Sony has started informing developers about plans to release a new version of the PS4 with more graphics capabilities, according to a report from Kotaku.
The PS4.5 (as at least one bugged developer apparently calls it) is said to have a more powerful GPU than the current console, according to the report. That new hardware would allow the system to support 4K resolution games (the PS4 can only display photos and videos in 4K at the moment) and could help enable more detailed experiences on the upcoming PlayStation VR. It’s unclear from the report whether the enhanced power would be available in the form of a new console or as an upgrade program for existing PS4 units (or both).
Kotaku’s Patrick Klepek cites two trusted development sources for the information and says other contributors at the site were able to independently confirm the same hardware plans with additional sources. That said, Klepek’s sources warn that the plans they’re hearing about seem more “exploratory” and vague than anything concrete at this point.
A minor graphical upgrade to the PS4 would make sense to close the gap between now and the eventual release of an all-new PlayStation 5 platform. A little over two years later, the PS4 is already starting to show its age a bit at the top end of the performance curve. For example, the PlayStation VR headset runs at a slightly lower resolution than its high-end PC competition, and the device requires an external processing box to offload some processing work from the central system (although Sony insists that box’s role has been overstated in the press).
Outside of VR, 4K TVs are becoming much more affordable and common in living rooms around the world. That’s easy to forget, as the now standard HDTV was far from a household item when the Xbox 360 and PS3 came out in 2005 and 2006. The Wii’s lack of modern HD support made its graphics look increasingly dated throughout its life. The jump from 1080p HD to 4K resolutions isn’t as revealing as that resolution jump from a decade ago, but today’s consoles could look similar if they don’t take full advantage of 4K TVs.
If it were to happen, this sort of mid-generation tweak of the actual graphics power of home console hardware is pretty much unprecedented (unless you factor in third-party add-ons, like the Sega CD and 32X). Sony would have to answer some tough questions about how older PS4 games would scale up for each upgraded system, and whether the company would allow new games to run exclusively on the PS4.5 (much like some handheld games now include the upgraded “new Nintendo 3DS” ). Any “enhanced PS4” rollout would have to be managed very carefully to avoid splitting the market.
Microsoft’s Phil Spencer recently floated a trial balloon suggesting that the Xbox One could see its own PC-style upgrade program in the near future (although he later backed off those statements a bit). Either way, with outfits like Valve making an effort to make PCs more console-like, it wouldn’t be a total shock if consoles started imitating the PC’s hardware upgrade cycle in return.