As I browse around the dozens of articles claiming to know so much about things we have managed to basically put entirely together through the power of unsubstantiated rumor regarding the supposed PS4 Neo and Xbox One Scorpio, I've seen some pretty strong claims about what these systems are actually meant to be. Now, I'm going to operate off the assumption that these systems are coming. Generally when the rumor mill is this strong and consistent, there is some grain of truth stashed among it all.
What is that grain of truth though? Is it these newfangled $200 AMD GPUs that everybody is buzzing about potentially being in the Neo? Is it the idea that Scorpio will be stronger than the Neo to try to use power to bring superior performance to regain market dominance? Or is it simply that the Neo and Scorpio exist as new game console concepts for Sony and Microsoft?
I'm going with the last question there and asserting that it is the most truth we can glean. What are the Neo and Scorpio? The PS5 and the Xbox 4 (for lack of better differentiation). Before you put me on a spit and start moving me towards the bonfire of sacrifice, just read further.
When the PS4 and Xbox One launched, it was asserted that they weren't a very big step up from last generation, but at the time, it was the best they could do to keep prices down. Cost is why last generation lasted so long. It would cost too much to put what may be deemed as significantly better hardware in what are supposed to be low to mid-budget home consoles. Thus we got consoles that could certainly do better than the PS3 and 360, but weren't exactly game changers, largely just bringing 1080p and some improved textures to the table seven to eight years after last gen started. At the same time, these past couple of years, this year especially, has seen rapid growth of GPU ability, bringing increasingly stronger and more able hardware to the table that continues to deepen the divide between PS4, Xbox One, and even mid-range gaming PCs.
Undeniably, developers have done a good job dragging the full potential out of the consoles. The PS4 in particular saw Uncharted 4 recently, likely some of the best the PS4 is possibly capable of producing. It was certainly a beautiful game, and I deeply enjoyed it, but let's not ignore the fact that it could have looked even better on a gaming PC toting basically any GTX 900 series Nvidia GPU and a competent CPU. Not to say I want to see the game on PC. Uncharted is one of the defining Playstation series at this point and gives credence to the strength of exclusivity in driving console sales. The point is simply that the game could have looked better on hardware that wouldn't be all that expensive on mass production scale compared to what is currently being charged for the PS4.
With that said, it's important to remember the key difference between home consoles and PC gaming: ease and simplicity of use. PC gaming is daunting to the average uninformed consumer, and home consoles are easier. It makes absolutely zero sense to start introducing upgrades that are considered part of the same generation and the same console line. That introduces consumer confusion, and I feel Nintendo has done a fine job proving with their handhelds that unless people really latch onto the upgrade, it is bound to be underutilized in favor of the weaker version of the same console that is still being primarily developed upon. It becomes a waste of R&D and manufacturing effort.
What people seem to be missing even more is that the discussions being had sound like "a new generation of console is being made" and not "we're getting a 4k PS4". We need to accept that the PS4 and Xbox One weren't made to last. They were made to tide us over until better hardware was cheap enough to really bring console gaming up a notch. The problem is likely that, as gamers, we have a hard time thinking of it as a new generation because we think of new generation like SNES to N64, or PS2 to PS3, not like the more minor and far less substantial upgrade of PS3 to PS4 or what will be PS4 to PS5. Once we accept that jumps like that will literally never happen ever again, it becomes easier to comprehend the idea that we will likely be seeing a new generation of home console by Fall 2017, and that new generations will start either landing on a scale more akin to every three to four years, or will become much longer as hardware upgrades start to hit the limits of current resolutions, necessary FPS, and realism.
So am I looking forward to the Neo and Scorpio? Yes, because new generations are always exciting, and I look forward to seeing how the home console market will continue to advance as advancement on a reasonably substantial level becomes more and more difficult to achieve. It's time to stop discussing the Neo and Scorpio as if the home console market is going to make a drastic change in operation over night, and to start thinking like a console developer trying to appeal to both educated gamers and the lowest common denominator alike.