By Craig Taylor | Staff Writer
Last Wednesday, Sony formally announced its 4K gaming console, the PlayStation 4 Pro, at the PlayStation Meeting 2016 in the PlayStation Theater located in New York City. This new console will play games at near-4K fidelity with high dynamic range (HDR) support and stream 4K movies. While Sony has said every PlayStation 4 game going forward will be playable on each device in the PlayStation 4 family, games will look and play better on PlayStation 4 Pro. Sony’s 4K console will be available on Nov. 10 for $399.
Also announced at the PlayStation Meeting, a new model was revealed for the original PlayStation 4, which is smaller and uses less power. The original, bulkier PlayStation 4 will be phased out of stores and be replaced by this slimmer console. The new PlayStation 4 will support HDR as well, along with every other existing PlayStation 4 via a firmware update. This model is available in stores now for $299.
Despite what was a successful press conference on paper, things quickly went south for Sony following the PlayStation meeting. The media was quick to point out that 4K streaming, a big selling point of the PlayStation 4 Pro, is already supported on the Xbox One S, which sells for just $299. Even more controversial, Sony said that neither the new PlayStation 4 nor the PlayStation 4 Pro will play 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs, which, again, is a feature the Xbox One S already has.
This news came just before an independent study by IHS Markit, a business and technology analysis company, found that Xbox Live was a faster, more reliable online service than PlayStation Network. In light of all this unfavorable press for Sony, Microsoft is taking advantage and running ads for the Xbox One S— highlighting its 4K streaming capabilities and touting its status as the “fastest, most reliable gaming network”.
With the omission of a 4K Blu-Ray player from both of its new devices and only its most expensive model capable of 4K streaming, Sony is struggling with public perception for the first time this generation.
In the face of Microsoft’s initial Xbox One announcement, when the console prohibited playing used games and required an online connection to use the console, Sony stressed its commitment to putting the consumer first. Its sales reflected the market’s sentiments, as estimates pegged the PlayStation 4 to have outsold the Xbox One two-to-one as of April 2016.
But with Microsoft’s Project Scorpio on the horizon, also a 4K console that Xbox believes will be the most powerful home console ever made when it launches in 2017, Sony’s high-end machine is being eclipsed immediately after its reveal. One could assume that the Scorpio will have 4K streaming and UHD Blu-Ray support like the Xbox One S, and its GPU also has 6 teraflops of computing power, compared to the Pro’s 4.2 teraflops.
There’s also the obstacle of getting 4K monitors into the people’s homes. Sony estimates that 15 percent of homes will have a 4K television by the end of 2016, which means that a significant portion of the market won’t be able to fully enjoy the PlayStation 4 Pro’s capabilities when it launches in November.
As a consumer electronics corporation, Sony has its hand in both 4K gaming and in the televisions that they sell. There’s a symbiotic relationship between the two divisions, and Sony is hoping that both their 4K game consoles and television monitors will convince the public to make the transition into 4K entertainment.
Ironically, creating a market for 4K content will benefit Project Scorpio’s launch in 2017. And given the underwhelming response to the PlayStation 4 Pro announcement, it’s still unclear whether the shake-up of heading into 4K gaming will loosen the company’s stranglehold on the video game market.