While we only received official confirmation of an upgraded PlayStation 4 a couple of weeks ago, its existence has been teased and speculated about for months now. With various publications posting information on leaked technical specifications, an upgraded PlayStation 4, codenamed “Neo”, seemed like it was just on the horizon.
Granted, more than a few of us got it wrong. While the PlayStation Neo does exist, we didn’t see it at this year’s E3, which was a bit of a surprise to some. The world’s largest video game expo would seem like the perfect place to unveil a new piece of hardware, and even I was a bit surprised to hear news of its absence at E3 2016. If you dig deeper, however, it makes perfect sense that Sony would choose to delay an official unveiling of the Neo, though you might not think so at first glance.
Choosing to talk about new hardware is always a tricky subject, and the same goes for console revisions. While you might think that news of a console revision should be shared outright, there’s a lot of other factors that go into the timing of deciding when to talk about a new product. In the case of console revisions, shortening the gap between an official unveiling and a launch date is beneficial all around. As unsavory as some may find it, publishers and console manufacturers are looking to maximize profit and announcing a console revision months away from its launch can cause a decline in sales, as potential new customers might decide to hold off on making a purchase until a better version of the product is available just a few months down the line.
Unlike a simple ‘slimming down’ of a console, the PlayStation Neo marks one of the first notable hardware revisions for a console in a long time. While all PlayStation 4 games (past, present and future) will run on both vanilla and Neo versions of the hardware, the upgrade to a Neo model extends beyond simple aesthetics. The PlayStation Neo will undoubtedly run games better than its vanilla counterpart, giving a tangible reason for current owners to upgrade. Unfortunately, this is where the talk of money comes into play.
While there is no set price point for the upcoming hardware, it will (in all likelihood) retail for $400 or more, which is a pretty significant investment for both newcomers and those looking to trade up. This of course, clashes with Sony’s incoming VR headset: PlayStation VR. While the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are already well underway in their bid for VR dominance, Sony’s take on VR gaming is one we haven’t seen much of yet. With plenty of games in development, Sony’s entry into the world of VR will undoubtedly take center stage this year at E3. Like it or not, this is most likely why we won’t see much about PlayStation Neo this year at E3. As a costly and more involved way to interact with games and other media, virtual reality is a tough sell to much of the audience that Sony is targeting. There’s a definite barrier to entry when it comes to the PSVR, and Sony isn’t looking to muddy the waters by splitting its time between the Neo and PSVR.
We will have to wait a little longer to hear more about the PlayStation Neo, but from Sony’s perspective, it’s really the only choice at this point. E3 is a global event of sorts, with press and industry professionals pouring in from all corners of the world. Rather than splitting their efforts across multiple types of hardware, Sony doubled down on PlayStation VR this year, trying convince us (and the world) of its value. At this stage of the game, talking about the Neo would be spreading themselves too thin, and would only remind consumers of the hefty price tag they will have to pay in order to enjoy all that Sony has to offer over the next few years. It may not do much for our wallets in the long run, but for now, Sony is (at the very least) distracting us from the impending damage to our bank account balances.
For me, all I can do is yell “shut up and take my money!”