Both Microsoft and Sony have announced their plans to release mid-generation “reboots” of their current, respective gaming consoles. While these are not entirely new consoles, they are new, updated versions of the Xbox One and the Playstation 4, and will feature updated technological specifications that will certainly leave their respective launch versions behind.
Microsoft announced both its new mid-generation consoles at their E3 show, promising that they would be supporting developers across all three of their Xbox consoles: The One, the One S, and the powerful Scorpio. Sony, on the other hand, purposefully did not mention anything regarding the PlayStation Neo, their upcoming mid-generation console that was confirmed before E3.
Despite Sony’s lack of information, developers, journalists, and avid gamers, have begun pondering what these upcoming consoles mean for current-generation game development.
Microsoft’s Xbox One S and Project Scorpio
By now, avid gamers have surely heard that Microsoft announced a pair of new gaming consoles at its media briefing at the E3 conference last week. Coming in August, the Xbox One S is 40 percent smaller, supports 4K resolution, video playback, a “streamlined” controller and, in some models, a larger hard drive.
Then, sometime during the 2017 holiday season, Project Scorpio, “the most powerful console ever,” will follow. Scorpio purportedly has 6 teraflops of graphical processing power, supposedly enough to support 4K resolution and virtual reality gaming without sacrificing the frame rate or other graphical aspects.
Gamers without an Xbox now have two choices: buy the Xbox One S after it releases this summer, or hold out 18 months for the vastly more powerful and expensive Scorpio. Current Xbox owners, however, have three options from which to choose: stick it out with their now last-generation Xbox One, buy the sleeker Xbox One S, or wait it out until they can purchase the Scorpio. With both cases, the decisions are fairly expensive ones, and no gamers want to mess it up by making the wrong one.
Sony’s PlayStation Neo
A series of rumors have speculated that Sony will be releasing a new console, the PlayStation 4.5, 4K, or Neo, have been recently confirmed by the company. Sony, however, has yet to release any documentation supporting claims about the upcoming console’s specifications. While it was indeed confirmed, it was not once mentioned during E3.
The PlayStation Neo will reportedly have overall greater performance capabilities that its launch version, the PlayStation 4. The newer console will be powered by an AMD GCN GPU that fully supports detailed resolutions of 4K. The PlayStation Neo, however, might only utilize this function for videos and optimizations of 4K monitors. The console’s upgraded performance alludes to the fact that it should have no problem running current 1080p games at a constant 60fps frame rate at max settings, as well as provide the necessary power for enhanced graphics in terms of virtual reality.
Sony has required all games to work on both the PlayStation 4 as well as the PlayStation Neo. This is indeed a welcome relief for current console gamers who already own a PS4, as this allows them to hang on to their console without having to purchase a new one. This, however, cannot be said for game developers, as games that provide support on both consoles require extra effort from their side.
What do developer’s think?
Many developers have expressed their excitement regarding the improved hardware of both Sony’s and Microsoft’s upcoming mid-generation consoles. Developers are happy that both Microsoft and Sony have made commitments to support games that function across the multiple versions of their respective consoles.
“I think as long as the hardware architecture are of the same family of hardware architecture and the general operating systems don’t change, it’s really just a question of scaling like we would do on PC,” said Gilliaume Provost, a developer from We Happy Few. “It’s never going to be more complicated than on PC. As long as the processes, the operating systems, the certifications are the same, it’s like supporting different revs of the same computer.”
Pawel Ksiazek, a developer of Shadow Warrior 2 for Xbox, has said that he “think[s] programmers and maybe artists will have some more work to do, because they will have to upscale the graphics and make it look better. But for the games, it will be better.”
On the PlayStation side, Volume developer Mike Bithell shared the same sentiments. “I like the way it expands what we can do. I like the way we can show off a little bit more and do some cool things.”
That said, many developers still have qualms about the upcoming mid-gen releases. Jake Kazdal, creative director at 17 Bit, is worried that having to support all versions of a given console puts strain upon resource management for small, independent developers. “I think it’s a tough sell…The idea of forking out another four hundred bucks is somewhat unappealing to players.”
Many developers, however, had yet to hear of either Project Scorpio or PlayStation Neo. Microsoft and Sony both still have a lot of explaining to do on why these consoles upgrades are worth it for the average gaming consumer.