Console gaming is about to become a bit more complex. Over the past few months, Sony and Microsoft have defied tradition by announcing the Playstation 4 Pro and Project Scorpio, two “half step” upgrades that promise to bring 4K resolution, HDR support and other visual bells and whistles to the console space. You might expect gamers to be excited about these promises of powerful new tech, but the response has been surprisingly muted. The gaming community seems to be, at best, cautiously optimistic, and, at worst, downright cranky about these new machines.
4K HDR? Yawn. Call me when games look good enough to fill the soul-crushing emptiness.—
Walt Williams (@waltdwilliams) September 07, 2016
Some of the pessimism can be chalked up to it simply being too soon for new consoles — the PS4 and Xbox One have yet to turn even 3 years old — but there’s something more at play here. With the PS4 Pro and Project Scorpio, Sony and Microsoft have signaled a shift in focus toward high-end, technically savvy gamers at the expense of the mainstream consumers they’ve traditionally catered to. It’s a bold, slightly puzzling move, which could come back to haunt the two tech giants. In the end, the Nintendo NX may be the biggest beneficiary of the PS4 Pro/Project Scorpio experiment.
If motherboard shots don’t turn you on, Project Scorpio might not be your thing.
The fact is, tech heads have never had much effect on the console race. It’s the gamer who maybe buys a game every month or two, is still playing on a 5-year-old TV, and only picks up a console once it drops below $300 who decides the winners and losers. During the 32-bit era, these mainstream gamers sided with Sony’s inexpensive PSOne and its massive selection of games, and stuck with the PS2 when it offered more of the same. While Nintendo chased casuals with the Wii, and Sony went upscale with the $600 PS3, most mainstream American consumers compromised with the Xbox 360. With this generation they’ve (thus far) embraced the powerful, versatile, yet reasonably-priced PS4. The mainstream consumer cares about their wallet first and foremost, and has no particular interest in brand loyalty.