One common lament about the state of the current generation of video game consoles is that their development cycle has effectively been lapped by the rate at which advanced displays have become more affordable. With the traditional five to seven year development cycle for consoles only about halfway through, many gamers are beginning to wonder if they will be able to take advantage of their new 4K displays while gaming. However, encouragingly, both Microsoft and Sony have indicated recently that they may be providing new, upgraded versions of their current consoles to support 4K.
The most obvious example of the issue of televisions and monitors outpacing consoles is in the widening availability of 4K displays. In 2013, when the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were released, less than one percent of US homes had a 4K display in their home. However, prices quickly dropped and analysts predict that almost ten percent of US homes will have a 4K display or television and that number will increase to 50 percent by 2020 – the approximate time.
While the current generation of consoles are technically complex enough to handle 4K displays, they simply do not have the processing power to handle fast paced, graphically intensive gaming experiences at the standard 60 frames per second that gamers are accustomed to. So while technologies supported by 4K displays will continue to develop and become available to PC gamers, console gamers will be in the dark until the next version of their console arrives sometime around 2020 – unless certain rumors are to be believed.
However, Kotaku reports that sources within Sony have been discussing the possibility of expanding the GPU power of the console. This move would not only allow the PlayStation 4 to support 4K gaming but may also give Sony the opportunity to continue retailing the system at a higher $400 price point, even as it begins to reach what most industry experts is over halfway through its lifecycle.
The article also discusses comments that Xbox chief Phil Spencer made recently concerning the possibility of upgrading the Xbox One. “We look at these other ecosystems out there like mobile, tablet and PC and we see that they have a very continuous evolution cycle in hardware, whereas between console generations most of the evolution is making it cheaper and potentially making it smaller.”
While neither these comments or the sources inside of Sony are a solid roadmap of what either Sony or Microsoft will be doing to compete with 4K gaming on the PC, is certainly is evidence that the issue is weighing on both companies for their consoles to support 4K experiences.