If you’ve followed PlayStation this year then there’s a good chance that you’ve heard quite a bit of chatter about the PS4.5, also known by its codename, the PlayStation Neo. Rumors about this new console began circulating earlier in the year when developers in the industry began talking about the next iteration of the PS4. This new iteration would supposedly have the graphical power to run games at 4K which the current PS4 cannot do. Rumors continued spreading until June when Sony’s Andrew House finally spoke about the console openly, clarifying that the Neo was indeed in production but wouldn’t be shown at E3. Fast forward to the present, and we still don’t know much on this new system. One of the most prevalent pieces of conjecture surrounding the Neo, however, is that Sony would like to release it this year. Unfortunately, I’m here to tell you that any hopes you have of this upgraded system releasing this year are insane and unrealistic. Here’s why:
There Is No Monetary Incentive for Sony to be the First to Market
Sony is currently the top dog in the console market. They’re selling Ps4’s at a historic rate and are currently outpacing Microsoft’s Xbox One with numbers somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 million units. So what exactly does Sony have to gain by releasing PlayStation Neo this year? Absolutely nothing. If Sony was trailing behind Microsoft in sales, then it might make sense to release their upgraded version of the PS4 before Microsoft releases their Scorpio model of the Xbox late next year. Alas, this is not the case. PlayStation 4 doesn’t show any signs of slowing down, so why would Sony want to ruin what they already have going?
Instead, releasing the Neo could potentially alienate PlayStation fans who purchased their PS4’s within the first three years of the console’s life cycle. These fans may decide that they don’t want to upgrade to the Neo, which is assumed to be somewhere in the realm of $400. While Sony’s success won’t necessarily be predicated on those who are considering the upgrade from the PS4 to the Neo, consumers who still haven’t purchased a current-gen console may see the price difference between the Neo and the now $250 Xbox One and opt to go with the cheaper system instead. While Sony will still have the standard model of the PS4 – which will most likely receive a price drop in the coming weeks – releasing the Neo could potentially slow Sony’s sales as a whole.
No Time to Craft Their Marketing
If Sony has indeed considered releasing the PS Neo this year, then they don’t have much time left to do so. Assuming that the Neo is finally revealed at next month’s PlayStation Meeting, this would give Sony, at the very most, two months to craft their marketing. This is mainly due to the fact that they would almost certainly want to release the new console before November 25, which is Black Friday in the United States.
Considering that the Neo would be the first iterative console to hit the market – if released this year – Sony would really have to convince consumers why they are going down this road as a company. Fans are already torn on the concept of iterative consoles as a whole. Trying to convince fans why they need to invest in this new iteration of the same device they’re already content with is going to be difficult. Even if Sony had a year to market the Neo, and not just two months, it would still be incredibly hard. PlayStation could have a PR nightmare on their hands if they don’t properly market their new device.
PlayStation VR is Already the Big Release this Fall
Quite possibly the biggest reason why I don’t believe the Neo will be released this year is because Sony is already releasing a niche product with the PlayStation VR. Sony’s own Shuhei Yoshida has previously stated that he believes the PS VR is a console release in it’s own right. So if Sony is viewing VR as such a massive launch in its own right, why would they then release another luxury item to the market around the same time?
Of course, some fans of PlayStation may buy both the Neo and PS VR. Let’s be honest, not everyone has $800-$1000 to spend on both of these new devices. Now do they necessarily have to purchase both of these new gadgets on launch day? No, but as gamers we always want the latest new tech as soon as possible. It would be frustrating for consumers, myself included, to have the desire to purchase two new gaming devices, but unable to due to the expense.
The most important factor to me in this whole scenario is the fact that if Neo were to release around the same time as the PS VR, it might overshadow the headset. Sony has been working hard on their VR unit for years. I think that they’ll want to release the PS VR in a vacuum so that it gets a massive amount of attention. At the current time, VR is still a niche product that doesn’t have a wide appeal. Sony already has an uphill battle in the marketing realm with PS VR and that’s before they’ve added on the PR struggles of marketing the Neo (which I touched on above). Let’s also not forget that as a company PlayStation has invested more in the PS VR over the next few years than they probably have with the rumored Neo. It just doesn’t make sense to release your two biggest devices on top of one another. The PS VR should continue being PlayStation’s main focus for the rest of 2016 before transferring attention to the Neo next year.
The Power of the Xbox’s Project Scorpio Has Made Sony Rethink Their Plans
Earlier this year, when we realized that the Neo wasn’t going to appear at Sony’s E3 presentation, popular consensus around the industry was that they had taken the system back to the drawing board. Reportedly, after Sony heard the specs of what would become Microsoft’s Project Scorpio, they decided to reevaluate where they were with the Neo. Essentially, the Neo looked vastly underpowered when compared to the Scorpio. Microsoft had no qualms with letting everyone know just how powerful their new box would be when they showed off an early trailer for Project Scorpio at E3 claiming that it would be “the most powerful console ever made.” Both consoles were supposed to be a sort of “half step-up” from their current counterparts but when compared to Scorpio, the Neo supposedly looked more like a quarter step-up.
If this is true and the Neo is that vastly underpowered when compared to the Scorpio, then Sony definitely needs to put it back in the oven. As I mentioned earlier, there’s no direct incentive for Sony to be the first to market with these iterative consoles, especially since they’re already in the lead in terms of sales figures. It’s pointless for Sony to release an underpowered console this year if they’re only going to get outdone by the competition next holiday season. If Sony allowed their teams to continue working on the Neo for the next 8-10 months, then there’s a good chance that it would then at least be more comparable to the Scorpio this time next year. And even if it still wasn’t as powerful as Microsoft’s new console, then at least Sony could make it more proportionate in specs. It’s better for Sony to release a more powerful console later oo rather than an underpowered console early.
The PS4 Slim is Going to be Sony’s “New” Console This Year Instead
I think the recent advent of the PlayStation 4 Slim model all but dooms any last hopes some might have had for the Neo to release this year. It seems incredibly unlikely for Sony to release three new pieces of hardware – the PS4 Slim, the Neo, and the PS VR – all within the span of 2-3 months. While we don’t have “official” confirmation on whether or not the leaked PS4 Slim is legitimate, all pictures and videos that have been showcased so far seem viable.
Similar to what Microsoft has recently done with the Xbox One S, I can see Sony announcing both their Slim and Neo models of the PS4 at the PlayStation Meeting two weeks from now. From here, they will begin to push the Slim model as their console for the rest of this year, while the Neo will be their new hardware release for next year. Releasing the Slim and Neo alongside one another would just be confusing and daunting when considering that up until this point there’s only been one PS4 SKU on the market. Sony should keep it simple and focus their attention on one console release at a time.
So as you can clearly see, there’s absolutely no way the PlayStation Neo will release this year and if you still think it will, then you’ve lost your mind. Jokes aside, I believe all of the reasons I listed above add up to form a great argument for why Sony won’t launch their first iterative console this year. They could still easily release the Neo this year, but I don’t believe they have anything to gain by doing so. Either way, I’m sure we will know what the Neo’s future is soon enough with the PlayStation Meeting right around the corner.