Ever since the news first broke about a major hardware refresh for the PS4, the internet has been abuzz with theories and leaks. Most recently, a post on the popular gaming forum NeoGAF claims that the “PS4K” will feature a significantly more powerful GPU and support for the UHD Blu-ray standard. A NeoGAF user named “OsirisBlack” started a thread earlier this week, and listed a handful of details about this mid-cycle update to the PlayStation 4. It’s supposedly going to have a GPU “twice as powerful as standard PS4,” a UHD Blu-ray player, and a UHD upscaler. As for the CPU, that’s still up in the air. Replacing the existing CPU could raise the final price from a $ 400 target to $ 500, so a decision has yet to be made.
As for the release window, it’s tentatively set for the first quarter of 2017. That strikes us as very odd. Why skip the holiday season? At best, it angers the people who got PS4s for Christmas. At worst, a looming release could cause current hardware sales to nosedive. This story is quickly spinning out of control, and Sony would do well to respond to all of this speculation — even if that means discussing it publicly before E3.
More importantly, this forum poster asserts that developers are already making games that will take advantage of the new hardware while remaining backwards compatible on the original PS4. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t seem as if native 4K games will be possible on this new hardware, but the post says it would be reasonable to expect a new release to be running at 1080p60 on the PS4K, while only delivering a 900p30 experience on the first PS4.
Existing games aren’t likely to see any performance boosts on the new hardware unless they’re patched specifically to take advantage of the new horsepower. However, numerous titles are mentioned that will support the new hardware on day one. An unnamed game abbreviated as “GOW4” (likely God of War 4) and Capcom’s Deep Down are listed as normal PS4K releases while EVE: Valkyrie, Robinson, and GT Sport will be PSVR titles that use the extra horsepower.
The potential of new releases working on both versions of the PS4 is intriguing, but it remains to be seen how well that would work in the real world. If developers end up focusing the vast majority of their resources on the new hardware, and fail to properly optimize for the older hardware, the end user will most definitely suffer.
Sony can minimize this problem by keeping the same CPU, GPU, and memory architecture on the PS4K, and by mandating a testing cycle for both versions of the console. Current thinking is that Sony and MS are both transitioning to the iPhone model, with plans to support a small number of console generations at any given time. While it’s true that bottom-end users have often been unhappy with how cutting edge iOS versions run on their hardware, this has typically been confined to devices that were 3-5 years old. Nothing Sony or Microsoft has said indicates they are considering a yearly refresh cycle, so we’re probably looking at a smaller number of absolute refreshes per console generation than Apple has used for the iPhone.
Just remember that everything here is based on unconfirmed information — it might be completely bogus. But even if it turns out that this leak is 100% legitimate, the facts can change fast. The final specs could change, the release window might jump drastically, and it’s still possible that this oddball hardware could be scrapped completely. It’s fun to examine these leaks, and discuss what they might mean, but it’s important to take all of this with a grain of salt. After all, it’s not that difficult to trick the Internet into believing something is real.