Video Games

We don’t need ‘half’ video game consoles

Sony is rumored to be creating a “new” PlayStation 4.
Sony is rumored to be creating a “new” PlayStation 4. Sony

Sony has sold 40 million PlayStation 4 consoles in less than two years. Apparently, that’s not good enough.

The console king is expected to reveal a new, “half” console at next week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Depending on whom you ask, it will be called the PS4.5 or PS4 Neo. It would include an upgraded GPU (graphics processing unit –what ultimately puts the game on your screen) and possibly a new CPU (central processing unit – the computer’s brain) and upgraded RAM (random-access memory – I’ve never really known what this does, but more gigabytes is good).

Basically, it would be a stronger PlayStation 4. This is unlike what Sony has done in the past. For the first three PlayStations, it released a bulky brick of a console with limited hard drive storage for that first big wave of consumers. It would then work on ways to create the same console in a smaller package, maybe adding hard drive space or pretty colors but maintaining the same computing power.

I am OK with this approach, because it didn’t turn the existing bricks – all of which I bought immediate after their launches – into lesser machines. Those who had bricks but wanted extra convenience or storage had an option, and those who never bought the first console had a new pretty young thing to entice them off the fence.

The rumors, which seem credible but could be wrong, talk of something different – something that would turn my purring PlayStation 4 into a redheaded stepchild.

It would hurt everyone who supports PlayStation – from AAA developer to average gamer.

The half console would force developers to ratchet up the current arms race to create the best-looking game even further, as they’d now be pushing to be the first to create content for the new (old?) console. Remember how many unfinished games we got when the PlayStation 4 came out? Don’t put that evil on me again.

The public would then be tasked with either buying something that isn’t quite a new console or being left in the dust. Would our old games look better on the “new” console? Probably not. Would the new games look bad on our “old” consoles? Would they even work? That’s harder to answer.

Sony appears poised to say the additional computing power would help with virtual reality games, but it smells like a cash grab. Millions of people already spent $400 plus tax. We don’t want to do it again two years later – especially on a half console.

If this does happen, please – please – don’t call it the Neo. Every gamer on Earth will be subjected to an endless stream of “The Matrix” references. If I’m thinking of buying one and the GameStop clerk says something like “you take the red pill, you stay in Neverland, and I show you how good the graphics are,” I can’t be held responsible for my actions.

The argument against my position is always “well, you could just not buy it.” That’s true, but I spent $400-plus just 18 months ago to stay in the current generation. The gap has always been at least three or four years, which allows us to get the most bang from our buck. I don’t want to spend another $400 for a half console. I already have to spend a ton each year to keep up appearances as a PC gamer. Consoles are supposed to be simpler.

Xbox is also rumored to be unveiling some sort of updated console at E3. I’ve heard this one would be like the previous PlayStation updates – smaller size, bigger hard drive, slightly different controller. Again, this is perfectly fine, as it doesn’t make existing Xbox Ones obsolete. I would probably buy one, as I still haven’t gotten around to getting a new Xbox.

The new Xbox One’s code name is apparently Scorpio, which makes me think of the “Simpsons” episode where Homer works for a Bond villain. It’s better than Neo, but do systems really need fancy names?

And I hear Nintendo will do – something – at E3. We know that its next console will be called the Nintendo NX, and that it will be released in March 2017.

After President Satoru Iwata died unexpectedly, I expected Nintendo to give up on consoles altogether. The global game market is shifting heavily toward mobile, and the Wii U was a tremendous flop. That would make sense, as Nintendo has upped its mobile presence.

Nintendo’s new president, Tatsumi Kimishima, told Time the NX is “different and obviously a new experience.” That’s – good, I think? Nintendo has to do something to shake things up.

New consoles are fine. Just don’t make me buy the same one twice.

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