Sony is currently planning a new version of the PlayStation 4 with increased graphics power and games running at 4K resolution, according to a report by Kotaku.
It is unknown as of right now whether current PS4 owners will be able to upgrade to the super-powered version or if they’ll have to buy an entirely new device to receive the power boost, but Sony has started briefing developers.
Based on what Sony has told developers, this so-called PS4.5 will include an upgraded GPU both to support high-end 4K resolution for games and add more processing power that can enhance the games supported by PlayStation VR, the headset Sony will launch this fall. It’s unclear if ‘PS4.5’ is an official name or just a nickname that developers have been using. One developer jokingly called it the ‘PS4K’.
4K resolution is about four times the pixel size of 1080p, which is the current standard for PlayStation 4 games and competing consoles. The current PS4 can output 4K photos and videos, but cannot support 4K resolutions for games. With this upgrade, it would. Besides resolution, developers would have an opportunity to push more effects and other graphical tweaks to make their games look better, thanks to the new GPU.
A more powerful PS4 would also allow the machine to be more competitive with PCs in the world of virtual reality. With a higher-end GPU, the PS4 could more easily match up against the more expensive Oculus Rift and HTC Vive virtual reality headsets, which are designed to work with PCs worth thousands of dollars.
Sony has declined to comment. “We can’t comment on rumors or speculation,” a spokesperson said in an e-mail to Kotaku.
The company is still exploring the device’s development. Sony allegedly held meetings with developers about the hardware and how it would work.
Sources are unsure when this upgraded machine will be available to the general public, nor how much it will cost. The PS4’s price dropped from $400 to $350 last fall, and one source indicated that this new ‘PS4.5’ could let Sony keep selling PS4 hardware at a higher profit margin for $400.
Will Sony allow PS4 owners to trade in their existing PS4s to buy the new machine? How will developers cope with releasing games on multiple types of hardware? Could some games only support PS4.5, as is the case with the New Nintendo 3DS? When this PS4 goes on sale, will Sony continue to sell old PS4 hardware at a lower price? How can Sony manage all this without fragmenting the market?
These are all questions Sony will need to answer in the coming months. Right now, we can only speculate answers.
The PS4.5 may not be the only upgraded console in the works.
At a press briefing earlier this month, Xbox head Phil Spencer hinted to journalists that Microsoft has been exploring the possibility of evolving hardware. “We look at these other ecosystems out there like mobile, tablet and PC,” Spencer told the assembled press, as reported by Polygon, “and we see that they have a very continuous evolution cycle in hardware, whereas between console generations most of the evolution is making it cheaper and potentially making it smaller.”
Spencer later walked back those comments while speaking on the Major Nelson podcast, pouring some water on the idea of a customizable, PC-like Xbox. “Am I going to break open my console and start upgrading individual pieces of my console? That’s not our plan,” he said. “There is something special about what happens with a console. You buy an appliance-like device; you plug it into your TV; it works when you plug it in. It’s not like I’m going to ship a screwdriver set with every console that comes out.”
Plans are always changing, and some of the details we’ve heard are fuzzy, but one thing has become clear: Sony is exploring the possibility of releasing a more powerful console way before the PlayStation 5. With both Sony and Microsoft possibly entering new territory, and Nintendo’s NX on the way, this should be an exciting year for gaming hardware no matter what comes next.