Why a 4K PS4 would betray the console code

It's progress, but at what cost?

Rumors of an upgraded "PlayStation 4.5" surfaced last week, suggesting that Sony will boost the console's processing power and graphics to support 4K gaming and an improved PlayStation VR experience.

Fast-forward to today, and more sources have supported the possibility of a pumped-up PlayStation. The team at Digital Foundry have corroborated Kotaku's original scoop, adding that the console will likely go by the admittedly clever moniker of the PlayStation 4K.

While the notion of playing 4K media alongside up-rezzed games sounds great, it's hard to imagine the estimated 36 million PS4 owners (and counting) will ditch their current consoles just for few extra pixels.

In fact, the more I think of the PlayStation getting into the world of incremental updates every few years, rather than generational upgrades that take leaps-and-bounds, the more I feel it loses sight of the simplicity and convenience of consoles.

Is it an upgrade ... or a successor?

Adding to my concerns is Digital Foundry's doubt that the PS4K, despite its namesake, will fully deliver on 4K gaming.

Based on their background knowledge, they believe that it would be "simply impossible" to fit the kind of technology required to run native 4K resolution games, while at 60 frames per second, into a smaller, consumer-friendly console.

PS4K

Digital Foundry's theories aren't without merit, as 4K gaming already sucks a ton of graphical and processing resources - and at a fast rate, to boot. In my own experience, only top-tier PCs like the Maingear Shift have been capable of such a feat.

This means that unless the PS4K also costs $4K, our expectations may have to be checked.

More than likely, an upgraded PS4 will be more in the vein of the New 3DS than a PS5, which begs the question: Why would Sony go through the trouble?

Perhaps the company sees PSVR as a major opportunity for early adopters, and wants a streamlined console to launch alongside the headset. If that's the case, it could mean current PS4 owners will be left behind.

It would be a bitter sting for early adopters who bought into the system expecting the PS4 to ferry them through another long, multi-year console cycle.

PS4K

Wayward path

For now, all we've heard are rumors suggesting the possibility of a new console. But, the PS4K could take on other forms.

It's also possible that the system could just be an iteration of the PS4. In the past, the PlayStation 2 and 3 were relaunched with a slimmed-down version that grabbed the attention of consumers sitting on the fence, while also trimming some of the proverbial fat from the consoles' designs.

This isn't a bad idea in itself, especially since these slim models tend to be on the price-conscious side, but if that were the case, why are all the rumors making a hubbub about 4K resolution and improved hardware?

A third possibility: Consoles could be in a place where major leaps between systems just aren't as feasible as they used to be. The PS4K could be Sony's solution to keeping up with the fast paced smartphone and PC worlds, in which there are regular increments rather than substantial upgrades.

PS4K

More PC than console now...

But if this is the case, wouldn't consoles be losing one of their major selling points over the competition? Especially when compared to owning a PC, consoles offer players the opportunity to purchase one system that remains relevant in the long run.

One of the advantages of a console is you're set for the entire life cycle of that system. While games on the App Store may only block out older iPhones or a titles on Steam may not meet your rig's specifications, a copy of Final Fantasy XIII for PlayStation 3 worked on any and all machines bearing the PS3 name.

If Sony is trying to push for games exclusive to the PS4K, then it's losing sight of the consistency that console buyers seek.

If the system isn't a major upgrade, however, then it has to justify itself to the millions of 'Classic' PS4 owners it hopes to convert, or offer something that those without Sony's console can't get from buying the original system or its competitors.