Originally published on PlayStation Insider on August 31, 2016. PlayStation Insider is no longer active, so I have republished the opinion piece here for myself. If you would like to see the original post, check out the Web Archive.
Ever since Kotaku reported on a PS4.5 being in development earlier this year, rumors have circulated that the system would launch in Fall 2016. Codenamed “Neo” (in the same vain of PS VR’s Matrix themed codename “Morpheus”), this new system would feature more power for 4K gaming and a potential boost for PS VR.
Last week, PlayStation Insider’s own Logan Moore wrote an editorial about how people that think the PlayStation Neo will make its market debut in 2016 are crazy. This week I am here to play Devil’s advocate and share with you why I think Neo will come out this year.
Development Timelines are Difficult (and Expensive) to Stop
Industries are built around timelines. Deadlines are set and hopefully are made so that the bottom line is profitable.These systems are planned years before they hit the market. Contracts and production timelines have been signed and slamming on the brakes out of fear of the competitor could be more costly than moving forward with the plan.
Sony may have looked at the market and thought that Neo’s potential specs would be more than satisfactory. The surprise of Scorpio may have shocked Sony, but being reactionary can cost them quite a bit in the production aspect of the business. It would be difficult for Sony to figuratively stop the presses because Microsoft beat them to the punch for announcing a more powerful system.
Sony and Microsoft Seem to be Playing Different Games
The quantum leap that the Scorpio is boasting is more than a incremental change for a system. It is Microsoft admitting they lost in the mindshare of this console generation with Xbox One. The power boost alone in Scorpio is substantial enough to justify a new console name. There is even the notion of a modular console coming about from this; to be upgradable like a PC.
By comparison, the Neo seems to be making a much smaller incremental step in terms of power. According to Eurogamer, the rumored specs of the Neo are 40% less powerful than the Scorpio. Why such a significant difference if both are “incremental systems?” I believe it is because Sony is hoping to move the console market in a similar direction as Apple and smart phones. Smaller, but more frequent updates to the system line up. Factoring in the recently leaked PS4 Slim, Sony could be broadening and rebranding the entire PlayStation line.
Sony Could “Rebrand” the PlayStation Line
Introducing three (possibly four) new products, I believe, is the perfect time to spark new interest in a product line. With the PS4 Slim, Neo, and PS VR, the whole PlayStation hardware lineup can take a new look. The Slim could phase out current PS4s and simply be called “PlayStation 4.” This is the everyday mans’ PS4; it plays all the games, works with PS VR, and is all you expect out of a current PS4.
The Neo would be for your tech savvy, hardcore fans, and power users. Featuring powerful internals, a larger hard drive, and slight help to VR. As for helping out VR, I would think it helps out with the “second screen” part, allowing the games to actually match TV aspect ratios and display at full resolution for bystanders, not actually improve the headset performance.
PS VR stays like we have seen it, a headset that works the same way on all PS4 systems. A cheaper entry point into the world of VR, in comparison to pricier alternatives like Oculus or Vive. PS VR will have a smaller, niche audience in comparison to the 45 million PS4 owners. Preorders are sold out everywhere. The table is set for early adopters. Launching new systems that reach a wider audience should not impact PS VR sales, since it is a niche item.
All three serve different facets of their audience. Again, to compare Sony to Apple, the PS4 Slim could be a numbered entry iPhone, the Neo is the iPhone (insert number here) S, and VR is the Apple Watch. The Watch works the same across all the devices, but it is the type of user that picks how much power in their main device they desire.
Launching the Slim Before the Neo can Hurt PS4 Sales
A smaller point, but one I see just as important. When Microsoft announced the Xbox One S at the opening of their 2016 E3 Press Conference I was personally ready to trade in my new Xbox One for the slimmed down variant. At the end of the show was when Phil Spencer announced the Scorpio. That’s when Microsoft lost my buy on the Xbox One S. Sure, they already had my money from the original purchase, but people are waiting until Scorpio hits the market before they buy a new Xbox.
I would hate to see Sony potentially stall sales by not releasing their two new systems at the same time. Launching at the same time or close to one another gives potential consumers a choice up front without having to wait for one to launch. This would also go hand-in-hand with a rebrand, if Sony wanted to go that route.
Neo May Have Another Trick Up Its Sleeve
Frankly, no one knows what the Neo is at all. Same with any new hardware that has been announced, but not shown in any official capacity. With all the leaks, folks have a good idea of where the system could be going. The rest of the holes are filled in by fans.
I want to say upfront, this idea is 100% conjecture on my part. I have not seen this leaked or thought up anywhere else.
What if the Neo is backward compatible?
After Microsoft’s reveal of backward compatibility, clicks soared across websites and fans foamed at the mouth to put their old DVD and digital games inside their shiny, new game box.
With the current PS4, it is impossible to do backward compatibility due to the cell processor in the PS3. It simply will not work. If Sony figured out how to get PS3 games running on some form of the PS4 software and the Neo was designed from the ground up for backward compatibility, it could be a major selling point. Consumers seem to love running old software on new hardware.
Some of you may be thinking, “What about PS Now, Max? They spent $380 million on Gaikai to make streaming PS3 games possible!” They did. PS Now is still an option for people with super high speed internet. It is available on PS3s, older PS4s, now PCs, and even some Sony televisions. I think that PS Now can exist like the Vita and just keep on keepin’ on where it is available. If the Neo had backward compatibility, it would be another feature that could entice sales of the newer, more expensive system, just in time for the Holiday sales.
Will the PlayStation Neo come out this year? I certainly hope so. I think these are the reasons why Sony would opt to launch their new system in 2016. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait long to find out. Sony’s PlayStation Meeting is September 7 at 3:00 PM EST. Make sure to come back to PlayStation Insider for all the latest news from the event!
What do you think about the Neo? Do you think it will launch in 2016? Let me know in the comments below or tweet at me @MaxTheWhite.