For months, the rumor mill has churned with predictions that Sony would launch a new, higher-end PlayStation 4 system with improved graphics, potentially larger storage, and possibly support for UltraHD (aka 4K) Blu-ray discs. Now the company has confirmed these rumors, but says it won’t show the console at E3 this year.
Andrew House, president and group CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, has confirmed that the PS4K / PS4 Neo / PS 4.5 will be more expensive than the current version of the PlayStation 4, which retails for $ 350. This actually makes a fair bit of sense — if Sony is hitting reset on the platform’s capabilities, we’d expect the console to come in around $ 400 at the least.
Sony, however, isn’t planning to phase out the PS4. “It [the PS4 Neo] is intended to sit alongside and complement the standard PS4,” House told the Financial Times. “We will be selling both [versions] through the life cycle.”
This quote suggests that the price gap between the two variants could be larger than just $ 50. A $ 350 / $ 400 split makes sense if Sony wants to push end-users to the newer version as quickly as possible, while $ 350 / $ 450 or $ 350 / $ 500 might allow higher overall margins while still paying for the new architecture and GPU. The new console is said to target users with 4K content who want access to higher resolutions, but the platform won’t be shown at E3 this year. According to House, that’s because “We want to ensure we have a full range of the best experiences on the new system that we can showcase in their entirety.”
House also stated that all games would be supported on both platforms and that supporting the newer PS4 would create a small amount of additional work, but nothing too difficult. Sony will require that all games continue to support the standard PS4, but expects that the vast majority will support the newer variant as well.
The PS4 Neo is expected to be profitable on launch day, like the PS4 before it, and rumors suggest it will pack significantly upgraded hardware. The GPU is more-or-less confirmed as a variant of AMD’s upcoming Polaris architecture, with up to double the GPU cores and other improvements associated with 14nm, while the CPU is either an upgraded variant of the PS4’s Jaguar SoC, with a 30% clock speed improvement, or a rumored “Zen Lite” core of unknown capabilities. The 14nm die shrink for Jaguar seems more likely, but until Sony confirms the details we won’t know for certain.
There’s no word on whether Sony will launch the platform at the same time it debuts its PS VR, but House confirmed that the PS VR will support both platforms, not just the PlayStation 4 Neo. He also implied that customer preference for the so-called “iPhone model,” in which a manufacturer supports a limited number of hardware configurations at any given time, is the future of Sony’s console development. The focus on Day 1 profitability is one reason why neither the Xbox One or PS4 offered as much improvement over their predecessors as console gamers might have liked — Sony took an absolute hammering on the PS3 when it launched, losing upwards of $ 300 on every single console sale. Microsoft didn’t take nearly as much of a hit, but still lost money on the Xbox 360. It’s much harder to finance cutting-edge process nodes or large-die SoCs when the console needs to make money straight out of the gate.