Sony has confirmed that yes, the company will be releasing a new version of the PlayStation 4 that’s more powerful. It will support 4K resolution and should help PlayStation VR games look much better.
And it won’t be at E3.
This was smart
Getting this out of the way now allows Sony to dominate the news cycle before E3 begins, and stories like this will all circulate before the company’s press conference. Sony can focus on the existing PlayStation 4, software and PlayStation VR during its show without everyone wondering when the PlayStation Neo will be announced.
It also may give Sony room to maneuver.
The Xbox One is losing badly in the console race. That’s not surprising, as it was a bungled console from the start. I was there when the first details of the Xbox One were announced to the press and public, and I would ask two people the same question about the controversial DRM scheme and get two different answers. The company itself was confused about the system, and the hardware's prospects never recovered.
The idea of a mostly digital feature was scrapped and the Kinect, which was long touted to be a necessary part of the system, was likewise unbundled early in the console’s life. Microsoft launched a console that was more expensive, less powerful and tried to sell the public on a version of the future that no one seemed to want.
Microsoft’s vision for the console was a bust, even before it was released to the public. Sony was able to announce it was launching the PlayStation 4 at $399.99 during an E3 press conference that mocked many of the Xbox One’s failings, and the game was over. Sony had won.
Microsoft needs a way to re-energize its console business right the hell now, and this means that Sony will have time to look at Microsoft’s plans, compare them to the PlayStation 4 Neo, and adjust if necessary.
But Microsoft launching a new system is great news for everyone. Every generation is defined by its least powerful console, since most games are released across multiple platforms, and that minimal specification going up means that games as a whole should look better across the board. The reports state that Microsoft doesn’t just want to match Sony in terms of power; the company wants to clearly have the most powerful console on the market.
Put it this way: Microsoft is likely feeling the pressure to announce something soon, while Sony is happy to stay on top for the moment and try to adapt to mitigate the risk of whatever Microsoft is releasing. This is great news for everyone, but it puts Microsoft in the situation of having to show its hand first, and then hope Sony can’t match its plans.
So if you were hoping to see the PlayStation 4 Neo at E3, this is kind of a bummer. The good news is that Sony feels confident enough to confirm the existence of the new console now, which allows them to get people fans talking while focusing on software during the press conference. The better question may be whether a press conference filled with Scorpio-enhanced games will make Sony's visuals look dated in comparison. If the power gap is wide, as early reports suggest, how far will Sony go to fight back?
It's also possible that Microsoft won't say anything about its more powerful console, especially if it's not coming until late 2017. That's risky though, especially if fans are waiting for new hardware. If Microsoft stays silent on the topic of new Xbox One hardware, not counting a smaller system, players may be disappointed no matter what else is announced.
This going to be a fun week.