Did Sony’s PS4 Pro Fail? The mid gen refresh of the insanely popular PS4, has the PS4 Pro been a success or a forgotten, confusing upgrade? Did the PS4 Pro Fail or is it holding it’s own in the console marketplace? Let’s find out, lets get to the video…
A word of warning. Even though I may make mention of Microsoft’s Xbox One X, another mid gen upgraded console, it will be in terms of a comparison only. This is not a PS4 Pro vs Xbox One X video and which one I think is better. Nor will it be one systems games vs the other. This is about Sony’s PS4 Pro and how it stacks up against the original PS4 and whether it is worth the upgrade for fans of Playstation and the exclusives and third party games the system offers.. Xbox One X v Ps4 Pro or Sony vs Microsoft is not what this video is about.
With the release of the PS4 in 2013, Sony moved into the next generation after the PS3 years with their new console to take gaming to the next level. The last console generation was fantastic with it giving us incredible games and franchises such as Uncharted, Mass Effect and Gears Of War but at the same time many people believed, myself included, that the generation needed to end. The Xbox 360 had released at the end of 2005 with the PS3 following a year later. By the time the PS4 and Xbox One were to be released in 2013, this was an 8 year gap that was long and it felt long as PC gamings graphical dominance was becoming even more noticeable against this aging hardware. Between the original Xbox console and the Xbox 360, there was a 5 year gap whilst the PS2 to PS3 gap was 6 years. Perfectly acceptable time frames between generations but the seventh console generation was becoming far to long.
With the average at best showing of the Xbox One pre launch, it was up to Sony to capitalise on Microsoft’s failings and that they did. With Microsoft aiming to have a box that was everything to everyone, and overly promoting the TV aspects of the console in 2013, this gave way for Sony to concentrate on what is the primary reason that people buy these machines – gaming. This resonated with consumers as PS4 launched to a huge success and continues to be a success over 4 years later. The average showing of the Xbox One undid much of the great work Microsoft did with the Xbox 360 and because of the showing and word of mouth, many Xbox 360 customers moved over to the slightly more powerful and less expensive PS4 even at a time when Sony were struggling to have a number of decent exclusives. Sony began the generation fantastically and that momentum was reflected in the sales where the PS4 was usually & consistently the best selling console month after month. Dominating the Xbox One and pulverising the Wii U.
As rumours circulated in 2016 that an updated PS4 was going to be coming codenamed NEO, gamers were waiting to see what the differences would be between this new PS4 and the original and they would soon find out as Sony announced the PS4 Pro in September with a release date for November 10th. This would give the console a full year head start on the already announced Xbox One X which, at the time, would be made available late 2017. The PS4 Pro was also surprisingly absent from E3 2016, many assuming that Sony pulled the announcement once Microsoft had announced a more powerful console already.
But with the runaway success of the PS4, a success that the Xbox One will be unable to catch up to for this generation of consoles, why has the PS4 Pro struggled in the market, and even more so recently with the rumours saying the Xbox One X has outsold the PS4 Pro, at least in the US. We have been told by the head of the US Playstation division that one out of every 5 PS4 consoles sold is a Pro but with such a large install base, and with such a huge popularity worldwide, why hasn’t the PS4 Pro taken off even more? Sony hasn’t been shy in telling us how many consoles they’ve sold so I do question even the one in five amount which we have been told.
So with the PS4 Pro sales lagging and apparently behind the quite successful Xbox One X, lets take a look at why I think the 3 decker console has struggled in the marketplace. Firstly, I feel Sony did not properly communicate just exactly what benefit the console would give existing PS4 owners or new customers to the Playstation family for them to justify the extra cost. Buying the console was not going to enhance all existing games for owners as the games needs to have updates or patches specifically written for the console to take advantage of the extra power. This would force consumers to research which games were enhanced and leave an air of uncertainty as to whether others would ever be updated and which future games would receive updates to.
Secondly, the advertising surrounding the whole 4K buzzword was also confusing and also plays into my previous statement as to which games would benefit from the console. Which games were actaully going to be running at 4K? Would it be the majority of games? We already knew games needed a specific patch to take advantage of the extra horsepower, so from this smaller pool of games, which of those were 4K? Once the idea of checkerboarding and dynamic 4K were spoken of, the latter being in official Sony PS4 Pro advertising, what did that even mean to the average gaming consumer walking into a retail store? Even if they did, could store staff expect to know each game that would actually take advantage of the console and then be able to communicate that to the consumer? Couple this with an increased price and many customers would simply opt for the new, cheaper PS4 Slim. It was the same as the original, just slimmer, cheaper, and above all, the majority people knew what it was and what it could do.
The third point points to more of the gaming and hardware crowd. Surprisingly, the console would not provide a UHD Drive with it so UHD blu rays couldn’t be played on the console. Sony has always been an advocate of pushing new hardware formats, the PS2 could play DVDs, PS3 could play blu rays, PS4 could also do this but with the introduction of the PS4 Pro, and the now much higher uptake of 4K Tvs compared to 2013 when the original PS4 launched, it was the next logical step to push the UHD format in a new consumer product. But they didn’t. Streaming 4K services aren’t popular enough due to consumer internet speeds and Sony was also offering standalone UHD blu ray players, so why not include one? It seemed like an updated console lacking an update. The Xbox One S even had one. In terms of hardware, the console feels undercooked. Apart from being more powerful with its slightly higher clock speed Jaguar CPU, it also had a slight increase to its memory and what it was used for. But even with this slight increase and faster memory this wasn’t the 4K console gamers may have thought it to be. In Sony’s defence, expecting the PS4 Pro to offer many games at 4K with consistent 30FPS gameplay for $399 was asking too much in 2016.
So where is PS4 Pro at now? According to Sony themselves, they say that 1 in 5 PS4 consoles sold is the Pro version. A respectable amount considering it does cost more, been on the market less time and is geared more towards the hardcore gamer. So to answer my own question I posed at the beginning, did the PS4 Pro fail? I don’t think so. For the hardware it has and the price it can be had for I wouldn’t expect it to even come close to the sales of the very successful original PS4. This is not a console for the masses. For me personally, I would have liked to see Sony’s mid gen upgrade provide more in terms of hardware and with an ease of understanding as to how they benefit games. Sony will learn from this but with the introduction of the PS5 in the future, Sony will be releasing a system with a competitors system that enhances all games on the new system and is also backwards compatible. I just hope in the meantime that Sony aggressively support the PS4 Pro and directly involve themselves is helping developers release game versions for it. Don’t throw in the towel like you did with the PS Vita Sony. You owe your fans that much.