect of having to buy a completely new £350 box every 3 years or so would leave us in a previously unthinkable state of affairs whereby a mid-range gaming PC, upgradable at component level, would actually offer better value for money.

Again, we don’t know if any of this will transpire, and if it does quite what will happen thereafter. But frequent hardware revisions may turn out to be so disruptive to the established console rhythm that it destroys that aspect of the hobby for me. My patience, and funds, have their limits.

Let’s hope it’s codswallop. Which it probably is, after all.

UPDATE 19/4/16: Well, it’s probably not codswallop, as it turns out. A pretty big leak, reported on here by Digital Foundry, lays Sony’s plans out pretty plainly. 

The good news is that developers are apparently forbidden from creating any exclusive content for the new hardware, up to and including full games. Extra graphical effects and increased frame rate and/or resolution can and will feature, however.

While this will certainly reassure early adopters such as myself in the short term, there’s no guarantee that Sony will enforce this policy forever. And even if they do, what kind of experiences can owners of older models expect as time goes on? Let’s not forget how horribly neautered Hyrule Warriors on non-New 3DS’.

Furthermore, all of those lovely E3 trailers and gameplay videoes we see going forward will likely all be running on the upgraded PS4, and therefore be even less representative of the final product for us old users. It’s hard not to feel a bit miffed.

I will only ‘upgrade’ my original model if it gives up the ghost. 

Unless 60fps Bloodborne 2 becomes a possibility. 


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