Leaked PlayStation Documents: Is Sony Planning For The PlayStation 5 Or Just Competing With Itself?

Leaked PlayStation documents show specs for a console that are significantly greater than the PlayStation 4’s capabilities. However, the improvements are not considered next-generation, and rumors prevail that the specs are for a mid-life iteration of the PlayStation 4 being termed variously as, PlayStation NEO, PlayStation 4.5, and PlayStation 4K. If this is the case, why is Sony choosing what is being considered an incremental upgrade, rather than focusing on a next generation PlayStation 5 console to be released at a later date?

The generational shelf life of a gaming console has typically been five years. The PlayStation 4 is currently only about two and a half years into its generational lifespan. Sony’s past console manufacturing process has been first to release a new generation of the PlayStation, followed by an iteration that strips down and slims the hardware to a more streamlined form and reduced price, and then release the next generation. The slimmed iteration usually occurs 2-3 years into the console’s run.

Leaked Playstation documents show increased specs
The recently leaked PlayStation documents seem to want to change that process by upgrading the current generation instead of stripping it down. This upgrade will likely require a price increase rather than a price decrease.

Several grains of salt need to be taken with any leaked information on a product not yet officially announced, but TechRadar reports that the leaked specs have “been confirmed by a number of unidentified sources.”

The new specifications and hardware listed in the documents include:

“A CPU with 8 Jaguar Cores at 2.1 GHz (compared to the original PS4’s 1.6 GHz), an improved GPU (AMD GCN, 36 CUs at 911 MHz compared the original’s 18 CUs at 800 MHz) and improved RAM (8 GB GDDR5, 218 GB/s compared to the original’s 176 GB/s).”

The leaked PlayStation documents also indicate “that Sony will require that every PS4 game from October 2016 onwards will have to ship with a ‘Base Mode’ and a ‘Neo Mode’, so as to work on both original and updated consoles,” noted TechRadar.

Rumors also speculate that the specs will allow the output of 4K video. So with such a significant upgrade, a few questions arise.

First, the leaked PlayStation documents seem to indicate a willingness to begin competing in the UltraHD market, but against whom? Game Informer reports that Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox division, is not interested in an incremental upgrade to the Xbox One.

Phil Spencer quells rumors of an Xbox One and a Half

“I’m not a big fan of Xbox One and a half. If we’re going to move forward, I want to move forward in big numbers,” Spencer stated. “If we’re going to go forward with anything… I want it to be a really substantial change for people — an upgrade.”

Phil also stated that he is aware of rumors, but dismissed them.

If the leaked PlayStation documents are genuinely intended for the NEO, with whom is Sony trying to compete? Is it merely an attempt to get a jump on the competition? If so, why put the tech into the NEO rather than a PlayStation 5? These are all questions that do not have easy answers, but some believe such a move would be a poor business decision on Sony’s part.

Parker Wilhelm, of TechRader, wrote, “While the notion of playing 4K media alongside up-rezzed games sounds great, it’s hard to imagine the estimated 36 million PS4 owners (and counting) will ditch their current consoles just for few extra pixels.”

In Wilhelm’s opinion, if the leaked PlayStation documents are indeed intended for a PlayStation 4.5, instead of the next generation of the console, then Sony will mostly be competing with itself. It logically follows that if Sony releases an upgrade like this now, only two scenarios are likely to occur.

  1. Customers who currently own PlayStation 4’s will purchase the upgrade, and the NEO will see some success.
  2. Current customers will not upgrade to the NEO, and it will fail.

The first scenario, as Wilhelm pointed out, is not likely. If anything, only a handful of current owners will consider the purchase. Furthermore, what happens when PlayStation 5 releases a couple of years later? Are those that upgraded going to be anxious to pay yet another $600 on a new console? Spending $1,200 to $1,800 on hardware purchases within a span of five years is not a typical console consumer’s spending trend. In addition, if developers have to put extra work into a single game title to make it compatible with two iterations of the PlayStation 4, they are likely to pass that cost on to the consumer. This is an unnecessary penalty to current console owners.

The second scenario seems more plausible at this point. Even if Sony were attempting to attract its competition’s customers, it is just as unlikely that they would jump ship from their Xboxes, as it is current PlayStation 4 owners would abandon their consoles. That only leaves consumers who are still on the fence and have not purchased either console yet, and those numbers are dwindling daily.

Since Sony has not indicated any sort of announcement on the NEO, we will just have to wait to see if the leaked PlayStation documents are indeed for the midlife iteration of the PlayStation, or whether they are actually outlining a few of the changes coming to the PlayStation 5.

[Image via Fateh Dogar| Behance | Cropped and Resized | CC BY-NC-ND 4.0]