It seems that the next battle in the ongoing video game war is about to be fought, with weapons being drawn rather earlier than was anticipated. It was thought that the next major console clash would be over the PlayStation 5 / Xbox Two generation, but increasingly it seems that new machines will be on the market this year.

PlayStation 4.5 vs. Nintendo NX vs. Xbox One Upgrade: The Next Console War

4K PlayStation 4.5

The first of three expected new consoles to release in the next twelve months will be the PlayStation 4.5; a console that has seemingly emerged from nowhere in the last few months. The notion of a Sony console released in 2016 was something of a surprise at first, but recent links now make it seem a certainty.

Gamespot’s sister site Giant Bomb has already reported that the PlayStation 4.5 is codenamed Neo, but this is not expected to be the ultimate title of the machine. Both PlayStation 4.5 and PlayStation 4K have been mooted, although the latter seems the less likely of the two considering that not all titles on the machine will necessarily run in this resolution.

The PlayStation 4.5 is, though, intended to offer superior resolution to the existing PlayStation 4, while also possibly enabling titles to run at higher frame rates. Sony has clearly signalled its intention to developers to retain mainstream support for the PlayStation 4 for the rest of this console generation, so this can possibly be considered something of a stopgap console ahead of the release of the PlayStation 5.

However, Sony ‘s apparent intention to release a PlayStation 4.5 is indicative of the ambition of the company. Sony has accumulated a great deal of good will in the console marketplace over the last couple of years, and now wishes to build on this by delivering an enhanced PlayStation 4.5 that features some some of the qualities that the corporation knows the PlayStation 4 will be unable to replicate.

Thus, although leaked information suggests that there will be no additional peripherals for the PlayStation 4.5 supporting virtual reality technology which are not also compatible with the PlayStation 4, it is expected that the PS4.5 will have a particular VR focus. It is also anticipated that the PlayStation 4.5 will indeed release ahead of the anticipated PlayStation VR headset, and that this device will set down the gauntlet for Microsoft and Nintendo.

PlayStation 4.5 vs. Nintendo NX vs. Xbox One Upgrade: The Next Console War

Microsoft rumors accelerate

It would seem inevitable that the great rival to Sony in the console marketplace, Microsoft, will have to respond in some respect to the PlayStation 4.5. Yet the main man at Microsoft, the Xbox chief Phil Spencer, has stated quite explicitly that the notion of an Xbox 1.5 is not something that interests the corporation.

“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. If we’re going to go forward with anything, like I said, I want it to be a really substantial change for people —?? an upgrade,” Spencer said during a discussion with Game Informer.

Yet leaks this week suggest that Microsoft could be considering a direct competitor to the PlayStation 4.5. Numerous Microsoft filings with the Federal Communications Commission have been discovered which indicate that the corporation is apparently testing a new Xbox One wireless chip.

We don’t know what this means just yet, but sources close to Microsoft suggest that the company has been experimenting with a variety of prototype Xbox devices. It has been reported previously that Microsoft was intending to link up more closely with PC gaming manufacturers and the PC gaming marketplace, and therefore it is interesting to note that some of the prototype Xbox consoles have been tested with upgraded components. This is the sort of feature that is associated with typical PC gaming rigs.

It would be amazing if Microsoft stands still while Sony releases an upgraded PlayStation 4.5, so we may indeed see an Xbox One Upgraded some time soon.

PlayStation 4.5 vs. Nintendo NX vs. Xbox One Upgrade: The Next Console War

Nintendo confirm NX

Nintendo may be something of a marginal contender in the console marketplace at present, but its history suggests that it can innovate in such a way as to become a major player once more. And considering its position, the Japanese corporation is able to be more open with its plans that either Sony or Microsoft.

Thus, it is already know that the next generation Nintendo NX will be launching globally in March 2017, perhaps acknowledging that the Wii U has not been hugely successful for the corporation. A less than five-year shelf life for the Nintendo Wii U does rather indicate its failure.

Nintendo is known for focusing on innovation and software rather than spec-heavy hardware, but the corporation has been forced to change this approach somewhat in recent years as the video game marketplace has evolved. So the hardware of the Nintendo NX is likely to be similarly powerful to the PlayStation 4.5 and Xbox One, while reports have also surfaced already regarding some of the features that will be included.

In an interview with Time magazine last year, Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima mused on what the Nintendo NX will look like when it is released. “It’s something unique and different. It’s something where we have to move away from those platforms in order to make it something that will appeal to our consumer base.” The console will also be “a next step in our dedicated device strategy, the core and primary focus of our business.”

Thus, a report in the Wall Street Journal that the device will include a console and a mobile unit to be used in conjunction with the machine, or even taken away from home as a separate device, is not particularly surprising. Nintendo evidently intends to produce a hybrid console and portable device that unites the two separate aspects of Nintendo’s core business.

The Wall Street Journal also links the Nintendo NX with industry-leading chips, and there could even be an Android operating system included. Nintendo is certainly not a follower of fashion, and we can expect the corporation to take a different tack to Sony and Microsoft in this next chapter of the ongoing console story.