As expected, the focal point of Sony's PlayStation press event in New York today was a newer, more powerful version of its PlayStation 4 console: The PlayStation 4 Pro, previously codenamed "Neo."
Dev response to the long-rumored "Neo" hardware has been all over the place, so it's worth noting now that Sony intends to launch the PS4 Pro this year (November 10th, to be specific) for $400.
Today's formal announcement afforded Sony the opportunity to make its official pitch for the console, and company representatives made significant efforts to describe the PS4 Pro as a more powerful sibling of its extant (though now slimmer) PS4 console, rather than a replacement.
"With PS4, we're pretty much maxing out what 1080p TVs can do with games.. which is why we’re excited for 4K and high-dynamic range, or HDR," said PlayStation chief Andrew House, carefully portraying display device limitations -- rather than the limitations of the PS4 itself -- as the main reason for the PS4 Pro's existence.
"PS4 Pro is not intended to blur lines between console generations," added PlayStation 4 system architect Mark Cerny, who briefly took the stage to highlight how the PS4 Pro improves upon the original PlayStation 4 in terms of GPU, processing speed and storage space.
However, no concrete details about how those improvements are implemented were given -- those came after the presentation, in a press release announcing the PS4 Pro's existence. For curious devs, here's an excerpt of Sony's specs for the PS4 Pro:
- CPU: x86-64 AMD "Jaguar", 8 cores
- GPU: 4.20 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon-based graphics engine
- GDDR5 8GB
- Super-Speed USB (USB 3.1 Gen.1) port × 3
- AUX port × 1
- HDMI out port (supports 4K/HDR)
- DIGITAL OUT (OPTICAL) port
(It's worth pointing out here that shortly after the event, Sony confirmed to BBC News that the PS4 Pro won't be capable of playing 4K Blu-rays -- a feature that's been a prominent part of the marketing for Microsoft's currently available Xbox One S console.)
During the press event Cerny also walked viewers through some demos of upcoming PS4 games running the Pro, gently pointing out examples of how the Pro's more powerful rendering capabilities were evident in said demos.
"We will not expect all developers to support HDR on PS4 Pro," he added.
As promised, it seems that after the PS4 Pro's debut all PlayStation 4 games are expected to be playable on both the PS4 Pro and the baseline PS4.
"The same discs and downloads will run on both the standard model and PS4 Pro, but they will play in multiple ways," said House when he retook the stage. He went on to hype up some of the games and apps that will support 4K and/or HDR rendering on PS4 Pro, from this year's Battlefield 1 and next year's Mass Effect: Andromeda to Netflix.
House also took pains to highlight that the regular PS4 will continue to be supported and updated alongside the Pro, noting that '"Every PS4, back to the original content, will be HDR-capable via a firmware update next week."
Thus, this seems to be the year that PlayStation becomes a two-console operation -- though Microsoft is expected to hop in the same boat next year with the release of its upgraded Xbox One, codenamed "Scorpio."
Market analysts seem bullish on the news; in an email to Gamasutra and other press outlets, IHS analyst Piers Harding-Rolls opined that "[Sony's] Pro console strategy reflects the nature of the consumer electronics market today: Consumers are looking for updates to hardware more regularly and CE [consumer electronics] companies are looking to sell more devices."
"IHS expects only a small share of consumers to be new to the PS4 platform: As a result sales of software are unlikely to increase in line with Pro sales as existing PS4 owners rely on already purchased games titles," he added. "IHS forecasts PS4 Pro worldwide sales of 1.5 million in 2016. The overall installed base of PS4 is forecast to reach 53.5 million by the end of 2016."