So rumor has it that Sony is working on a “4k” upgrade to the PlayStation 4, to take advantage of those 4k TVs that are out there and cheap. The latest rumor claims that this will have both a CPU and a GPU that is twice as powerful as stock PS4s, a 4k Blu-Ray player and retail for $500 (rumor via NeoGAF).
I really have my doubts about this but lets say it is true. If so, then we’ve been at this point before. Sega fans remember all too well what happened with the Sega Genesis. Released in 1988, it was a powerhouse that crushed the NES or the TG-16 in terms of what it could do – at the time. But given that consoles stuck around for a bit longer in those days, instead of releasing a new console in 1991 to compete with the SNES, they launched the SegaCD in 1992 (touting all of the “multimedia” benefits that brought to the table with CD-quality sound and cinematics, etc). Given that the Genesis itself sold a around 30 million units and the CD only managed to reach 6m worldwide under best guess estimates (most put it lower; Famitsu said 2 million), it wasn’t exactly a raging success despite all it brought to the table. Then in response to all of the 32-bit and 64-bit talk right after that, they launched the 32X in 1994. It offered more power thanks to additional processors to give players 3D graphics and texture mapping. However it ended up being a nightmare to install/operate, there were reported incompatibilities and at the end of the day, there were only 35 game releases for it while units sold managed a little more than 600,000. Sega had fragmented the market on hardware among themselves, not to mention that you had more console choices in 1994 than just the Genesis or SNES.
Granted, what Sony is talking about isn’t a powerbase plug-in upgrade (yet) but just a new SKU that has the new hardware, ala the Nintendo New 3DS. But with such a significant disparity in power, plus talk of how the stock PS4 will have to play the new 4K games downgraded, that isn’t a recipe for resounding sales success in any manner. It is hard to believe that devs would solely use that additional power for resolution and frame rate upgrades thus entering the possibility of incompatibilities; not everyone is going to want to rebuy the console for an extra $100 (and then of course is the VR upgrade for $400 which might as well be its own 32X style accessory) then the special software. You fragment your user base and you will lose sales, not gain them.
Perhaps this roll of the dice, again if true, will work out to massively boost PS4 sales and it’ll keep the 32X in the laughing stock category but historically speaking, it doesn’t look that way. So, it is best to apply a grain of salt to this as unless the PlayStation wing of the company is now being run by the same people running their other failing divisions, they would be crazy to do this.