Microsoft and Sony seem to disagree on the future of game consoles

Xbox one ps4

After “Xbox neXt” appeared as an active project on the LinkedIn page of Xbox design lead David Gardner, rumours began to swell that an updated version of the Xbox One could be in the works.

However, now that doesn’t seem to be the case.

On Monday, Microsoft told IGN that “Xbox neXt was an old internal team name for a group that worked on releasing Xbox One and is not related to a future console.” That sentiment was also reinforced at Microsoft’s “Build” conference, where Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft’s Xbox division said:

“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. For us, our box is doing well. It performs, it’s reliable, the servers are doing well. 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.”

But Microsoft’s biggest competitor in the console space, Sony, may be singing a different tune. Rumours have been circulating over the past few weeks about the imminent release of a PlayStation 4 hardware upgrade; tentatively called “PS4.5” or “PS4K.” The latter seems more appropriate, as the theoretical console’s marquee feature would be the ability to play games at 4K resolution. The current PS4 can display photos and video at 4K resolution, but games are limited to 1080p.

PlayStation VR

The hardware upgrade would also coincide with the release of PlayStation VR this fall, and while upgraded specs would certainly help drive power-hungry VR games, a mid-cycle console release may cost Sony some of the goodwill it has enjoyed this console generation. Its pledge of creating a console “for the gamers” has resonated enough for the PS4 to have sold over 36 million units in two and a half years. It’s unlikely many of those people will be happy with the idea of paying for a new console such a short time later.

From Sony’s point of view, they wouldn’t necessarily have to. Current PS4 owners would likely only choose to upgrade if they wanted to take advantage of games in 4K resolution, or if they’re buying a PlayStation VR headset and want the extra horsepower to drive higher-fidelity experiences.

Releasing consistently upgraded hardware in the same way that phone and tablet makers release their products would be a pretty dramatic change for the game console market. Historically, a game console has been considered a multi-year investment. For Sony, a low entry price — or a well implemented trade-up program — could help ease the pain, but it’s yet to be seen whether this new approach will win out in the long run.

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