A big part of business is marketing. And with marketing comes marketing experts, people who work at giant firms who deal in taking in all the stimuli of, well, everything, boiling it down to metrics, then selling their interpretation of it to producing corporations. These people find themselves in positions of authority, being referred to as analysts and the like. Sometimes they have insider information; sometimes they’re making super educated guesses based on their experiences. One of these organizations is the IDC, and the IDC’s Research Director in Gaming, VR, and AR, Lewis Ward, had some interesting things to say about the PS4 Pro/Xbox One X race. Namely, that the PlayStation 4 Pro is more of a gimmick than a worthwhile product with a shelf life.
Ward spoke to Gaming Bolt in an interview basically answering a question about how he felt about this weird, new territory of new consoles that aren’t necessarily new generations. The Xbox One X and PS4 Pro are both upgrades to previous SKUs, meaning that they run the same software, but with more power. This power, at the moment, is being used mostly to boost things like resolution and frame rate, making room for the original hardware to be pushed more without totally leaving that section of the audiences behind.
Ward thinks that the Xbox One X can legitimately be considered a half-step, or generation 8.5 as he puts it. It’s a significant power boost, but also a pretty significant hardware change. The power of the Xbox One X shouldn’t be understated and, by many estimates, is actually held back to a degree due to Microsoft’s narrative of the Xbox One family being software agnostic. Every game has to run on every Xbox One platform to a certain barometer of quality, and the same is true of the PlayStation 4 family.
That said, Ward argues that the PlayStation 4 Pro is not nearly as significant a change as the Xbox One X is, suggesting Sony mostly moved some things around and found new optimizations to get a much smaller power boost, but one still capable of running games at higher resolutions and frame rates. It is worth noting that, when games are patched for both platforms, it’s often the PS4 Pro versions lagging behind a bit in overall performance. So, this does hold merit (looking at the specs and smaller marketing push also, but, you know).
The suggestion then, is that a PlayStation 5 is coming a lot sooner than whatever the next Xbox will be, and that eventually, Microsoft may back away from its ecosystem story and publish unique software on the Xbox One X. Project Scorpio, if you will, likely took a lot more effort and resources to develop, and as such, Microsoft likely intends to make it last at least for a few more years. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4 is starting to show its age, and people are already chomping at the bit to talk 5.
It's an interesting discussion, sure, and one I don’t necessarily agree with. I do think the Xbox One X is a super impressive box, and we’ve gushed quite a bit about it at Cheat Code Central. Meanwhile, the PlayStation 4 Pro seems weaker in comparison, even looking at the two next to each other it’s obvious that less is more. Like literally, the PlayStation 4 Pro is large and bulky, and the Xbox One X is impressively small and quiet. But at the same time, the PlayStation 4 Pro has intent behind it, and that intent is 4K gaming. That intent is reached as well as developers are willing to endeavor to. Same with the Xbox One X. Neither console runs every game at 4K and 60 fps. There are limits, and there are likely already plans in motion to figure out what’s next for both companies.
It's obvious this whole 4K thing is an experiment that’s paying off to an extent, but the old ways aren’t going to vanish overnight. There are still millions of people who want to buy physical games, used games, so on and so forth. High-speed Internet penetration is still a work in progress not only in America, but around the world. We’re not there yet, but this first step forward is a sign of where we’re headed eventually. In the meantime, looking for the “gotcha!” moment to have a clear victor in the console wars isn’t doing anyone any favors. Besides, the Switch is doing its thing and raking in moolah with sub-720p ports of Bethesda shooters and that rules.