Sony will not show the updated PlayStation 4 Neo console until there is enough content available to illustrate the benefits of the machine, PlayStation boss Andrew House has stated.
Speaking at the E3 video games conference in Los Angeles, the president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment also expressed surprise that Microsoft had announced its Project Scorpio hardware over a year before launch.
“The point of confirming the existence of PlayStation 4 Neo and the bare bones of the plan last week was about not disappointing the fan base who would obviously come to E3 with high expectations of all kinds of announcements,” he said. “And from past experience, the worst thing you can do is disappoint and pull the rug away from people. That’s why we went out last week and said, yes, it does exist but don’t expect to see it at E3. I think it was the right thing to do.”
It’s been known for a while that both Sony and Microsoft were considering updating their current generation consoles in the middle of the traditional lifecycle of seven to eight years. PlayStation 4 and Xbox One were launched in 2013, a little early to take in the arrival of 4K televisions, as well as innovations like virtual reality.
Therefore, rumours started a year ago that we’d see interim updates of the machines, complete with more powerful graphics processing capabilities – In early June, House confirmed the existence of an updated PlayStation 4 Neo console which will offer greater power for 4K-compatible games and advanced virtual experiences via the forthcoming PlayStation VR headset, but stated that it wouldn’t be at E3.
Asked about the decision, he said: “In terms of the right time to talk about Neo, just like every other hardware launch, VR being a good example, it’s when you’ve got a full range of experiences that you can showcase to say this is why this product’s great and that’s why we’re offering it. And that time is not right now.”
House also stated that he was surprised by Microsoft’s decision on Monday, to announce two new Xbox One iterations during its E3 press conference: the smaller Xbox One S, due this winter, and the more powerful Project Scorpio, coming in 2017.
“I was surprised by the step of announcing something over a year ahead of time,” he said. “The dynamics of the tech industry are such that there’s a much heavier emphasis on immediate gratification than there was. A lot of that is to do with how Apple has very cleverly and elegantly managed the ‘available now’ approach. So yes, that was a slight surprise to me. We experienced this ourselves, when, in 2013, very much in line with our previous strategies, we announced a concept and a name for PlayStation 4, and everyone said ‘where’s the box? How dare you?!’ That was the point we realised, well, we hadn’t changed but the world around us had.”
On the subject of PlayStation 4 Neo, House said that the new machine will very much be something that stands aside the original hardware – it’s not a replacement, and both machines will be supported throughout the PS4 lifecycle. “I don’t think we’re suggesting with Neo, the conventional console lifecycle is over – I’m certainly not making that statement,” he said. “This is an additional option, it’s a high-end version of a PlayStation 4, let’s be very clear about that, rather than a generational shift.”
“Some of our thinking was informed by changes that have happened in the broader tech landscape and the cadence of innovation to which the consumer is now attuned – particularly by smartphones,” he said. “I’m not suggesting we want to bring the games industry two an 18-month-two-year cycle because then you would lose an awful lot of the fixed platform benefits we’ve enjoyed that allow for these really great leaps in game experience.
“However, we did think there was an opportunity to reflect on the traditional lifecycle, and on 4K technology, and say maybe there’s an opportunity, within the course of a normal lifecycle to offer something else, something a little bit better, for a segment of the market that feels that this is important.”
House said that one of the key motivations for PlayStation 4 Neo was specifically to prevent high-end users from abandoning the product at an earlier point than its natural eight-year lifespan. “We’ve traditionally seen that some of the core audience tends to gravitate back to high-end PCs at some point because these are the people who want the finest graphical performance,” he said. “So here’s a great opportunity to have them stay within our ecosystem.
“If you are a person who’s just purchased a 4K television, maybe there’s not that much content around right now, so there’s something interesting about games being able to fill that gap and offer that experience. Those are the fundamentals of Neo.”
Sony’s E3 press conference focused heavily on forthcoming games and premiered a new God of War adventure as well as the latest project from Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima. Early reactions have been that it was another strong showing for the company.
“We knew that this year we had an exceptionally good line up of games to talk about so why not get everything else out of the way and just talk about them?” said House. “So we made it very video heavy.”
It was certainly the most theatrical press event Sony has devised. Based in the historic Shrine Auditorium, it featured a live orchestra, choir and set designs mirroring in game content. House conceded that given the audience of millions watching via streaming video, E3 was now as much about providing an attractions as it is about imparting information to the industry.
“We now think of these events as shows,” he said. “It’s about trying to strike the right balance between delivering information and entertaining people who are tuning in to watch from home. There were meaty announcements but also it was hopefully entertaining.”