Sony held a press event yesterday to officially reveal both the PlayStation 4 Slim and the PlayStation 4 Pro consoles alongside trailers and gameplay of upcoming titles. The slim was declared the new base PS4 model and will become available on September 15 for $299.99. The Slim packs all the power of the traditional PS4 into a smaller package that Sony claims is almost 30% more energy efficient than the original model. The PS4 Pro launches a bit later this year, November 10, and will sell for $399.99. That extra $100 supposedly buys gamers a better gaming experience, 4K resolution for some games, expanded HDR capabilities, and a higher frame rate.
Obviously, Sony wants the PS4 Pro to seem like an attractive option for those looking to buy a PlayStation 4 or upgrade from an older model. Presenters like Andrew House and Mark Cerny could hardly refrain from touting the PlayStation 4 Pro's... pros. For example, the PS4 Pro includes custom variations on AMD's Polaris architecture and houses a GPU that Sony states "is considerably more powerful than the GPU included in the standard PS4." It also comes with a whole terabyte of storage space, a nice upgrade from the original PlayStation 4.
The vast majority of the announcements pushed the 4K capabilities of the system when paired with a 4K television. Sony was quick to clarify that those with conventional televisions will still notice a marked performance in games that support PS4 Pro's expanded capabilities. Every gameplay clip and trailer was accompanied by someone heralding 4K as if it was the biggest thing in gaming since the leap from NES to SNES. 4K... 4K. 4K! After an hour or so, I couldn't shake the feeling that PS4 Pro was created to specifically to sell more 4K televisions, specifically Sony 4K televisions. I had never heard the term "conventional television" tossed around more in my life, as if 1080p was already an obsolete resolution.
I'd be interested to know if the decision to make the PS4 Pro came from PlayStation or if it was a decree from the larger Sony company in an effort to push more Sony products. The cynic in me suspects that, as one of Sony's few profitable divisions, Sony has turned to PlayStation in a bid to leverage sales in less successful parts of the wider business. Sure, you could play PS4 Pro on a "conventional television," or you could enjoy it on a new Sony 4K TV. Oh, and while you're at it, why not pick up a Sony 4K Blu-ray player, since the PS4 Pro can't play 4K Blu-rays?
Wait, what? That last point is one of the most mind-boggling things to me; especially when the Xbox One S, PS4 Pro's direct competitor this coming holiday season, already touts 4K gaming (albeit upscaled) with HDR capabilities and can also play 4K Blu-rays. Sony owns the rights to UHD Blu-ray technology, but their device lacks that capability while their competitor proudly lists it as a feature. In an interview with The Guardian, Andrew House clarified why PS4 Pro won't have a 4K Blu-ray player. "Our feeling is that while physical media continues to be a big part of the games business, we see a trend on video towards streaming," he said. "Certainly with our user base, it's the second biggest use case for people's time on the system so we place more emphasis on that area."
To say that the PlayStation 4 Pro has been received poorly is a bit of an understatement. Many people derided the console on social media following its announcement. Even the official Xbox account tweeted out a sly jab that has been retweeted over 7,000 times and liked by over 15,000 people.
The thing is, I can't figure out to whom the PlayStation 4 Pro is supposed to appeal. Perhaps a slim subset of people who own a 4K TV and money to spend on an upgrade? Maybe someone who hasn't bought a PS4 yet, owns a 4K TV and is willing to drop an extra $100 on a Pro over a Slim? Either way, it seems like a very small market for now. That market seems like it will only be shrinking as we approach the holidays especially when you consider that Sony also plans to release PS VR on October 13 for the same price as the PS4 Pro, $399.99. Oh, and to get PS VR to work, you will also need a PS4 Camera, which PlayStation quietly redesigned and will be launching September 15 for $59. If you wanted to get into all of the things Sony is offering in the coming months to the highest degree, PS4 Pro, 4K TV, 4K Blu-ray player, PS VR, and a PS4 Camera, it could easily rack up the bill to well over $1,500, which you will recognize as a rather large number.
Any way you shake it, the main takeaway from the 2016 PlayStation Meeting speaks clearly: Please buy 4K TVs and maybe a few other things - preferably from Sony.
If you missed the announcements and want to watch the full 3-hour stream, you can view it below.