Sony has finally confirmed six month old rumors that they are releasing an upgraded version of their popular PlayStation 4 console. Dubbed the PS4 Pro, the more powerful hardware will be out November 10 at the attractive price of $399. While it’s good to see Sony taking the proactive step of upgrading their popular PlayStation 4 console and firmly jumping into the world of 4K gaming, based on what’s been shown so far, the PS4 Pro is a largely pointless upgrade that Sony will have a hard time convincing consumers to buy. Many were hoping that Sony would introduce some surprising new features beyond 4K and HDR (High Dynamic Range) capabilities, but it appears that the PS4 Pro is little more than a stopgap solution to a problem nobody had. Will the PS4 Pro objectively be the most full-featured console on the market when it’s released in November? Undoubtedly. Is it worth a purchase? It sure doesn’t seem like it.
Here’s why the PS4 Pro is a totally unnecessary upgrade.
10. Sony Already Has A Huge Lead
Although it certainly makes sense that Sony would want the PS4 to be able to output games in 4K resolution — since that is where the market is headed — the current PS4 model’s lack of 4K support doesn’t feel like a significant enough reason to launch a whole new product, especially when the PS4 still holds a commanding lead over the Xbox One. Sure, the release of the Xbox One S has helped Microsoft gain some ground on Sony, but isn’t that why Sony is coming out with the PS4 Slim? If the Pro wasn’t coming out in November and all Sony had was the Slim, it would almost surely be enough to help reinvigorate console sales, especially leading into the holiday season.
Sony should have taken a page out of Microsoft’s book and waited to release an upgraded PS4 that actually justifies its existence because now they’re taking a risk that consumers will either be turned off by the confusing messaging surrounding the PS4 Pro and opt for the Xbox One S instead, or just ignore the Pro completely and go for the PS4 Slim. There’s simply no need for Sony to take a gamble like this when they’ve had so much success with the PS4 already, but we’ll have to wait for the dust to settle on this holiday season to see whether or not they made the right call with introducing the Pro.
9. It Complicates The PS4 Ecosystem
One of the main selling points of consoles is that they offer a unified experience; there’s no need to worry about whether or not your PS4 will run a PS4 game because each game is specifically designed to run on that system. While the introduction of the PS4 Pro is by no means going to create a situation such as one finds on PC, where games require specific hardware specifications in order to run, it will complicate things in some surprising ways. Unlike consoles of the past, the Pro will detect whatever TV it is connected to and output visuals accordingly, meaning that the type of TV you own is more important than ever when it comes to playing games.
Kotaku’s Stephen Totilo does an excellent job of breaking down the nuances of what you can expect based on your TV type, but the long and short of it is that by allowing developers to make games look better graphically when running on the PS4 Pro, players will be hard-pressed to know whether they are seeing better or worse visuals than other Pro owners thanks to the wide variation in TV capabilities. Objectively, offering consumers better visuals is a good thing but it’s sure going to cause headaches for consumers and anyone trying to sell 4K TVs when there’s such a wide variance in how a game’s visuals will output.
8. PS4 Games Already Look Pretty Good
Yes, the PS4 is significantly underpowered when you compare it to high end PCs, but when you look at how good games like Uncharted 4 or the upcoming Horizon Zero Dawn look already on the standard PS4, it’s hard to feel like the console is in desperate need of an upgrade. One of the big issues that Sony is going to have when trying to sell the PS4 Pro is convincing consumers that they actually need it. That may sound obvious, but just look at how difficult it was for Sony’s reps to articulate the Pro’s selling points during the PlayStation Meeting.
Setting aside the irony of trying to show off 4K visuals on a livestream when most people who are watching it won’t notice the difference anyway, the truth is that no matter how hard Sony tries to tell you that 4K is some kind of next-level technological revolution, it’s difficult to get on the same page when 1080p visuals still look pretty good. This isn’t the same kind of jump that we saw from standard definition to high definition; yes, 4K is unquestionably superior to regular HD, but it’s arguably not enough to buy a whole new console (and TV, since most people still don’t own a 4K television) for.
7. Its 4K Features Are Surprisingly Limited
Here’s a real head-scratcher. While the PS4 Pro will have full 4K video support through streaming services and apps such as Netflix, Youtube, and Amazon, for some unfathomable reason, Sony is not supporting Ultra HD Blu-ray discs (as confirmed by Engadget). Now, it is true that Blu-ray, even the Ultra HD variety, is becoming an increasingly outdated format as video on demand services have caught up to the capabilities and visual fidelity of the disc-based format (plus, people simply aren’t as keen on buying physical media anymore), but to ignore the format completely is a bewildering move that makes the PS4 Pro a less attractive purchase overall. Sony pretty much spearheaded the drive to make Blu-ray the dominant media format back when the PlayStation 3 launched, so not supporting the latest incarnation of that format certainly feels like a questionable move on Sony’s part.
6. It’s Not A Big Enough Advancement To Make Current PS4 Users Upgrade
While current PS4 owners are not Sony’s intended target audience with the PS4 Pro, diehard early adopters generally enjoy having the newest and best version of whatever tech product they like. However, in the PS4 Pro’s case, it’s hard to see much reason for any current PS4 owner to cough up the cash for an upgrade. Unless you own a 4K TV and are in desperate need of marginal performance enhancements, why would current PS4 owners buy a Pro?
Sony has already said that they will not split the market by releasing exclusive content for the Pro, so anyone who has a PS4 already won’t be missing out on anything besides the aforementioned improvements. Hell, you know it’s bad when Kinda Funny Games’s Greg Miller and Colin Moriarty — two of the most dedicated PlayStation fans you’ll ever find — have both explicitly said that they will not upgrade to a Pro when it is released in November. If even die hard PlayStation fans are having difficulty thinking of a reason to get a PS4 Pro, what incentive does any PS4 owner have for making the switch?
5. It’s Uglier Than The Current Model (And Especially The Slim)
As industry veteran Victor Lucas so elegantly put it, “Xbox made a sleek console that looks more like a PlayStation and PlayStation made a big console that looks more like an Xbox.” It’s hard to argue with that sentiment becuase the truth of the matter is that the PS4 Pro doesn’t have the most elegant physical design. It’s too bulky and features a strange third ridge in the front that makes it look like a staircase. Sure, aesthetics aren’t the most important factor in determining whether a console will be successful or not, but the PS4 Pro certainly goes against Sony’s typical strategy of making each new iteration of its hardware “sexier” than the last. The Pro simply doesn’t have that “wow” factor in the looks department to make people covet it and it looks especially out of place next to the much sleeker PS4 Slim.
4. It’s Coming Out Too Soon
Microsoft must be happy that Sony has revealed their hand so early. The former company announced the Xbox Scorpio at this year’s E3 and many were puzzled by the decision, especially since Microsoft seemed to be undercutting the announcement of the Xbox One S, which they showed off at the very same press conference. However, now it seems that Microsoft’s decision to wait until next year to launch the Scorpio could end up being a wise move, as it not only gives them time to see how the market reacts to the PS4 Pro, its closest competitor, but also make sure that it is much more feature-rich and powerful than Sony’s console. Plus, by the time the Scorpio’s expected Holiday 2017 release rolls around, the Xbox One will have been on the market for four years and gamers will likely be more open to the idea of upgrading than they are at present, which will only help Microsoft’s case.
3. It’s Not Enough Of An Upgrade
Expanding on the previous point, the PS4 Pro doesn’t represent a big enough jump in overall performance to truly justify its existence; a shortcoming that Microsoft has already been quick to point out. In an interview with IGN following the PS4 Pro’s announcement, Xbox’s senior director of product management and planning Albert Panello claimed that the Xbox Scorpio will be more powerful than the PS4 Pro, to the point where it will be “obvious” to consumers.
While it’s still way too early to say for sure whether Microsoft’s decision to release the Scorpio a full year after the PS4 Pro will ultimately pay off, it sounds like the Scorpio will offer consumers much more tangible benefits than the PS4 Pro, as the only real advantage Sony’s console will have when it comes out this December is that it outputs games in 4K and offers marginal graphical improvements at best. Time will tell which company’s strategy was ultimately the right one, but as of this moment, Microsoft seems to have the edge.
2. PCs Are Still The Better Option
While it’s true that PC gaming will always have an advantage over consoles in terms of raw performance potential, it’s also true that most console gamers don’t really care about that difference. People choose PS4 or Xbox One because they don’t want to be bothered with upgrading PC components every few years and just want an easy-to-use piece of hardware to game on; in other words, terms like “frames per second” or “4K resolution” aren’t terribly important to them.
Most gamers who do care about having the best graphical performance are already invested in the PC market, so why would they bother with the PS4 Pro — a console that offers 4K output but still lags behind high-end computers in terms of performance capability. Sure, it’s certainly nice to have a PS4 that offers better graphical capabilities, but the only people who really care about having cutting edge graphics and performance are already too invested in the PC market to want anything to do with the PS4 Pro.
1. It’s Not Clear Who It’s For
The number one issue with the PS4 Pro and why it’s an unnecessary product is that it’s very unclear who Sony is marketing it to. It’s not current PS4 owners, as the Pro’s limited number of improvements aren’t enough to make the majority of owners splurge for an upgrade, outside of a few PlayStation diehards who simply have to own each new piece of hardware. It’s also not “pro” gamers or those who have a keen interest in graphical fidelity, as those players are already doing their gaming on PCs that can eat the PS4 Pro for lunch.
As Forbes’s Paul Tassi cheekily points out, the Pro is aimed at someone like him, who owns a 4K TV, has enough disposable income, and simply has to have the latest game console … and even he isn’t excited about it! If the purpose of Sony’s PlayStation Meeting was to clear up the messaging surrounding the PS4 Pro and offer consumers a compelling reason to drop hundreds of dollars on the console when it launches this November, they arguably failed in that endeavor.