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Opinion – This E3 Is Not The Time For New Systems

by Matthew Kato on May 23, 2016 at 01:02 PM

E3 is an exciting time, and with the big show rapidly approaching there is no shortage of rumors about what we'll see next month. Two of the big ones on everyone's minds are whether Sony and Microsoft will unveil upgraded versions of the PS4 and Xbox One, respectively (FYI: Nintendo has already announced the Nintendo NX but it won't be at the show). While new hardware is about as big as it gets at E3, I won't be applauding.

Just to recap: Sony is rumored to unveil a PS4.5 that some say could even support 4K gaming and therefore bolster their PlayStation VR initiative coming out later this year. While Microsoft has said it's not in favor or putting out new hardware to the level of Sony's rumored PS4.5, there is talk that Microsoft will have something new at the show, which could be a redesigned Xbox One with some added features.

This sounds exciting strictly from a tech-for-tech's sake perspective, but from a consumer's view, I think this is the wrong time. I acknowledge that both companies clearly have their own motivations, but as someone who would be coaxed to buy said products, it doesn't make sense to me.

The "new" home consoles are selling, but I don't think this generation has even hit its full stride yet. Things started out slow on the software side, and this fact – including a glut of remasters from the previous generation – didn't produce that killer app that sold systems or convinced gamers that the future was really upon us. Historically, we're not even three years into these recent home consoles, and that means developers haven't maxed out what they can do.

If you come out with a more powerful system, as PS4.5 is reputed to be, what are you telling consumers and developers? Should they hold off even longer to get a system? Was the old one they just bought a mistake? Do studios need to jump on the 4K bandwagon for the projects that are already in development, and what will that cost them? How much is Sony going to support this new system, and how might that splinter games that may come out on both or only the more powerful one (ex. The Wii U is dead in the water now that the NX has been announced)?

Some of the more nitty-gritty rumors say that the PlayStation 4.5 wouldn't require exclusive software, which is good to hear. But then what's even the point of making a new system if it's not truly going to require a leap forward? Even if developers could make PS4 and PS4.5 games that are technically compatible, how well will they run on the PS4 in a year's time? Will it be like trying to run a high-spec game on an old PC, and be a worthless experience? Besides, I don't know anyone who likes the situation where software straddles generations. It's one thing to put up with when going from the PS3 to the PS4, for example, but would we have to put up with that for the rest of the PS4's days?

Finally, perhaps Sony wants a more powerful system to power PS VR, but then ostensibly requiring a new console after you've already announced and taken pre-orders for the peripheral is another disaster altogether.

If the rumor that Microsoft is planning a redesigned Xbox One that – unlike the PS4.5, would not necessitate new software – is true, it could be more like going from the Xbox 360 to the Elite. This could be to boost sales like a holiday hardware/software bundle without potentially fracturing the brand and its install base. But again, I'd argue that the Xbox One is nowhere near tapped out. Microsoft needs help on the first-party and exclusive-software front, not the hardware. And besides, the company should already be working on making its online experience as good as it used to be on the Xbox 360 – which does not necessitate a new console. Gamers would love to see the current iteration of the Xbox One restore the elegance of the Xbox 360's party structure, for example, before taking on new challenges.

We don't know if these rumors are true, but the mere fact that they're out there is already causing people to stop and question the systems they've bought and what might be coming next. In the end, you could argue that Sony or Microsoft releasing a new version of the current systems doesn't harm consumers if they don't want to buy them. Yes, nobody can make someone buy a system they don't want, but if this is where these companies want to put their considerable time and energy, then it could greatly affect this generation and all us gamers with it.