So here I am, dusting off this corner of the internet and making a return to writing after several months of silence.
Now there is a handful of reasons why I’ve been quiet on the blogging front, all of which I will talk about another time. I’m at my keyboard today though to discuss some confusing announcements stirring up the gaming world at this years E3.
The world famous Electronic Entertainment Expo has just had it’s 2016 event and once again Microsoft and Sony left us all a tad bewildered and that’s even without including the somewhat eerie trailer for Hideo Kojima’s new ‘Norman Reedus Holding A Dead Baby Simulator’ that’s currently in production, Death Stranding.
Once again it’s the hardware developments that seem quite unclear to most of us outside the offices of Redmond or San Mateo. Barely three years have passed since the announcement of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and yet now both companies have shown us newer versions of their current generation machines that will be on sale later this year.
Instead of just being slimmer and better looking models of the same product, akin to the Xbox 360 Slim or PS3 Slim, these new machines will actually churn out more processing and graphics power than their older counterparts. While normally this would mark a new generation in gaming consoles, both Microsoft and Sony have stressed that these newer models will be sold alongside the originals and all future games for each platform will work on either machine.
How these games will run is still a bit of a grey area but I can only imagine it would be similar to PC games where you can adjust the level of graphical quality depending on your hardware, though I’m sure this will be an automatic adjustment that is made depending on what version of the console you install the game onto.
Whilst the new PS4 (codenamed PS4 Neo) wasn’t actually shown off at E3, it was officially announced the week before along with some information on its new abilities. Microsoft’s new console however, the Xbox One S, was shown off to the world in all it’s glory. Oddly though, there was no mention of it’s power increase, leading most of us to believe it was just a smaller and better looking Xbox One.
This doesn’t seem to be the case though as the Gears Of War creators confirmed that it has been given a CPU and GPU upgrade much like the PS4 Neo. It would be a reasonable assumption that this is largely to support one of the Xbox One S’s new features, HDR graphics.
Now I’m not going to explain HDR (or High Dynamic Range) here but in a nutshell a HDR compatible TV can display a much wider and richer range of colours, brighter whites and deeper blacks. It’s something Sony have been including in their new TV sets for a few months now but left no word as to whether the PS4 Neo will support the new technology like the Xbox One S will.
Sony were quite clear in stating that the Neo is a more powerful console and though they’re not likely to admit it, this will mainly be to support their new VR headset which is also due for release later this year. While they are adamant that the headset will work on the original PS4, there would almost certainly have to be some caveat they’re holding back on telling us. VR platforms currently require a fairly powerful PC to run at a high enough resolution and frame rate to be both realistic and immersive enough to not give you a headache or make you vomit during extended use. It is highly doubtful that either of those key factors wouldn’t have to take a hit in order to run on the older hardware.
Neither console however will support 4K gaming and this is where a lot of the confusion lies. Although both companies have mentioned 4K, this is purely for streaming video with the likes of Netflix, Amazon and YouTube. Both machines will now sport an HDMI 2.0 port to enable this and Microsoft has even confirmed the One S will have an Ultra HD Bluray Player (no word from Sony on that one).
Amongst all the terrible PR surrounding both machines, it has been made clear that the 4K abilities will be strictly for video services and it comes as no real surprise. Running a game at 4K resolutions is a remarkably demanding task and right now requires an incredibly powerful gaming PC. To fit that level of performance into something the size of a console and at an affordable price would be nothing short of impossible but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from making another, even crazier announcement.
At the end of their show they announced a third console that will join the “Xbox One family” due to release Christmas 2017. It’s Codename ‘Scorpio’ is about as much information we have at this point but Microsoft did make one thing very clear, it will run games in 4K. The machine will apparently be nearly 5 times as powerful as the original Xbox One and if that claim is true, Sony could be in real trouble and most likely need to produce a competing product or they could face losing their current lead in the console war.
Beyond that, very little else is known at this point and while a new games console is always exciting, it does pose some difficulties regarding the future of the current Xbox One and PS4 consoles. There are certainly a number of people that are feeling a tad disgruntled after already spending a considerable amount of money on something that now looks to be outdated far sooner than expected.
Whilst both Microsoft and Sony insist that the current consoles won’t be forgotten or left behind, it’s hard to see just how that will work in the real world and the next few years will certainly be an interesting if not baffling time for the gaming market and more importantly, an expensive one for the consumer.