When rumors circled back in March about he possibility of a PS4.5, plenty of people were excited. It promised improved processing and 4k graphics. Music to the ears for all console users languishing in 1080p.
As is the style for all good duopolies, PlayStation and Xbox have both announced their new machines with all of the kit we could (realistically) hope for. While it is clear that these new consoles were geared to take advantage of 2016’s biggest tech release – Virtual Reality – it looks as though those of us without will still reap the benefits.
EA’s CEO, Andrew Wilson, was asked about how the mid-cycle console upgrade would affect his company.
His response was padded with phrases like “liquidity of play,” however one sentence encapsulated everything exciting about this new development in technology;
“We have been building a cross-platform, a cross-console, and the scalable architectures like PC for some time”
Cross-console gaming remains a hope but not a reality, but ‘scalable architectures’ is the truly exciting buzz-phrase in this piece. It means EA are trying to create an online community more like the PC. Someone with a laptop from 2005 can play Age of Empires against someone with a completely up-to-date $3000 computer if they wanted, but if you wanted to play FIFA 14 on ps3 against your friend with FIFA 14 on Ps4, you couldn’t. This is because the consoles do not have separate software and hardware refresh cycles. Each new generation was built basically from the ground up, and could not interact with the machines that preceded it.
Scorpio and Neo are hardware upgrades, but the software still interacts online with the base versions of the consoles. It’s the equivalent of a PC user buying a new graphics card and processor; their machine will be much more powerful, but they can interact with less powerful ones.
This is a huge deal for EA, whose sports games rely heavily on the vibrancy of their online communities. It lengthens the cycles between console generations and allows those who want to upgrade to the best machine to continue playing online with those who can only afford their brother’s old hand-me-down. This is what Wilson’s ‘scalable architecture’ allows, and it is big news for the future of sports gaming.
If this can somehow be done in tandem with cross-platform gaming, we may see a truly global gaming community in the not too distant future.
As for me, with the PS4 Neo due not long after the release of the majority of this year’s sport’s titles, I’m just looking forward to seeing LeBron’s beard in crisp 4k resolution.