PlayStation 4.5: How The Sony Machine Could Fail

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The apparent emergence of the PlayStation 4.5 has been the biggest news in gaming this year, and a decision from Sony which seems likely to delay the PlayStation 5. It seemed extremely unlikely that Sony would release a new console with upgraded internals quite so soon, yet now the existence of the PlayStation 4.5 is being reported as an absolute certainty. This upgraded console will attempt to contribute to the market lead that Sony has built up in the existing video games generation, as well as delivering functionality that it will be simply impossible for the PlayStation 4 to provide.

PlayStation 4.5 – New model

This early release of the PlayStation 4.5 will play a major commercial role for Sony, as it continues to monitor developments in the video games industry. The old model of console development is arguably gone for good, with the prospect of producing extremely expensive hardware becoming more of a logistical difficulty, in a climate where physical components are outdated rapidly and the industry moves faster than in the past. Both Sony and Microsoft are presently asking themselves questions regarding how they wish to proceed with their respective strategies in the future.

Nonetheless, despite the fact that Sony has departed significantly from its usual approach with the release of the PlayStation 4.5, this is not a unique incident in video games history. Console manufacturers have previously announced major hardware expansions in the middle of a particular generation, and it must be said that the results have been rather mixed in the past. Sony can learn from some previous historical examples when releasing the PlayStation 4.5.

TurboGrafx / PC Engine bombs

The first of these was the TurboGrafx-16; often referred to as the PC Engine owing to its Japanese moniker. This Japanese console was rushed out to market ahead of major releases from Sega and Nintendo, and thus was the first 16-bit device to hit the stores. Notable for its expandable nature, and the compatibility that was built into is tiny Core Grafx base that encouraged CD-ROM based expansions, the TurboGrafx-16 was certainly a technically impressive operator. And it was also a significant success story in Japan, which is reflected in the fact that many of the most notable titles for the system have a definite Eastern flavor.

Unfortunately, the manufacturer of the hardware, NEC, was rather too ambitious with its portfolio of releases for the console, and ultimately failed to recognise the importance of practicality. While the expandable nature of the console was a nifty idea, the Manufacturer was guilty of alienating its core markets with numerous hardware expansions. This ultimately resulted in a fragmented market, which was effectively the death knell for this particular console.

The final nail in the coffin of this device was the SuperGrafx spin-off, Which was only released in Japan. Despite the success of the earlier base version of the console, this device failed to capture consumer imagination in Japan, and was ultimately a massive failure.

Market fragmentation

However, this wasn’t the main reason for the failure of the TurboGrafx-16. The console pretty much flopped in the United States and Europe, with the expensive hardware add-ons, which NEC thought to be such a good idea, simply adding extra cost and confusing consumers. Both the Sega Genesis and SNES systems delivered simpler and more affordable solutions, and thus, with the benefit of hindsight, rather unsurprisingly captured the mainstream marketplace.

It seems unlikely that Sony would go down this route with the PlayStation 4.5, as it has long since been established that simpler is better for console releases. But it does demonstrate rather succinctly that superior hardware is not always what the market ultimately desires.

Sega CD flop

A more spectacular mid-generation failing came from the rival of NEC in that console generation, Sega. This was an iconic brand in the video game industry in the 80s and early 90s, but it was to be wiped out completely by some terrible marketing decisions, most infamously the release of the Sega CD and 32X expansions.

These CD-based systems promised incredible and immersive titles that were beyond the capabilities of cartridge-driven gaming. Unfortunately, both were prohibitively expensive, and the 32X was also notably ugly. Sega also succeeded in balkanizing its own market, with four different machines available on the shelves of stores simultaneously.

In addition, Sega was already experimenting with 32-bit of hardware at this juncture, and consumers knew that the Sega Saturn was on the horizon. Naturally, gamers were not enthusiastic about parting with a significant amount of cash for a system that would become obsolete rapidly, and of course the Mega CD generation was a total flop.

This shows again that fragmenting the video game marketplace has already proven to be disastrous, and it therefore must handle the PlayStation 4.5 release appropriately. It seems to be doing this by ensuring that Aall releases are compatible with both of its systems, and also by creating the feel of a PlayStation family.

But some gamers believe that the PlayStation 4.5 is completely unnecessary; simply an expensive upgrade that offers very little in advancement. This has been a costly tail in the past, and one that Sony must avoid when the PlayStation 4.5 is released. It actually has a difficult balancing act between demonstrating that this console is relevant, while also not rendering the PlayStation 4 obsolete.

Keeping things simple

If the PlayStation 4.5 is to be a success then keeping things simple is essential, as demonstrated by the N64 Expansion Pak. This was a plug-in that doubled the RAM of the N64 console. This provided enhancements to numerous N64 titles, ensuring that resolution and textures were upgraded. Many games benefited from this hardware technology, and it is overwhelmingly considered a success.

There are obvious parallels between this system and the PS 4.5. Although the Sony release will be an entirely new console, the Japanese corporation clearly intends to deliver superior versions of PS4 games with this system. Keeping things as simple and affordable as possible, while actually delivering what gamers need and desire, will be essential for the success of the PlayStation 4.5 when it launches later this year.

This means 4K resolution gaming, superior virtual reality support, faster processing, higher frame rates, and ultimately an affordable price point.

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