May 26, 2016

Opinion - Updating Consoles Mid Cycle. Is It Worth It?

Let’s face it, console makers are always releasing variants on the consoles they make as the life cycle ticks by, most of the time, this is because of manufacturing changes, things get cheaper to make a different way and such. Sometimes it is because parts get smaller, so the machines shrink, but it seems that there are many rumours going around of mid cycle updates and these are not just releasing a slimmer version, these are more powerful ones and that is not on.

I will say this now, slim consoles are ok, making things smaller to fit more places is great, but they are mostly due to the scaled down nature of the parts within, my issue is with these machines that have a power upgrade and now just a minimal one, but significant and while you might think this is new, it has been happening for some time, though with varying levels of success. Nintendo have done this before with their Game Boy line, releasing the Game Boy Colour, which had more improved specs, which allowed games to be displayed in colour, but it resulted in some games, only being made for that unit, which meant if you had an older Game Boy, or even a Game Boy Pocket, you were out of luck.

Nintendo again, just recently did this when they released the New Nintendo 3DS, while the core of the machine is the same, new hardware inside meant that some games would run better on the new handheld and others only on that. Since the New Nintendo 3DS released, there has been only one game that requires the new machine and that is Xenoblade Chronicles 3D, a port of the Wii game. Other titles like Super Smash Bros for 3DS and Hyrule Warriors Legends work a lot better on the New 3DS, but they still play on the old one. Nintendo said when they announced the New 3DS that more games would support only the new machine, but so far apart from Xenoblade, none have and why would they, supporting a version of the machine with a much lower install base means that you are cutting off potential buyers for very little reason.

PlayStation 4 is the best selling console this generation, by far and why not, its sleek and powerful, but it too is going to hurt itself if the rumours of the PlayStation 4 Neo or PS4.5 are true. A lot of the information comes down to the machine having improved specs, in order to allow games to be run at 4k resolution, which is 3840 × 2160 up from the current default of 1080p or 1920 x 1080. Sony made a big bet with the PlayStation 3 that HD tv’s would take off and they did, but when they launched the PlayStation 4, they did not think the same for UHD or 4K screens, but while they have not been selling as fast as HD screens back in the day, they have been increasing bit by bit, so the PS4.5 is set to allow native resolution of games and movies at 4K. The problem with this idea is again, if a game is made for the 4.5 does that mean that those with a base model 4 are no longer able to play the games.

Who knows, games made for the Game Boy Colour, could work on both, but there were those that would only work on the newer hardware, but if you did upgrade, then you could get all the old games to play on the new hardware, with slightly better performance. However if the rumours are to be believed with the 4.5 games will have two versions on the disc, the base game and then a game with higher textures and sounds, which players with the 4.5 would be able to experience. But if you are like me and the other 35+ million PlayStation 4 owners, you will no longer be getting the best version of your game. One discussion I have seen about the benefits of getting the new 4.5 is that it will work better with PlayStation VR, but if that is the case, does that mean that when I get my PSVR later in the year on my current PS4, it will be an less an optimal experience, does the additional processing box that comes with each PSVR unit only do a little of the work, time will tell how that all works together, but with reports are pointing to an announcement soon, which might shed more light onto things, but if they release a more powerful PlayStation 4, it can only end badly for them.

Xbox however have also had more information leaked about their plans for an upgraded Xbox One machine, in fact even after Phil Spencer said they would not do it, the leaks started pouring out, with the latest as fresh as today. The report today suggests two new boxes will come, one is a Xbox One Slim, with a larger hard drive and expected this year, while the second box is a more powerful Xbox One set to release sometime next year. As I stated above, the Slim model makes sense from a manufacturing point of view, but if Xbox One gets a more powerful machine next year, will it only as powerful as the PlayStation 4 is now, or will it match the rumoured Neo specs and what about gamers who already own a Xbox One, will we suffer the same problem as PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 New owners.

Ever since I can recall, there have been people in my life that laughed at me spending a few hundred dollars every 5 or so years on a new box, to play games with a controller. All the while, they sat at their PC’s which they bought new pieces for constantly to keep it as powerful as possible. That works for the PC market though, because that is what it has always been, a console was a single purchase that would work without issues for 5 years, at least, but changing that up mid cycle for what is pointing to be minor improvements in speed is not ok. With a PC if you want to upgrade, you can spend very little to get a minor improvement, or you can spend a lot to get a big one, but here it is more that they are demanding top dollar for little benefit.

As far as small increases to consoles goes, mid cycle, I am fully against it. Not only does it complicate the console space, something that should be avoided, I mean look at the 3DS family for the reason why, but it is also either going to offer players very little reason to upgrade, or force millions of players to upgrade for no reason. 

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