PlayStation NEO and the Future of our Consoles

As you may have heard, GiantBomb.com broke a story last week about Sony getting ready to annouce a new model of the PS4 which could be out as early as this holiday season.

Codenamed NEO it would essentially be an upgraded version of the PS4 we have in stores now. We can expect it to load games faster, be able to display slightly better graphics and hopefully have games run a little smoother. However in the leaked documents Sony states that the NEO is not intended to outright replace the PS4. 

Starting in October all new games will be required to have a “NEO Mode” and a “Base Mode”. NEO Mode games will be allowed to have improved visuals and performance but are not allowed to have additional gameplay features. So they couldn’t do something like exclusively offer 2 player co-op play only to NEO owners. It’s good to see that Sony are taking steps to stop the base PS4 becoming obsolete as soon as the NEO hits but it’s still a bit worrying.

This is the first time one of the big companies in video games has proposed anything like this. Sure there have been console redesigns to make them smaller and have bigger hard drives. but we’ve never had an update that would change the way games are developed for the system. The only example that’s close to this is the New Nintendo 3DS which released last year but unfortunately there have been some problems with games not running as well on the older hardware version. As I mentioned above Sony seems to be setting guidelines to specifically avoid this problem but it’s still something to think about.

Also yet to be announced is whether the NEO will help improve Sony’s Virtual Reality headset when that launches later in the year too. The PS4 is a lot less powerful than the minimum spec PCs needed for the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive VR headsets. Performance is very important for VR games, any stuttering or drop in the frame rate for visuals can be the difference between motion sickness and a truly immersive experience. Depending on how this is handled PlayStation VR might only be worth having if you can run the games in NEO mode. 

Microsoft have also expressed some interest in upgradable hardware but they seem to be going down a more PC-like upgrade structure. Where you would have options to purchase separate pieces of hardware much like PC owners do now. Microsoft have been going big on Windows 10 as a gaming platform so they probably want to have a unified experience on the Xbox and PC. Whether or not Sony’s plans spur them into action on this earlier than planned remains to be seen.

Nintendo are more than likely going to be announcing their next console in June at E3. All we’ve heard so far is that it is codenamed The NX and may be some kind of handheld/console hybrid. Where you would be able to take your games with you and play them on the go then continue on your TV when you get home. Nintendo haven’t been the leader in graphics and hardware since the Super Nintendo days so it will be interesting to see if they try and match the PS4 and Xbox One in terms of power. And if that was Nintendo’s plan then has the PS NEO thrown a spanner in their works in terms of bragging rights?

It looks like we might be shelling out cash on some new consoles earlier than we all thought. Like every year, all we can do is wait for E3 which is June 14-16. Typically this is the place all the big companies unveil their new toys so we’ll know for sure then.

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