Or 4.5, or 4K, or… whatever.
With all the rumours currently floating around from a range of sources and discussions with developers, the PlayStation Neo (as I’ll refer to it for the rest of the article) is all but one lacklustre press conference away from being a reality. And, as it is known to do, the internet provided us with a suitably hyperbolic and negative reaction to the news – but we’ll get into that later. Speaking, however, as someone who’s already owned two PS4s, the last of which only purchased last September, I’m not so convinced the Neo is a bad move, and here’s why.
4 The Gamers
It’s fair to say Sony made some pretty bad mistakes when it came to the PS3. Following on from one of the best consoles in history isn’t easy, but the PS3 community was marred by terrible network coverage, a downright abysmal online store and an even poorer infrastructure – hell, I’ve still got the same name I created back in 2009 – but, gluttons for punishment that we are, we were willing to forgive them. With the launch of the PS4, however, Sony came crawling back to gamers, corporate tail between its legs, with a message of humility and apology; this new console, they exclaimed, had been created “for the player”, it was, if all things were to be believed “the best place to play”. And the great thing was it was the best place to play; in contrast to the Xbox One, which Microsoft originally marketed as an entertainment hub for the home, the PS4 was one of the most powerful consumer products on the market, almost solely devoted to playing games. Well… for about six months, anyway.
“…the Neo seems to be a renewed commitment to the gamer… “the best place to play”…”
It wasn’t long until PCs easily outclassed the PS4 in terms of framerate stability and graphical fidelity, stealing the title Sony’s latest console had so ardently fought for. With rumoured new specs that I don’t understand anywhere near enough to base a solid argument on, however, the Neo seems to be a renewed commitment to the gamer, to once again making PlayStation “the best place to play”.
Supposedly supporting 4K image output, and addressing the framerate issues that seriously damage standout titles like the Dark Souls series, the Neo might well be the most affordable means for a near-perfect experience in the home. If these rumours are to be believed, the days of the unbearably smug PC master race might well be over.
The “PlayStation S”
Okay, I think we can all agree the last thing we need is another name for this thing, but the correlation between the Neo and other consumer products, like smart phones, is hard to ignore. In an age where consumers rarely keep their phone for longer than 2 years, and it’s reasonable to assume most handsets will be outdated within 6 months of release, is it no longer fair to expect our consoles to have 5-7 year lifespans? Most high-end smart devices easily outprice both the PS4 and the Xbox One, and yet, over the course of an 18-month contract, we’re more than happy to make the upgrade. Why, then, should we not expect the same of our gaming consoles?
Additionally, following on from Shuhei Yoshida’s recent comments that cast doubt on the very idea of a PlayStation 5, is it perhaps just time to move on from the rigid idea of fixed console generations altogether? Perhaps, then, the Neo isn’t an affront to the loyal consumer like we believe, but rather a tough decision on Sony’s part to embrace the future, and move towards a more modular console and business plan, a decision that might well empower the consumer in later years. Perhaps the PlayStation Neo represents a move towards a more accessible console generation, one in which more people have access to play on low specs, and those who can afford it can experience the same games, but in a higher definition.
So how will the PlayStation Neo pan out exactly? It’s difficult to tell at this point, and probably depends heavily on the creative thinkers over at PlayStation’s marketing team. It might well just be a luxury option, aimed at the wealthier console owners as the definitive PlayStation experience – consoles are, after all, a luxury item. It could well just be a natural successor to the PlayStation 4 as we know it, with Sony gradually scaling down production of the old console in favour of a new, more powerful model. Maybe, just maybe, however, the PlayStation Neo represents something a little bigger. Perhaps what we’re witnessing with the Neo is the move towards a new definition of the term “console generation”.