This is possibly the shortest console generation ever

Published By: Myrna Salomon on April 24, 2016 10:36 am EST

It feels as if both Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ: MSFT) and Sony Corp. (NYSE: SNE) hold regular secret meetings and decide where the console space is to go next. From the surprisingly similar hardware decisions we saw with PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, to the rumored launch of an upgraded versions of both consoles. The timing and decisions are just too much of a coincidence.

Sony is heavily rumored to announce a “PlayStation 4.5” (codenamed “Neo”) in the coming months. The rumor is backed by many reliable sources like Eurogamer and Wall Street Journal. Eurogamer and Giantbomb brought forward the big one recently and revealed the hardware specifications of the console. PlayStation 4.5 is setup exactly the same as the current console except it features more hardware power like increased ROPs and higher clock-speed. The big question is; Why is Sony doing this? Why would they gamble with the success of the PlayStation 4 when it has been steadily outperforming its own success every year? Why would Sony risk making early PlayStation 4 adopters feel like beta testers after building an insurmountable lead this console generation? I honestly don’t know. But if I had to guess then I’d point out virtual-reality to be the biggest reason for Sony’s new strategy. Sony has invested a lot of money in what they believe will be the future. It is no secret that virtual-reality is a demanding technology to say the least and currently, the PlayStation 4 just barely manages to hold 30fps in many high-fidelity games right now, a limitation that will extend to other titles over time. With PlayStation VR on the horizon, Sony saw an opportunity to introduce a beefier console that would keep up with that demand and offer a better virtual-reality experience.

Microsoft doesn’t have that incentive, so why are they following the same footsteps? My guess is they saw an opportunity with Windows 10’s Universal Windows Platform (UWP). The initiative allows one piece of code to run on multiple Windows 10 devices without having to tweak it for a different platform. So a new console with even a slightly different set of hardware is not going to hurt development for the Xbox One which the company has essentially touted to be the cheapest gaming-ready PC of late.

The current-generation of consoles has arguably not performed up to expectations. Native 1080p was pretty much given for this generation, but it has often been observed that these machines struggle to do so. With the overwhelming majority of PlayStation 4 games having 1080p, the Xbox One has not been so lucky in this department, with games often running on 900p or lower. The mid-generation upgrade has not sit well with everyone. But at the very least, it will pour some life force in the current consoles.

From what we have learned thus far, Sony is not allowing any special treatment for Neo. Developers must make every feature, trophy, network servers the same for both consoles. Neo will not even have its own box art but the existing box-art will represent Neo-exclusive features. Games will be cross-platform and settings will automatically scale depending on whether you’re playing on PlayStation 4 or PlayStation 4.5.

If we had any doubts about these rumors turning out to be true, AMD’s recent quarterly earnings report quite clearly revealed “three” new semi-custom SoCs for unannounced devices. AMD is the sole provider of the chips inside PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. They both use semi-custom SoCs. Nintendo Co. Ltd. (OTCMKTS: NTDOY) is the only confirmed contender of the alleged new generation and almost every other leak has pointed towards the console using AMD solutions. Not only will this cost Nintendo cheaper in the long run, it will make porting games easier between the three consoles.

AMD expects to ramp up production for at least one SoC in the second quarter of 2016, with all three SoCs confirmed for release by 2017.

With all three console manufacturers planning new console launches so close to each other – this is a start of a new generation in mid-generation upgrade clothing. The base consoles will sort of live out like how PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 did when their successors were out. They continued receiving games, but those versions did not match the visual presentation of the new consoles. Situation is not so different if you think about it, except the difference will not be so significant.