Opinion: Console upgrades – is it such a bad thing?

Upgrade

There are many rumours circulating the internet right now of a possible PS4 upgrade with the codename NEO attached to it. It’s been rumoured for several weeks now, but it’s not until this morning that we finally received some possible specs. The real question is – is it such a bad thing?

SONY DSC

You’d be mistaken if you thought that this console upgrade was the first of its kind. SEGA started this trend in the mainstream way back in the SEGA Mega Drive days. You might recall the SEGA CD and 32X add-ons? It upgraded the 16-Bit console via these hardware upgrades. What you ended up with was a console that looked rather laughable. It also cemented the beginning of the end for SEGA as people lost faith in the brand. When the Saturn launched, alongside a much more powerful PS1, it failed miserably and ultimately the Dreamcast had no hope of surviving – no matter how good it actually ended up being. Basically numerous console upgrades costs an entire brand the loss of a hardware division.

Nintendo N64 memory expansion pak pack

Nintendo are also no strangers to upgrades. The N64 allowed RAM upgrades by doubling it from <sarcasm> a whopping </sarcasm> 2MB to 4MB. You’d literally have to pull out the little RAM cart and change it up for your games to run smoother. Some games actually required it to work altogether. And then there’s the recent New 3DS. It comes with improved 3D quality, the circle pad pro extra shoulder buttons and analogue nub and, most importantly, plays some games that can’t be played on a launch 3DS units. Right now that’s one title – Xenoblade Chronicles. Other games, such as Hyrule Warriors, have serious slow-down issues on original 3DS hardware.

Let’s also be honest, the PS1, PS2 and PS3 slim all came with their own fair share of upgrades and improvements that launch owners never had. And you can throw the Xbox 360 slim into that equation too. It’s just that the hardware performance was not altered. If you bought a game in the shop you would not have to check if it would run on the console. You knew it would work.

Enter the here and now.

ps4k-upgrade

I once wrote a piece asking if consoles had hit the ceiling. When this console generation kicked off (and I’m excluding the Wii U in terms of raw power) we knew right away that the consoles were well behind the power of PCs at the time. It’s the first generation that consoles launched with power units not even remotely on par with the PC at the time. PC hardware would pull ahead quite quickly in any generation, but for this launch it had already left consoles in the dust well before launch. This was, according to reports, to save costs and to make the consoles affordable for owners. Sony cleaned the competition out as the Xbox One had the Kinect bundle, which increased the cost. They stumbled so badly at launch that its affected the position they’re in today. Sony, who are hellbent on not giving away their No.1 position, are now making sure that the competition never ever gets one over them again. The last competition that did so was Nintendo, when they launched the Wii that all but took over the world with motion controls. Whatever your stance may be on it – the fact remains it sold like crazy and Sony slipped from 1st to 3rd in the console race in the last generation. They did catch up to the 360, but it literally took years to do so.

Now rumours have it that Nintendo are launching a more powerful console, and that it’ll be more powerful than the current PS4 and Xbox One, and more in line with current PC specs. If that’s true remains to be seen, but there are also rumours that suggest that users will be able to upgrade the console. How that’ll work no one knows at this time. Sony’s move to a more powerful PS4 could provide the answer, though it could simply be the fact that they require more power for their VR efforts. At the end it comes down to your pockets, and how deep they are… and if it really matters to you.

So, should the PS4.5 be true then the games will run at a better frame rate and the visuals will see an obvious improvement. At least it’s nowhere near as bad as the New 3DS that promised games that would be exclusive to the new hardware in the same generation. The games, marked with NEO on the cover art, will still work on your base model PS4. It’s just that it won’t run as smoothly. The one thing that would irk me personally is the fact that I’ve always enjoyed console gaming because you don’t have to check specs on the back of a box – you just buy the game and you know it’ll work. To get around this problem is simple – buy the PS4 upgrade.

I think our world is about to change in the console domain. Manufacturers can’t afford to launch a console every 5-8 years. The technology is moving at such a fast rate that it’s just about impossible to keep up. Consumers are hungry for stronger and better products, and if they’re willing to pay for it the big corporations will provide just that with a smile on their faces – and that’s exactly what Sony is banking on.

Perhaps it’s time to remove yourself from the 1990s and early 2000s dream world. Every year your phone gets upgraded. Every year a TV gets upgraded and now your console can also be upgraded more often. Love it or hate it, it’s very likely here to stay. Nobody likes change, but sometimes it’s a step in the right direction. Time will tell. Let’s just hope Sony takes a look at SEGA’s history before moving ahead with their plans.

How do you feel about this whole console upgrade scenario?

Married to a gamer and she kicks my ass at most shooters. If the game is enjoyable I'll play it, no matter the format.

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