When Sony revealed the PlayStation 4 in 2013, it marked the beginning of a new era. It wasn’t just a new generation of home consoles (which Nintendo arguably ushered in during the previous year); it was the birth of a new Sony. For the first time since the PlayStation 2, we were seeing a reinvented, self-aware, more in-touch, and humbler side of the Japanese tech conglomerate. Mark Cerny took the stage and even admitted, in his bashful yet savory voice, that the Cell architecture in the PlayStation 3 was a mistake. Speeches were given that put a strong emphasis on listening to developers and publishers this time around and more or less giving them what they wanted in a new home console.
It seemed that the old Sony—the five-hundred-ninety-nine US dollar, giant enemy crab, Riiiidge Racerrrr, expensive proprietary memory card, ten-minute Wonderbook stage demo, 3D TV, Move controller, PSN outage, Sixaxis, weird crying baby commercial Sony—was all but shed like a cockroach exoskeleton. Gone was the Sony that introduced tech no one was clamoring for (at least, in the games sector), and in its place we got a refined and focused publisher that seemed to finally hear us. The rest is more or less history at this point. From the botched and fumbled Xbox One announcement and launch (my heart goes out to you, Don Mattrick—really, it does) to last year’s fantastic E3 showcase, it seemed Sony couldn’t lose if they tried.
The PlayStation 4 Pro
Just a little over three years later, Sony took the stage in NYC yet again to announce another console. Revealed on September 7, 2016, Sony’s new PlayStation 4 Pro sports a 4.2 teraflop GPU (as opposed to the PS4’s 1.84 TFLOPs) that offers 4K gaming (upscaled; not native), HDR (high-dynamic range) lighting, and overall enhanced performance. Set at a price of $399, the Playstation 4 Pro is an affordable upgrade to an already lauded, loved, and prolific console.
The only problem here is…4K TVs aren’t necessarily affordable and are even less prolific.
But fret not fellow HDTV plebeians! If you don’t happen to have a 4K TV set up in your home, the PlayStation 4 Pro will offer enhancements to games running on regular old 1080p TVs like improved frame-rate, better textures, denser foliage, and a wide variety of other things. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, all of this comes with the caveat that these improvements vary from one game to another and rely solely on developers putting in extra time during development or going back and patching this stuff into already released titles. Now, I’m certainly not a video game developer, but I find it hard to see the benefit here as stuff like this requires manpower which requires money which requires your publisher to be kind-hearted and generous.
Okay, but say you do have a 4K TV. While the PS4 Pro will stream videos and movies in 4K, it won’t be able to play Ultra HD Blu-rays, which is a strange decision considering Microsoft’s Xbox One S already has this functionality. Couple that with the fact that Microsoft will be debuting and releasing a faster (6 TFLOPS) console, codenamed Scorpio, next year, and the PS4 Pro starts to make less and less sense. Oh, and it’s also an unbelievably ugly console.
I get it, though. I mean, I get why this thing still exists in a post-Scorpio announcement world. Manufacturing and creating supply chains takes a lot of time. Sony likely had this thing in production when Microsoft lifted the curtain on the Scorpio. But the initial decision to make the thing in the first place is just bizarre. As I watched the banal and almost numbing PlayStation Meeting (not even Mark Cerny could save that thing), I found myself thinking: this a move that the old Sony would make, isn’t it?
Was anyone clamoring for non-native 4K gaming? The extra bump in GPU power is great, but are developers eager to splinter their time and resources between three versions of PlayStation 4 games (PS4, PS4 ProHD, PS4 Pro4K)? I started to think about a couple of other sour-tasting things Sony has done recently. Things like hiking up the price of PS Plus subscriptions without explaining why or how the consumer will benefit or introducing a new piece of tech and sending it out to wither sans fanfare. The PSVR releases in a month (a month!), and they didn’t mention it at the recent meeting outside of a cursory name-drop. They seem certain that people will just buy it without them trying too hard to sell it.
I swear I’m not being disingenuous for the sake of argument. I truly feel like Sony may have stopped listening and may be getting, “too big for their britches,” as my mother used to say. I’m worried because the Sony that rose from the ashes in 2013, PS4 in hand, has helped rejuvenate console gaming and the relationship between publisher and consumer. It would be sad to see them go.
If you are grabbing a PS4 Pro, we’ve made it easy for you; you can order yours here.