Sony has begun briefing developers on plans to release a new version of the PS4 with increased graphical capabilities, according to a report from Kotaku.
The PS4.5 (as at least one overheard developer is apparently calling it) would sport a more powerful GPU than the current console, according to the report. That new hardware would allow the system to support games running at 4K resolution (the PS4 can currently only display photos and videos in 4K) and could help power more detailed experiences on the upcoming PlayStation VR. It’s unclear from the report whether the improved power would be available in the form of a new console or as an upgrade program to existing PS4 units (or both).
Kotaku’s Patrick Klepek cites two trusted development sources for the information and says other staffers at the site were able to independently confirm the same hardware plans with additional sources. That said, Klepek’s sourcesÂ warn that the plans they’re hearing about seem more “exploratory” and vague than anything concrete at this point.
A slight graphical upgrade to the PS4 would make some sense to fill the gap between now and the eventual release of an entirely new PlayStation 5 platform. Just over two years out, the PS4 is already starting to show its age a bit at the top end of the performance curve. The PlayStation VR headset, for instance, runs at a slightly lower resolution than its high-end PC competition, and the device needs an external processing box to help offload some processing work from the central system (though 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 givenÂ that the now-standard HDTV was far from a household item when the Xbox 360 and PS3 released in 2005 and 2006. In fact, the Wii’s lack of contemporary HD support made its graphics look increasingly dated throughout its lifespan. The jump from 1080p HD to 4K resolutions isn’t quite as revelatory as that resolution jump from a decade ago, but today’s consoles could start to look similarly dated if they can’t take full advantage of 4K TVs.
If it was to happen, this kind of mid-generation tweak to the actual graphical power of home console hardware is pretty much unprecedented (unless you count external add-ons like the Sega CD and 32X). Sony would have to handle some tough questions about how older PS4 games would be upscaled for any half-measure upgraded system and whether the company wouldÂ allow new games to run exclusively on the PS4.5 (much like some portable games now require 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 hinting that the Xbox One might see its own PC-style upgrade program in the near future (though he later walked back those statements a bit). In any case, with outfits like Valve taking pains to make PCs more console-like, it wouldn’t be a total shock if consoles start imitating the PC’s hardware upgrade cycle in return.