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Sony Reportedly Working on a "PlayStation 4.5"

Developers confirmed to Kotaku that the new model would offer increased graphical power and could run games at 4K.

Well, whatever Sony has in mind has got to be better than the 32X, right?
Well, whatever Sony has in mind has got to be better than the 32X, right?

A few weeks ago, Microsoft's Phil Spencer announced that the Xbox One could see mid-cycle upgrades in the near future. Now, according to a report from Kotaku's Patrick Klepek, we know that Sony may be doing something similar. Sources tell the site that the company is developing a "PlayStation 4.5" which will offer greater graphical power and which will be able to run games at 4K resolutions. This new model would retail for $400, which was the price of the current $350 model up until this past holiday season. While multiple sources reportedly confirmed this to Kotaku, Sony declined to comment.

There aren't many more details than that at this time, but if you're interested in more info on the reporting itself, make sure to go read Patrick's story. What there are a lot of at this time are a lot of big questions about how Sony plans on pursuing this strategy. What, if any, sort of VR integration will we see in this new hardware? Exactly how much more power would this new unit have? Would the "PlayStation 4.5" be a stop gap between now and an eventual PlayStation 5, or is the whole platform shifting to the incremental upgrade model that we see in smartphones and tablets?

The iPhone has seen 12 models in only eight years. (Photo from the Kent-Meridian High School News Paper. Yes. Really.)
The iPhone has seen 12 models in only eight years. (Photo from the Kent-Meridian High School News Paper. Yes. Really.)

Though I've used the "iPhone" analogy a lot to describe this idea recently, I'm increasingly unsure that it's a solid metaphor for this situation. Smartphones are fundamentally different than game consoles. For many of us, our phones a constant presence in our lives, a McLuhan-esque extension of the self, not just free-time hobby machines (though they sometimes also serve that purpose). Are people really interested in moving into a two or three year replacement cycle for our game consoles in the same way that they do with their phones? Would phone-like subsidization make that a more attractive option?

Perhaps no question is as important as: How will Sony's fans respond to this? Last month on the Beastcast, we had a chat about the current state of game consoles, and many of the responses we received were clear: People love consoles because they're convenient. A single purchase will last you at least five years, and you don't need to worry about compatibility, performance options, or hardware upgrades. So if I'd just purchased a PS4 for 349.99 in the last few months, I'd be livid right now. And I say that even though I know that there are a lot of positives behind this sort of thing. Giving the PS4 a power boost would allow the platform to keep up with the PC (and now, it seems, the Xbox One too), it lets VR developers to push their games a little further, and it means that if I ever do get a 4K TV, my PS4 games would look great on it. Except my PS4 games actually won't unless I go out and drop another $400. At that point, why am I not thinking about jumping ship?

(I should note, briefly, that from a non-business standpoint, there is one question more important than consumer retention: How much additional electronic waste will come from more rapid console cycles? The constant trashing and replacement of technology is sort of a big problem right now, y'all)

The Super Famicom Satellaview is an entirely different sort of mid-cycle upgrade, but I just really wanted to write
The Super Famicom Satellaview is an entirely different sort of mid-cycle upgrade, but I just really wanted to write "Satellaview." What a good name.

In writing this out, I've almost instinctively typed out "this is a mess" like five times now. There's so much to keep in mind when trying to analyze this decision, and with no official statement from Sony on this, speculation runs wild. I may have criticized the vagueness in Phil Spencer's talk back in early March, but at least he laid out a broad vision for the future of Xbox. Obviously Sony would've preferred for this not to leak out at all, but by proactively addressing the new Xbox One initiative ahead of any leaks, Spencer was able to control the message. But with regards to the PlayStation 4.5, all we have is social media skepticism and our own best- and worst-case scenarios.

The hope is that when this is all settled, we'll look back at this and think of it as an incredibly exciting moment of positive change for the console market. But with so little to go on, that's asking for a lot of faith from a consumer base that is already facing a rapidly changing market, a new luxury-priced VR ecosystem, and an overall lack of strong console exclusives. Hopefully we'll have a lot more specific information in place by the time E3 is over, if not sooner. Until then, all we can do is wait and see.

329 Comments

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ArjanN

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What a scoop(s).

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CharoftheFlame

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Definitely an interesting problem. We'll see how Sony handles it.

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KevinWalsh

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@arjann said:

What a scoop(s).

Seriously. All the guys were talking about it on twitter and I couldn't find ANYTHING about it. Glad they posted this.

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dorkymohr

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Edited By dorkymohr

Plenty of people are going to want to upgrade but plenty of people won't. Which means that whatever these machines are they can't be that dramatic of a departure. I wouldn't have been surprised if Microsoft was willing to cut their losses with the Xbox One but Sony has 35 million consoles out there. They're not just about to throw all that out in hopes that most come along for the ride again and maybe pick up a few 4k tvs on the way.

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psylah

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Edited By psylah

The PS4 is coming up on 3 years old, and if this is true, by the time it comes to fruition and you can actually buy one it will probably be about 5 years old, or a short console cycle.

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beforet

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Is this the future we're in? I'm not ready for this.

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Y2Ken

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Good write-up, Austin. It's tough to say exactly how this will pan out - on the one hand, it's very exciting; on the other, it's potentially very scary for consumers worried that their current systems will be missing out (whether on actual content or just on the performance side of things). Ultimately we'll have to wait to find out how things shake out.

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Quemaqua

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Thank you very much for at least the cursory mention of electronic waste. That is a HUGE issue and one we really need to get more eyes on at the consumer level.

This whole thing really does seem like a mess to me, and as a guy who bought a PS4 and has barely used it for anything beyond Bloodborne, I'm really unhappy to hear this.

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Belegorm

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I have two thoughts.

One is the PS4 isn't going to be able to "keep up with the PC;" it will at best be on par with mid-high PC's, more likely just medium PC's, for a year or two. Second, so far the only games I've really been able to make use out of the PS4 for have been the Last of Us Remastered (which I could've played on PS3 fwiw), and Bloodborne (which I ended up not caring for much).

If anything, this along with the Xbox news makes me pretty sure I'll be almost entirely a PC gamer in the future, as upgrading every couple of years for that rare gem I can't play on PC seems far less reasonable than the handful of games I can't play on PC.

Crazily enough whatever the NX is might be the best thing for "shit you can't play on PC" in the future.

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FrenchFriedFool

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SCOOOOOOOPS

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Suzushiiro

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I think it could work as long as Sony forbade people from making games that only worked on the 4.5, making it exclusively for people who wanted better visuals/framerates in their games, and made the architecture similar enough to the 4 that it would be easy for devs to optimize for both at once. Basically, the 4.5 would be solely for people who wanted to run their games at 4K and/or 60fps (or for people who wanted better visuals on their PSVR games.)

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fuzzyset

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Edited By fuzzyset

I'm curious if the "iPhone/iPad" approach will work for the console space. While obviously not all the users play games on the devices, Apple moves more iPads/iPhones in a single quarter year than MS/Sony consoles move in a generation. Developers have a pretty high chance of making money, even in a fragmented Apple ecosystem when there are a half-a-billion iPhones out there. I don't know if fragmenting an already, relatively, limited audience will work.

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dantez

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As someone who just recently was finally able to afford to jump to current gen and buy a PS4, I can't help but be a little annoyed by this news.

I am fine with not having the 4K, but hopefully the 4.5 does not have exclusive games. That would be an extra kick in the teeth.

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someramguy

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These incremental hardware proposals always seem to ignore how conservative the larger games development space is. Budgets are ballooning and then the expectation is that these developers will magically opt-in to ignoring large swaths of the potential audience to take full advantage of the newer hardware? Sounds more like a recipe for being permanently stuck in that ugly quagmire near the end of a console generation where everything has to come out on every system and its successor and nothing looks or runs as well as it could.

So, basically, I'm incredibly skeptical of the viability of these sorts of plans until I see them pan out otherwise. And, of course, assuming the unnamed sources are even accurate.

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Liquidus

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Man, Sony REALLY doesn't like to have good things going for them, do they? If this is true, I'm out. I'm not dropping another $400 on something marginally better. I'll throw that money into my PC and Nintendo consoles will be the only ones I stick with for a while.

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Teddie

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Edited By Teddie
@dorkymohr said:

They're not just about to throw all that out in hopes that most come along for the ride again and maybe pick up a few 4k tvs on the way.

"Five hundred and ninety-nine US dollars."

Okay, snarky response, but there's still a bit of precedent for the doom-and-gloom around Sony doing this.

@liquidus said:

I'm not dropping another $400 on something marginally better. I'll throw that money into my PC

...

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Zeeman155

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Scoops!!

So does this ".5" mean it's a half way point? If they're going to do multiple phases like Microsoft why not at least start at ".1"?

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Regular_Kirk

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Edited By Regular_Kirk

"So if I'd just purchased a PS4 for 349.99 in the last few months, I'd be livid right now."

I wouldn't say I'm livid but I'm not thrilled. I kept waiting for a new game to come out for the PS4 that would really sell me on the idea that I needed to ditch my PS3 for Sony's new console. No such game materialized but I decided to buy a PS4 anyway in part because I had accepted that the games currently available for the system were basically as good as they were going to get, graphically speaking.

Welp! Looks like I was wrong! Hey-oooo!

The only reason I'm not completely pissed is that I know I'm going to be buying a 4K TV anytime so there's not a big reason for me to buy a 4K enabled PS4.5.

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austin_walker

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@quemaqua: I really wish I had the time to go even deeper into it, because yeah, like you said, it's a real problem that I think deserves way more attention. This medium we love is amazing, but from conflict minerals used in production through it's often undocumented end as e-waste , it's also caught up in a whole lot of terrible shit. And that will only improve with broader consumer attention and action.

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excast

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The question that comes to me is, if consoles are going to start changing things up every few years, why would I want to invest in consoles instead of a PC that can do everything a console does, not to mention everything else that comes with owning a computer?

The things consoles have going for them are stability and ease of access into gaming. You don't need to worry about constantly upgrading and you know that what you buy is going to deliver solid performance for the life of a console generation, generally 5 or more years unless the thing is a total bust.

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CheapPoison

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I am talking out my ass here but!

I am looking forwards to this killing the console market eventually and boosting the pc.
Although that is not how any of this works! I am very cautious about what this means. If they start doing this the console loses it's only saving grace! If you can't guarantee that you can pop a disc in and lay you might aswell have a pc.

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bug9329

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Hi Austin, thanks for the article.

This upgrade concept seems to be a result of the unsubsidised console generation where the performance headroom of each of the consoles was significantly lower than with past generations. Having an upgrade path without a "new generation" seems to be the goal from both Microsoft and Sony.

Figuring all the details out is hard because this is new territory in more than one way ways and is happening in an environment of dramatic technological change. They *will* get some things wrong along the way but I think doing this is necessary for the survival of the console and console makers. Microsoft and Sony may be ahead of the curve here as far large multinational corporations go. Most wait until it is almost too late or until it is too late.

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schroeder9000

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If Sony has a great trade-in deal this could work out great. If every 2-3 yrs I send in my old Playstation with $200 and get a beefer Playstation then that's fine. The problem is I doubt that this will happen and come-on 4K rez, please I'll believe that when Comcast isn't an evil company and Microsoft stops doing dumb stuff.

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Grimluck343

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Wonder if this affects current PS4 sales the way the bombcast crew thought it would tank Xbox One sales. Or if it puts a significant damper on PSVR preorders.

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Efesell

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4k PS4 seems...ambitious? Unlikely?

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CouldbeRolf

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To me the PS4s (or 4.5 wich it will probably not be called) makes some sense, but only if they do it right. If you think of all the possible ways they can do it, then yes it can certainly seem like a mess. But that's the problem with rumors, however close to confirmed they are, we just don't know the details until Sony (and probably Microsoft) make an official announcement (E3?). Though if the PS4s will play games in 4k, it's probably not coming this year.

What is the way to do it right though? To me one thing is key: No games that work only on the PS4s. Games must work on both systems, without exception, to avoid consumer confusion.

One big question is pricing. My gut feeling is the PS4s will launch as a premium product and priced as such (hey, let's try $599 again!) if they're actually going to be able to render games in 4k. But then again that seems like a bad idea, so maybe not? Boy this actually seems like it could be a mess!
But we must have some faith that the people at Sony and Microsoft are not idiots and have at least a half decent idea of how the market will (potentially) react to what they are putting out.

Most of all his will probably serve as a test for how the next proper generation will work.

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MrWakka

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When we all look back to hard drives and the patch and DLC nightmare that has come along with them, I do not see the idea of mid-cycle console ideas being looked back favorably on.

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Liquidus

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@teddie said:
@liquidus said:

I'm not dropping another $400 on something marginally better. I'll throw that money into my PC

...

...yes?

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blacklab

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Edited By blacklab

Oh that Klepek

Based on conversations with developers who have spoken with Sony

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Regular_Kirk

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@quemaqua said:

Thank you very much for at least the cursory mention of electronic waste. That is a HUGE issue and one we really need to get more eyes on at the consumer level.

This whole thing really does seem like a mess to me, and as a guy who bought a PS4 and has barely used it for anything beyond Bloodborne, I'm really unhappy to hear this.

Electronic waste is one of the first things that popped into my mind too. I really don't like this idea that there will be yet another company out there essentially encouraging more people to become more wasteful.

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count_zero

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@beforet: I can reasonably say that I didn't ask for this.

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Redhotchilimist

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Edited By Redhotchilimist
@austin_walker said:

So if I'd just purchased a PS4 for 349.99 in the last few months, I'd be livid right now.

I'll fucking say! I've only had mine for what, how long has it been since SFV came out? A month?

Thinking calmly about it for a minute, I'm not sure if it's that big of a deal. There have been better iterations of the GBA, the DS, the PS3 and the 360 already, and I only got one of those improved machines because I was patient and waited for it. If I can still play all the same games as on the new platform, then to a certain extent, whatever. But if I can't, I really hope they're gonna let me trade it in. If not, I'll be very frustrated.

I'm happy Scoops is breaking the news still, anyway. And your article was a good follow-up, Austin.

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brandondryrock

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Edited By brandondryrock

@efesell said:

4k PS4 seems...ambitious? Unlikely?

4K at 30 FPS seems plausible.

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smiteofhand

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Phones also have batteries that rarely last more than 2 years, screens that shatter and are not always easy or cheap to replace, and all sorts of reasons that people replace them quickly.

A 2-3 year cycle where they retire hardware after several iterations have passed is a good decision and proven model that works. People who want to use a console the way they always have, buying hardware and using it for 5+ years, then getting a new one, are covered and nothing changes for them. They don't have to worry about the battery dying or the screen breaking. People who want the latest thing and get the new iteration every time it drops are also covered.

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Grimluck343

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Edited By Grimluck343

@efesell said:

4k PS4 seems...ambitious? Unlikely?

4K at 30 FPS seems plausible.

At what price point?

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Benmo316

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Ever since I got my first job at 15 to save up or an Xbox I've been getting consoles the moment they launch. I love being on the front line of new hardware. But that is because I know that console would last me at least five years. Even with a potential price-point of $400 for a PS4.5 I don't know if I would keep buying consoles. Same feeling goes towards Xbox One, granted I recently sold mine because I'll just play their games on PC. I would be upset about not playing Sony exclusives, mainly MLB The Show, if we enter this type of future, but I would get over it because there are so many games on PC and Nintendo consoles.

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Efesell

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@brandondryrock said:
@efesell said:

4k PS4 seems...ambitious? Unlikely?

4K at 30 FPS seems plausible.

At what price point?

And at what level of game? I don't see AAA.

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wrecks

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Personal Computer. Catch it!

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Lv4Monk

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@belegorm: Nintendo has been the king of "PC companion consoles" for years now. In an age where PC gets almost everything worth playing Nintendo has cornered the market on "everything else".

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TheBlue

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Youtube's own Patrick Klepek?

If this is a situation like the New 3DS, I struggle to see this being well-received at all. There had better be a damn good trade-in program if this thing is just a more powerful PS4. I don't know, this whole thing seems muddy and like companies are throwing darts at the idea wall. Granted the disparity between consoles and high-end PCs is significant and obviously Sony and Microsoft are feeling that heat, but I'm not sure this is the right way to go. Though, I'm not sure there are many options. Clearly making better boxes from the get go and selling at a loss is not something most companies are willing to do, but just waiting for the PS5 or the XBOX Whatever and making those boxes marginally better is a bad idea since by that point PCs will have widened the gap even further. Making upgradable boxes might be possible but at what point do they just become faux PCs, not to mention that could potentially be a nightmare for developers to have to constantly alter their games to work in multiple iterations.

All this Microsoft and Sony stuff to me seems like a really bad wound. It's gonna get worse before it gets better, but I think going through this mess now will lead to some really good things.

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Grimluck343

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Edited By Grimluck343

@efesell I can't imagine Sony would come out with a new console priced above $400. Unless the latest Game Tapes feature was actually some weird foretelling.

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OMGFather

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I don't care about 4K right now, just get your frame rates sorted out first.

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BoundfortheFloor

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Edited By BoundfortheFloor

Well this news is halting my PSVR plans for the future. I would rather upgrade to a better running console then, getting inferior VR experience.

Dependent on actual upgradeiness

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Teddie

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@liquidus said:
@teddie said:
@liquidus said:

I'm not dropping another $400 on something marginally better. I'll throw that money into my PC

...

...yes?

Sorry, I guess I'm just extra sassy today ;)

A $400 upgrade to my (4 year old) PC would only make it run current games marginally better (at least, it wouldn't be a jump from 1080p to 4k like this supposedly is, as doubtful as that part sounds). Just seemed a little ironic from the way I read it, but I also probably took the wrong meaning from it.

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Rafaelfc

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Well, time to migrate to PC gaming.

So long consoles, it was a fun run while it lasted.

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antime

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If console makers are starting to make their hardware more like PCs, they're just presenting a strong case against themselves.

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TheHT

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Oy vey.

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Regular_Kirk

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I don't know jack about hardware but isn't a 4K game console going to generate a lot of heat? Should we expect the fan noise to sound like a jet engine?

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TheRealDJ

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Ugh, yet another youtuber thinking he's a real journalist. (but seriously, awesome scoop!)

Hopefully all PS4 games will be playable on all versions, but with the 4.5 versions just being higher res/better framerate/textures etc.