No 4K Blu-ray support in the PS4 Pro makes no sense, no matter how you look at it

No 4K, no way

There was a point in 2011 when even the most ardent Microsoft fans had to concede that the Xbox 360 was on its way out with outdated hardware.

The game LA Noire launched for both PlayStation and the Xbox 360. But on Microsoft's console, Rockstar's sprawling tale of detectives in the late '40s came out on three DVDs. Three. Discs. It was obvious that for its next console the company would have to embrace Blu-ray.

At the time, Sony was laughing. It had Blu-ray in the PlayStation 3 from the off. Both format and console came out in 2006 and this was a big coup for Blu-ray and ultimately was a major reason for the downfall of HD DVD, a format Microsoft had tentatively backed with an Xbox 360 add-on.

Trojan horse

Sony needed Blu-ray to succeed. It was part of the Blu-ray Disc founder group, as well as being a major player in the (BDA) Blu-ray Disc Association.

Its console was a Trojan horse for the format, making the PS3 an integral part of many people's home entertainment system. In essence, folks came for the gaming but stayed for the movies.

The launch of the PS4 Pro should have seen history repeat itself. But there was a bump in the road. Microsoft's recent announcement of the Xbox One S may have underwhelmed when it came to 4K gaming, but the inclusion of an Ultra HD Blu-ray player in the console put it well ahead of the game.

4K

Before this announcement, only three Ultra HD Blu-ray players had been revealed worldwide. Microsoft was getting in there very early with this nascent format and offering a console at a similar price to the standalone Ultra HD Blu-ray players. It was a win win.

In a way, if rumors were to believed, this was also good news for Sony. Murmurs all-but confirmed that the PlayStation Neo would beat out the Xbox when it came to 4K gaming, would offer 4K movie streaming AND would have an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The BDA practically confirmed it at IFA.

Then came the PlayStation Meeting launch. The PS4 Neo was transformed into the PS4 Pro and was pushed as the ultimate 4K gaming machine. In fairness, the console has some fantastic specs to back this bold claim, but something big was missing.

Sony had decided not to put an Ultra HD Blu-ray player in the PS4 Pro.

Sony PS4 Pro

It's a massive head scratcher, no matter which way you look at it. There's myriad reasons why Sony might have chosen to omit Ultra HD Blu-ray compatibility, but they're all followed by big question marks.

No way for Blu-ray

The first is that Sony has fallen out of favor with physical media. One of its biggest PlayStation pushes of late has been for gamers to download their games, rather than buy physical copies - despite there being negligible cost reductions to do this. It's also been heavily pushing PlayStation Now, its own game streaming service.

Maybe Sony is hoping that movie lovers will stream UHD content from its own movie store, PlayStation Video, or through the 4K-ready Netflix app that was discussed extensively at the PS4 Pro launch. Hell, it's even added HDR support so it's obvious that it really wants people to watch movies on the PS4 Pro, just not on one of those pesky disc things.

Netflix

Or it could be down to Sony's hardware simply not being ready for Ultra HD Blu-ray. Sony only just revealed its Ultra HD Blu-ray player at this year's IFA. Unlike its rivals, it won't release a device in the market until at least 2017. The player doesn't even have an official name yet.

We don't actually know who has made the Ultra HD player for Microsoft's Xbox One S, but it's obvious that it wouldn't have been Sony. If Sony's own UHD hardware isn't quite ready for launch - it isn't expected until April 2017 - then there's no way the company would stoop to the levels of opting for a third-party manufacturer to produce the player.

Then there's price. Sony, as a company, has streamlined its product launches over recent years. The amount of phones and TV SKUs it now sells has reduced, so this could have factored in its decision to not add a UHD player to the PlayStation. Adding a player means additional manufacturing costs, which it may not have been willing to suck up.

Xbox One S

Whatever the reason, it's disappointing. Ultra HD Blu-ray is still in its early adopter stage but adding the tech to a popular games console cements the format into the mainstream conscious. Sony knows this first hand and has failed to act on it, while Microsoft has learned from its past mistakes and fully embraced 4K movie watching.

Sony may know something we don't - that the Ultra HD Blu-ray format just isn't the future of 4K that some are expecting. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't give it a chance, instead it's backed streaming and downloads as the future of 4K.

It's backed the right format horse before, but this time the odds, if initial reactions are to go by, are currently stacked against them.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Content Team Lead

Marc (Twitter, Google+) is the content team lead for Future Technology, where he is in charge of a 14-strong team of journalists who write many of the wonderful stories that end up on TechRadar, T3.com and T3 magazine. Prior to this he was deputy editor of TechRadar, had a 10-month stint editing a weekly iPad magazine, written film reviews for a whole host of publications and has been an integral part of many magazines that are no longer with us.