It’s a strange time in the video game industry — consoles are still selling well, but more and more, we still can’t help wondering if they have a future. With both the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One becoming more PC-like (the latter even runs Windows 10!), it’s hard to see the point in making PC-like consoles when PCs themselves are so much more powerful. That’s a question that will only become more pressing as word gets out that both Sony and Microsoft are testing out new consoles to rival the power of PC gaming.
Today, The Verge is reporting that sources familiar with the Xbox division have told them that Microsoft is already testing new Xbox prototypes. The most interesting possibility is a modular console that could be upgraded like a PC. We’d imagine that means you could swap out the CPU, GPU, or system memory every once in a while to give the console a power boost. While that sounds very PC-like, there could be some potential for differentiation here — with PCs, compatibility issues between motherboards and CPUs usually crop up every couple of years. If Microsoft can figure out a platform that stays compatible with new components for father into the future (and makes swapping out parts less of a technical process), there could be a lot of interest for something like this.
It doesn’t sound like we should expect whatever Microsoft is testing out anytime soon. They’re still in the prototype phase, and as GameInformer reported from the Microsoft Build developer conference, Xbox head Phil Spencer made it clear that he has no interest in making an Xbox 1.5, saying, “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.” The Xbox One is still in the early stages of the console life cycle, so we’re thinking whatever Microsoft is working on now is still at least a couple years from becoming reality.
More immediate might be Sony’s plans, which are rumored to involve something like a PlayStation 4.5. This week, it’s being reported that that upgraded console is codenamed Neo and would feature upgrades to processor, graphics processor, and system memory. However, Sony will reportedly not allow developers to create Neo-exclusive games or features, with the intention of preserving the PlayStation 4 as a single platform (and avoid infuriating current PlayStation 4 owners too much). We’d think the only bonus would be increased performance, which makes sense for Sony — 4k output would be a huge boost for those who want PlayStation VR when it comes out this October. We could even see the Neo released alongside PlayStation VR as a bundle — we’ll likely have to wait until E3 to find out for sure.