PlayStation 4 launched in November 2013 and just three years later, Sony followed it up with the release of both PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation VR – so what are the chances of history repeating itself for the latest console generation? We know that a new virtual reality headset is in offing, but what about a PS5 Pro, or indeed an Xbox Series equivalent? Rumours of enhanced consoles have been floating around for a while now, while a recent press event from TV manufacturer TCL suggests that ‘gen 9.5’ consoles will launch in 2023/2024 – so what’s the likelihood of that actually happening?
There are a number of reasons to bet against the arrival of enhanced consoles – not least because we’re still mired in an interminably long cross-gen transition that looks likely to extend into the third year of this generation. PS4 Pro and Xbox One X were also designed to support a new breed of ultra HD display and there’s no evidence to suggest that 8K or even 4K at 120Hz stands much of a chance of justifying more powerful hardware. Perhaps more importantly though, there’s the question of economics, the idea that Sony and Microsoft may not find the route to an affordable console in current conditions, while the rampant inflation, a cost of living crysis and the spectre of recession means less money in the pocket of the audience.
Then there’s Xbox Series S. The reason why it exists is extraordinary, told in depth to Digital Foundry by Xbox’s chief architect, Andrew Goossen, back in 2020. Put simply, the reason why Microsoft launched two consoles rather than one is that the idea of Xbox Series X reducing in cost over time no longer looks viable. Faced with that startling reality, Microsoft made the call to launch a cheaper, less capable machine from day one. In effect, we got the mid-gen ‘Slim’ refresh alongside the top-tier model simultaneously because the cost reductions over time aren’t happening. In fact, in the current climate, inflation makes the consoles more expensive to make. Meanwhile, chip manufacturer TSMC is hiking prices on silicon wafers and demanding premiums from some of their biggest clients. It’s a far cry from the cost reductions we’ve seen in the past.