Unless you live under a rock, which if you do I apologize for the phrase, you’ve heard rumors about Sony potentially releasing a PS4.5. This supposed console upgrade is rumored to sport 4K gaming support, better hardware and so on. Honestly, it has gamers a little divided, myself included, but it brings up an interesting question:
Should Microsoft Announce an Xbox 1.5?
We’ve already heard Xbox boss Phil Spencer talk about console upgrades in the middle of a cycle, so it’s not entirely out of the question. It does, however, make me wonder if we’re about to leave the traditional method of console cycles behind? Read on to find out more about Microsoft’s vision and what it means for gamers.
Microsoft Wants an Upgraded Console? Since When?
Since the Spring Showcase my friends. Phil Spencer, head of Xbox and resident fortune teller, spoke about “hardware innovation” during his keynote. Namely he talked about the concept of a “Universal Windows Platform” which would combine both Windows PC and other Microsoft devices, like the Xbox.
Here’s where Phil started to drop the bomb:
"We see on other platforms whether it be mobile or PC that you get a continuous innovation that you rarely see on console. Consoles lock the hardware and the software platforms together at the beginning of the generation. Then you ride the generation out for seven or so years, while other ecosystems are getting better, faster, stronger. And then you wait for the next big step function."
He was absolutely right ,that’s exactly how consoles work. Apparently, though, Spencer isn’t interested in sticking with the status quo. Check out what he said next:
“When you look at the console space, I believe we will see more hardware innovation in the console space than we’ve ever seen. You’ll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation..”
He went on to mention PlayStation VR, but he jabbed them a bit by saying that it “doesn’t change what the core console is all about.” Microsoft is clearly interested in creating an experience that evolves and changes. Of course, we should have seen this coming when they were talking about Windows 10.
Microsoft is looking to transition from a company who offers hardware and software, to a company that offers a service. One that is constantly growing and evolving. While the Xbox One has received a lot of upgrades since launch in the form of updates, the only way to introduce a console/PC hybrid would be to release another console.
Here’s the problem with that: gamers don’t want to abandon their Xbox consoles after a handful of years because Microsoft wants to upgrade to a more flexible PC-ish console. A graphical upgrade will sway a good chunk of people, but 4K support will only appeal to a few.
The Xbox One is still pushing out incredible games like Quantum Break that look stunning. Why do we need to abandon it for something that’s only a bit better? Let’s discuss.
Xbox 1.5 And PS4.5: Is This What Gamers Want?
The biggest problem that critics have with this generation of consoles is power. When compared to a modern PC, these consoles are lacking in several ways. The worst part in their eyes, is that these consoles are expected to be the gold standard for the next several years. Technology has been evolving at a rapid pace, so that concept leaves a bad taste in many people’s mouths.
PC master race aside, games on the Xbox One look great, but they aren’t a quantum leap from the games on Xbox 360. They look better, no one can deny that, but if you were alive and gaming during the time games went from 2D to 3D, you would most certainly argue that a leap like that was far more significant.
The next time a console comes out, like the Xbox 2 for example, it should represent that kind of leap in power. Am I asking for 4D games? Sure, why not? Yes, I know that the fourth dimension is time, but you get my drift. We need to see a leap forward that puts the last generation to shame, not a tiny baby step in the right direction.
Gamers are asking for more power, and a small minority are begging for 4K support, but do you know what most gamers want?
We’re not that hard to please. We just want games that blow our socks off and give us bang for our buck. We invested in this console to play games, and that’s what we want to see. For people who haven’t bought the Xbox One, an upgraded version would be pretty sweet because they could have incentive to jump in ahead of the pack. For those who already bought the console, that’s not something they want to hear, especially if the console plays different/upgraded games compared to the standard version.
Think I’m crazy? Look at the New 3DS. This console replaced the standard Nintendo 3DS and offers it’s own games that look and play better. What are the original owners supposed to do? Upgrade or suffer the experience of a poorly made port.
There’s always the possibility that Microsoft could offer some sort of attachment or easy upgrade that doesn’t rival the cost of an entirely new console. Check out this quote from Phil Spencer:
"Am I going to break open my console and start upgrading individual pieces? That’s not our plan. There is something special about what happens with a console. You buy an appliance-like device; you plug it into your TV; it works when you plug it in. It’s not like I’m going to ship a screwdriver set with every console that comes out."
How can Microsoft add another GPU or CPU to a console without opening it up? The answer may lie with a modular design that offers a more plug-and-play solution instead of having to open the console and switch out parts.
That kind of design is possible, but not with the current console. If Microsoft wants to create an Xbox that can be upgraded as needed, they would need to start from scratch. Making an Xbox 1.5 wouldn’t do that, instead it would confuse and anger consumers.
My advice? Focus on this idea because it’s a good one, but don’t try to shoehorn it into this generation. Milk the Xbox One for all it’s worth, introduce cloud-computing perhaps to add more power to some games, and focus on bringing this type of technology to Xbox Two. That’s where it belongs.
Let's play devil's advocate for a moment, though. What if Sony does release a PS4.5? They are already outselling Xbox One almost 2-1, so Microsoft would be forced to show their hand if this were the case. Not to mention, the HoloLens, Microsoft's augmented reality headset, isn't coming out anytime soon according to recent reports that show the development kit is only just hitting the market.
With PlayStation VR, and now the potential for a PS4.5, Microsoft is bound to feel the squeeze. Will this force them to accelerate their plans? Only time will tell, but it will be an interesting story to watch unfold, that much is certain.
What do you think? Does Xbox One need an upgrade, or should we wait for Xbox Two? Let us know in the comments!
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