Slim Plus S Pro: do we need mid-generation console releases?

Releasing mid-generation updates to existing consoles is nothing new.  Going all the way back to the first home consoles, manufacturers have been releasing updated and slimmed down versions few years after their original release.

genesismodels
Top the original Genesis Model, Bottom the second Genesis Model.
One of the most notable improvements on silhouette and size came with the transformation from the original Playstation 2 to it’s slim model.

playstation-slim
The Playstation 2 Slim was a substantially smaller console which improved upon its design by actually removing the troublesome slide out disc tray and going back to the old tech of a pop up disc tray.
However, the primary reason for these mid-generation releases has been to lower manufacturing costs and to update the facade of consoles. With the latest generation we are facing a question typically reserved for the phone market, “do consumers spend money on the mid-generation consoles Playstation 4 Pro and the Xbox One S, or wait for the “PS5 and Xbox Scorpio?””

xbox-one-s-vs-ps4-pro

 

These mid-generation consoles’ primary claim to fame is their capacity to render games in 4K HD graphics and bolster improved framerate performance.  Yet, these supercharged versions of the current generation pose a problem for both consumers and developers. By creating consoles of differing performance specs you encounter two main issues:

– Stratifying the user base: When you begin to have players playing on consoles with different hardware the players with the better models will have a better experience, and in multiplayer games this can provide an unfair advantage.
– Extra work for the developer without payout: Developers lack an incentive to do the extra work of optimizing their title for 4K resolutions and improving framerates, when the people who actually have both the console and the TV to enjoy their work, make up a very small amount of their user base.

In the end, I don’t believe these mid-generation consoles do much for the consumer or the developer, other than tease what is to come with the future of consoles. I fear that lackluster adoption rates will make them unattractive platforms to develop for, reducing the titles that showcase what they can do, and in turn making it difficult for consumers to justify their purchase.

What do you think about the new mid-generation console releases? Do you think the industry should move more towards yearly console releases or updates like we see in the mobile market? If you already own a current-gen console would you consider getting one of these 4K models? I welcome discussion on this topic and if you have experiences of your own you wish to share please do so in the comments below, or write in to playprofessor@gmail.com.

Play Professor is the blog of ludologist and video game journalist Andrew Mantilla. You can check out more of his content on FacebookTwitterInstagramand Youtube.

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