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We've been hearing about the purported PlayStation 4.5 for a couple of weeks now, but more and more sources are jumping onto the story claiming they've heard what Sony's new console would be capable of.
We've heard from our own sources, who have confirmed Sony is indeed working on the PS4.5 - but what will it be capable of? I think we'll see AMD provide their new Polaris architecture to Sony in the form of a next-gen APU capable of 4K gaming - but for the rumored $400 price, I really don't think we'll see 4K 60FPS gaming. We'll probably see 4K @ 30FPS, which is good and all - but it's not enough in my opinion.
The PS4.5 will be Sony's surprise Ultra HD Blu-ray player, which will increase physical 4K media playback consumers just like the PS3 did with Blu-ray all those years ago. I'm sure the PS4.5 will be a better console for the PlayStation VR when it's released in October, too. As for the release date, I think we'll see the PS4.5 released in October or November, right in time for the PlayStation VR launch as well as the holiday season.
GDC 2016 - Sony had a killer Game Developers Conference, announcing the $399 price on the PlayStation VR for the PS4, but what did Microsoft have? Well, nothing in the form of new hardware announcements - but the company did just drop the price on the Xbox One to $299 for a "limited time".
The normal price on the Xbox One is $349, with the $50 discount applied for now - but there's no news on if, or when the price will bounce back up to its original price. The discounted Xbox One pricing will include all of the current console bundles at participating retailers across the US.
Not only that, but the Xbox Spring Sale promotional event will also see discounts on a bunch of digital games on PC, Xbox One and Xbox 360 backwards compatible titles. This will kick off on March 22, two days after the Xbox One price was cut, where gamers can grab their game of choice and "save up to 40 to 60 percent off, with some at more than 60 percent off".
There seems to be some substantial information regarding a minor (or fairly major) refresh of Sony's PlayStation 4. In fact, some developers have reportedly told Kotaku that there have been actual discussions behind closed doors about a "PlayStation 4.5" that could include a more powerful GPU for actual 4K gaming.
More than three independent sources in the developer community seem to have been able to confirm the existence of some type of evolution in hardware and design. This information seems to be even more substantiated after a supposed behind-closed-doors meeting from Sony at GDC. And just what does it mean for current owners?
Well, it would be the anti-thesis of what makes a console such a valuable ecosystem. The hardware is similar for a full generation of development, meaning no one has to upgrade to experience their games at the greatest possible settings for that platform. Having different versions, even if one is discontinued, defeats the purpose of the fixed-specification console. This is even in line with Microsoft's want to have upgradable console hardware in the future. The console as we know it, then, might be doomed. Or we could be looking at the definitive next generation, earlier than usual.
Microsoft announced that they've changed their internal policies regarding cross-console play, but there's been the question of whether or not it was actually possible. The president of Sony Computer Entertainment, Shuhei Yoshida, says that the technical part of having the two platforms work together in games would potentially be the easiest part of the process. In fact, Sony has had cross-platform play available with the PC since the PlayStation 2 days, so they're definitely not against such an idea.
Yoshida is all for allowing gamers to play together whatever the platform, they've been pioneers since Final Fantasy 11 (which is still operational by the way). But connecting to the PC is much more straightforward with it being a much more open network. Speaking to Eurogamer, he said that "Because PC is an open platform it's much more straightforward. Connecting two different closed networks is much more complicated so we have to work with developers and publishers to understand what it is they are trying to accomplish." But it isn't an insurmountable challenge at all.
He continued by mentioning that the technical aspects of it were the easiest part to overcome. The challenge lies in whether or not it's in their best interest, from a business perspective, to actually allow it. It comes down to policy and business issues more than anything. But at least it's possible, and we're bound to eventually see Xbox One and PlayStation 4 gamers enjoying non-exclusive games harmoniously. Or at least semi-harmoniously.
It's been a few months since the hidden Cortana functionality was accidentally found in the November Xbox One update, but it seems that the full functioning digital assistant is getting much closer to being released. And the Xbox boss is quite excited about it too.
The Xbox One already has a great voice command system, one that's evolved upon their successful Sync and other speech recognition technologies, but in order to bring it into parity with the rest of their brand, they need to bring Cortana, a true digital assistance, into the mix. There's no release date quite yet, but Mike Ybarra did say that it was "coming along great."
Cortana would be just another feature that the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo's current lineup doesn't have. Just how useful it would be for a primarily gaming (re)focused device is unknown. It also means you'll need a microphone in order for her to hear you, which is either Kinect or through a headset plugged into your controller (or USB port). It'll be interesting to see just what kind of commands will be available and how they'll be used on the Xbox One. Just using your voice to launch a game isn't exactly exciting, or new, so there's hope that something more is coming from the infusion of Cortana.
If there's one huge area where consoles lose out to PCs, it would be that they're not upgradeable. Console owners and fans would disagree, saying that it creates an ecosystem that allows Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo to develop, and let third-party studios develop games for hardware that is identical between consoles. So, if one person owns a PS4 - the other 25 million+ have the exact same hardware.
Well, according to Xbox boss Phil Spencer, this could all change in the future. Optional hardware purchases could happen, and they would be different to the "optional" microtransactions games have today, except you'd actually get value out of spending money. Speaking with Polygon, Spencer said: "When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we've ever seen".
He continued: "You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation allowing the same games to run backward and forward compatible because we have a Universal Windows Application running on top of the Universal Windows Platform that allows us to focus more and more on hardware innovation without invalidating the games that run on that platform". So that makes sense, as we really do need hardware innovation in the console space, as it has been dead for 10 years now - we're still in the 720p-ish 30FPS-ish world, and that's shocking, as it's 2016 - not 1996.
The Xbox One Preview Program is getting a pretty substantial update pushed out tomorrow. This update is finally giving you the ability to buy those Xbox 360 backwards compatible games straight through the Xbox One store itself.
If you're lucky enough to have signed up and been chosen for the honor of this program, then you'll also be able to enjoy much larger Party Chat rooms, with up to 16 people able to tell you how much you such at one time. You'll also have the ability to include each person individually into your Twitch broadcast, though each person has the ability to decline should they want to. The party leader can also mute the voice of anyone who opted-in to being part of the broadcast, just in case.
And in case you want to show off the things you've accomplished with the nearly 30 million hours of Xbox 360 in Xbox One gaming time, then you'll also be able to share your Xbox 360 achievements in your Xbox One activity feed, which is only natural given that you can play those games on the console now. So why not celebrate all of your achievements properly.
Nintendo is going to get some huge attention this year at gaming-related events like Game Developers Conference next month, and E3 later on in the year in June. Their next-gen NX console is reportedly quite powerful, and according to the latest rumors, requires "near-zero modification" of Xbox One and PS4 games to get them working on NX.
The new rumors are coming from Dual Pixels, with some huge detailed spilled on Nintendo's next-gen console. Dual Pixels reports: "I don't have many details on the device itself but I do have some background for it and some PR techniques they will use for it. A thing to note about this device is that much of it's production was started in 2014 and many of the stuff I list here was outlined by the late Satoru Iwata before his passing. Hence in the company, the NX is considered the last project of their late president. Employees since his passing utter a phrase at the end of meetings and during idea brainstorms which is "岩田のために!" which roughly translates 'For Iwata!'".
Now, if you want the full skinny on Nintendo's next-gen console, Dual Pixels has quite the purported scoop. Here's what they had to say in detail: "The importance of this is that this "new" Nintendo is highly motivated in delivering a fantastic system and games, something that I quote from an employee 'have not seen this much forward momentum on a project since they launched the original Famicom'".
The release of Nintendo's next-gen console is still shrouded in secrecy, except for a few nuggets of information here and there. The latest, is that Nintendo NX will support Unreal Engine 4, Unity and the Frostbite engine.
This might not sound like much, but supporting the major game engines is a great thing for Nintendo, as it'll mean we'll see more games on NIntendo's next-gen console, that we currently see on the Xbox One and PS4. Normally game developers have to port games over to the Nintendo console out at the time - right now, that would be the Wii U - but with built-in support for the major game engines from Nintendo, this wouldn't be a problem.
With all of the financial information coming out from various companies, we're now finding out about Sony's position in the console market.
Sony posted its latest financial results for Q4 2015, where it reported 8.4 million PS4s were sold. VG247 reports that this is "more in nine months of the current financial year than it sold in the full financial year previously, when it shifted 14.8 million".
The company is expecting to sell 17.5 million PS4 consoles across 2016, rolling through its $4.89 billion in sales thanks to the PlayStation side of Sony throughout Q3 2015. At the start of 2016, Sony said it had sold close to 36 million PS4s, compared to Microsoft which has reportedly sold around 20 million Xbox One consoles - we'd say Sony is kicking some serious Microsoft ass in the console race.