Buying a video game console used to be so simple.
For decades, Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sega released new video game consoles every six to eight years, differentiating one round of video games from the next. Unlike computer games, consoles were predictable and reliable. Every Super Nintendo game ran the same on every Super Nintendo, just as every Xbox 360 game reliably performed its job on every Xbox 360. But this year, that structure has started to shift, with pivots from Sony and Microsoft.
Today Sony is expected to announce two new consoles, neither of which will be the typical generational upgrade. The PlayStation 4 Slim, which has leaked ahead of its announcement, appears to be a thinner version of the current PlayStation 4. More interesting is the PlayStation 4 Neo. While rumored to be a meatier upgrade, the hardware isn't a full generational leap forward, like the PlayStation 4 was to the PlayStation 3. Rather, it will provide additional options and features on top of the currently available hardware. Among them, rumors point to 4K-resolution output and improved graphical performance for the upcoming PlayStation VR headset.
The two new consoles will follow the recent release of Microsoft Xbox One S, a modestly improved console that offers a little more power, HDR gaming, and 4K video. Microsoft has also announced an even more ambitious console, dubbed Project Scorpio. Scorpio and Neo will likely mark the beginning of semi-regular hardware updates, similar to smartphone releases. To enjoy new games at their maximum potential, gamers may be buying more hardware than ever before.
There is a possible upside to this shift: if consoles do follow the smartphone model, then we may see greater backwards compatibility. In theory, games we buy now will work on hardware for years to come — a feature that wasn't guaranteed by new consoles in the past. Microsoft has already claimed backwards compatibility, along with compatibility with other Windows platforms, will be central to the future of Xbox. We expect to hear similar things from Sony. Hopefully, steps will be taken to ensure those people without the interest or funds to upgrade will still get their money's worth in the hardware they do by. Whatever the case, we'll learn more as we get a clearer picture of these new machines, beginning with today's event.
How to watch
Starting time: San Francisco: 12PM / New York: 3PM / London: 8PM / Berlin 9PM / Moscow: 10PM / Beijing: 3AM (September 8th) / Tokyo: 4AM (September 8th) / Sydney 5AM (September 8th).
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