The rumoured PS4K is real, according to a report by Giant Bomb, and it is known as ‘NEO’ internally at Sony.
According to documents Giant Bomb claim were leaked to them, developers have been told by Sony to have their games “NEO ready” by October, although the report does not necessarily mean the new console will have launched by October, with the document stating: “devs are allowed to launch NEO-ready games before the NEO itself releases”.
Games will release with a ‘base mode’ and a ‘NEO mode’. Reportedly, the base mode will be for the current PS4 model, and the NEO mode will take advantage of the upgraded hardware for the new system. The report goes onto state that “there will not be any NEO only games” and that developers will not be allowed to “offer exclusive gameplay options or special unlockables for NEO players”.
If true, this is a decision that will please late adopters to the PlayStation 4 platform and will be a smart move for Sony, who would face splitting the PlayStation 4 install base down the middle if ‘NEO’ exclusive games were made. Such a move would have given rise to a “PC master race” culture within the PlayStation 4 community, whereby owners of the current PlayStation 4 model would feel that they are receiving a raw deal with all their software purchases.
Similar concerns were raised about the New Nintendo 3DS, which was released as a hardware upgrade by Nintendo, where Nintendo 3DS users believed there would be games released exclusively for the New Nintendo 3DS. If the NEO and current PlayStation 4 receive the same treatment, it will abate the fears that the current PlayStation 4 could be made obscure and will continue to have a healthy lifespan throughout the current console generation.
In terms of specifications, Giant Bomb state that: “The NEO will feature a higher clock speed than the original PS4, an improved GPU, and higher bandwidth on the memory.” They also claim the documents note: “the HDD in the NEO is the same as that in the original PlayStation 4, but it’s not clear if that means in terms of capacity or connection speed.”
NEO based games will use the upgraded hardware offer increased and more stable frame rate and higher visual fidelity, at least when those games run at 1080p on HDTVs. The NEO will also support 4K image output, but games themselves are not required to be 4K native. Additionally, older games can benefit from the NEO hardware, but only if the developers release a patch that updates the games to NEO standards.
The report also states that the NEO is not intended to supersede the current PlayStation 4 model, but it is designed to run concurrently with the same user environment, which will utilise the same PSN store, potentially meaning that games purchased through the PSN store for PlayStation 4 can be used on the NEO too.
Digital Foundry have stepped in to verify Giant Bomb’s report, stating that they have received the same leaked documents and that: “development kits prototype are on their way to studios now.” They went on to add that: “A test kit (debug station, if you like) housed within a non-final chassis – which Sony is asking developers not to show – follows shortly. A second-gen test kit, again not based on the actual retail shell, goes out in June. Sony gives more intensive Neo briefings at its DevCon event in in May, while code submission for Neo-compatible titles begins in August.”
It is unclear what the exact release window will be and although the report did not explicitly mention the PS VR, it is speculated by Digital Foundry that the NEO console will release in October to capitalise on the PS VR release, as the virtual reality headset by Sony will clearly benefit from the upgraded hardware. However, they added that a March 2017 launch window seems much more likely.
Sony have not yet commented on the leaked documents.
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