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Report: Sony developing a more powerful PS4

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Console life cycles could be getting shorter

Sony is working on a "PlayStation 4.5," a more powerful version of the PlayStation 4 that will be able to play games at 4K resolution, according to a report from Kotaku.

Kotaku cited multiple "developers who have spoken with Sony" about the purported console. Those sources indicated that the "PS4.5" — no word on whether that's the official name — will include improved graphics hardware to power 4K games, and additional processing power for PlayStation VR, the virtual reality headset that Sony is releasing in October.

There are no indications of a release window or price for the "PS4.5," although one of Kotaku's sources told the publication that such a device might not be released this year. Sony currently sells the PS4 for $349.99, having dropped the price of the console in October from $399.99, which is what it cost when it launched in November 2013. PlayStation VR will cost $399, although that does not cover the required PlayStation Camera accessory.

The PS4 cannot currently output 4K content, and its optical drive cannot read 4K Blu-ray discs. Masayasu Ito, executive vice president at Sony Computer Entertainment, said in an interview with 4Gamer in October (via Siliconera) that Sony was considering an enhanced PS4 that could support 4K Blu-ray discs. Neil Hunt, Netflix's chief product officer, told Huffington Post UK in January that Sony had "promised" Netflix that a new revision of the PS4 hardware with 4K support was coming. And Netflix told Forbes in February that it expected hardware refreshes this fall from both Sony and Microsoft with 4K video playback for the PS4 and Xbox One, respectively.

If Sony is indeed considering a mid-cycle hardware upgrade, the company may not be alone. During a presentation to the media last month, Xbox head Phil Spencer posited a future in which Microsoft will "come out with new hardware capability during a [console] generation."

Spencer contrasted the typical console life cycle with that of computers, smartphones and tablets, telling Polygon that the latter category of hardware offers "a very continuous evolution cycle in hardware, whereas between console generations most of the evolution is making it cheaper and potentially making it smaller." He also noted that PCs and mobile devices gradually get more and more powerful without locking out existing software like new gaming platforms usually do.

In particular, Spencer highlighted PlayStation VR as an example of Sony adding a new feature to the PS4 — virtual reality — without "changing what the core console is about," suggesting that Microsoft would want to do something similar, but in a way that would deliver better-playing games. Spencer later noted in an appearance on Major Nelson's podcast that he wasn't saying Microsoft would allow Xbox owners to open up their console and upgrade the parts. Instead, said Spencer, his comments were meant as a "longer-term vision statement."

We've reached out to Sony for comment, and will update this article with any information we receive.