PlayStation 4: Do We Really Need to Go “Pro?”

SIE’s PlayStation 4 Pro hits retail this week with a consumer proposition that is as confusing as it was two months ago when I first posted the article below. With PlayStation’s latest overly-reliant on 4K TV ownership, which has yet to achieve any significant level of penetration into American homes, and confusing jargon like “HDR” that takes hardware marketing to a new level of minutia, it seems like the Pro will be appealing to a VERY small audience – possibly smaller than that of PlayStation VR (which looks to have sold, LTD, roughly 250,000 units on a global basis.) In any event, get ready for a bunch of software patches and warm market media debate/side-by-side comparisons on a pixel-by-pixel basis as the week unfolds…

About two months ago, I replaced my aging GTX 660 GPU in My Alienware X1/R2 with the new GTX 1060 from NVIDIA. The 660 had done an admirable job over the four years that I had it, even… just barely… handling VR through my Oculus Rift DK2. The 1060 was a game changer and prepared my PC, with the 391 games that currently rest on its HDD, for the next few years of high-resolution and VR gameplay. It also took me about 15 minutes to install and get it up and running without a single issue or glitch.

Two days ago, Sony Interactive Entertainment officially announced the price and availability of the ‘PlayStation 4 Pro” – the company’s attempt to boost the PS4’s spec’s while maintaining compatibility with the 43 million PS4’s that are currently out in the wild. You know… like replacing the GPU on your PC. The Pro is set to hit the market on November 10th – just a few weeks after PSVR starts making its way into early-adopters’ hands – at a price of $399 – the same price the base PS4 launched at in November, 2013.

So, riddle me this, Batman – with day one patches, HDD swaps, DLC and now platform life-cycles that are being dramatically shortened, what is the difference between consoles and PC’s? The answer? Over the course of the next few years… almost nothing. With the announcement of PS4 Pro, the well-etched line in the sand that divided console owners from the “PC Master Race” has been obliterated. In reality, this has been coming on for some time. PC’s have become easier to use, upgrade and modify, while consoles and their ecosystems have become more complex.

And, I just upgraded my PC to a spec similar to what is going to be offered with PS4 Pro for significantly less money than the cost of Sony’s platform evolution. The times, they are a-changin’.

I am one of a small group that is fortunate enough to be able to own all major consoles, a decent gaming PC and VR and, for the first time since I started playing my Amiga 500 more than my SEGA Genesis, I am spending the majority of my gaming time on PC – and I am not the only one. In spite of PlayStation 4’s quick break out of the gate and market dominance, Gen 8 hardware sales have flattened and there is no hope that PS4 sales will ever hit the lofty heights achieved by PlayStation 2 (a goal that SIE executives were more than happy to talk about one year ago, but that does not come up in polite conversation with media outlets as we head toward the 2016 holiday season.) The Wii U is dead and soon to be replaced. Xbox One has stumbled along since their disastrous E3 2013, with only a flicker of hope that their slim model (“Xbox One-S”) will change their fortunes in the near-term, before Scorpio effectively pushes them, like Nintendo, into the 9th console generation and, like SIE and PS4 Pro, makes them a PC in a box. And, while all of these shenanigans have been taking place in the console world, the PC/Steam user base keeps growing and NVIDIA’s (as the primary driver/provider of PC display technology) business keeps steadily expanding, without disruption to the core ecosystem.

The end result? A paradigm shift in the way the console business operates and its expectations of its consumers that looks to create a tipping point in the gaming marketplace. Will this new approach work to keep the dwindling console gamer base in tact and stabilized, or will the obliteration of the technical/operational line that has separated console and PC gaming for so long serve to move more console players to PC? Speaking for myself, I have no plans to purchase PS4 Pro, unless (as I opined a few months back) I find it is necessary to achieve a quality experience with PSVR (which I believe is really what the launch of Pro is all about… but SIE does not want to tell consumers that the base PS4 can’t properly handle quality VR – topic for another day.)

So… I guess my bottom line is that I plan to retain my Amateur status, as there is very little reason to “Go Pro.”

PlayStation 4 Pro – SIE’s Big Mac That Replaces the Base PS4 Cheeseburger?

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About The Author
David Winding
Dave Winding is a 25 year gaming industry veteran that has been actively involved in sales, marketing, advertising, product development, publishing and communications. While his career has been as a gaming executive and entrepreneur, he is, above all else, a gamer.