The PlayStation 4.5 Could Alienate The Console’s Already Impressive 40 Million Install Base

Posted: June 12, 2016 in Opinion Piece

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by Ollie Barder via Forbes

The news that Sony has got a 4K update to the PS4 is indeed surprising, as it shows a worrying degree of hubris that I thought would have been excised during the PS3 era. After all, what will the already 40 million strong install base think by having their PS4’s made redundant like this?

In the weirdest form of a company competing with an almost imaginary foe, Sony has decided to keep up with the likes of the PC market and update their PS4 to support 4K, among other improvements, as well as hoping they will also supersede the Xbox One even further.

The reality is that the PC and console market have always been entirely separate. PC has always been in ahead of what consoles could do and that didn’t stop the likes of the PS2 selling 150 million units in its lifetime. In addition, the Xbox One fell behind the PS4 not down to its technical faults but due to its overall focus as a system.

In that, consoles offer convenience not convergence, having a standardized platform means that developers can focus on game mechanics rather than pushing technical boundaries. This results in a convenient plug and play system that is built around one major thing, playing games.

The Xbox One tried to follow the outdated ideology from the 90’s where you would have one black box to rule the living room. Its inclusion of TV based functionality diluted the appeal of the system and allowed Sony to gain crucial ground by focusing on being a system purely for games.

This is why the actual announcement of a 4K capable PS4 is so maddening. It feels disconnected from reality and the lessons that Sony should have learned on the PS3. They are moving away from the PS4 is meant to be doing and competing in areas that aren’t a threat.

The real danger here is also what the 40 million people that already own the standard PS4 will feel. That’s a big install base and this is not like buying an updated 3DS, portable hardware is cheaper and self-contained. Buying a new console is a big deal, as most people only buy one in each generation. So offering a new and technically improved PS4 just alienates all those that have already bought the standard edition.

Both the standard and new PS4 will be supported throughout this cycle though. With both being able to play the games released for the system. However, it still leaves those that already purchased a PS4 feeling left out and maybe even somewhat betrayed.

Back when Sony seemed less skittish, they used to do smart things like release the same console but streamlined and cheaper. This was because manufacturing costs for the chipsets reduced over time, meaning Sony could improve their margins with streamlined updates.

It was smart because everybody won, Sony improved their margins on the hardware, undecided buyers took the plunge on cooler and cheaper looking hardware and above all those that already bought a console didn’t feel their purchase hadn’t been made redundant.

Naturally, I’ll be keeping a close eye on this but as someone that has already bought a PS4 (as well as pretty much every console ever) this decision by Sony is both disappointing and more than a little mystifying.

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