So, that… was a bit of a low key and frankly underwhelming and disappointing conference. I will not defend it- Sony’s PlayStation Meeting today was one of the most boring gaming related press conferences I have ever seen, and at this point I’ve seen a lot of them. It did the exact opposite of what a press conference is supposed to do- rather than generating hype, it killed it.
But, let’s actually step back from the general disappointment with the conference itself, and look at the product that it was held for. The PS4 NEO, it turns out, is real, and it’s called PS4 Pro. We don’t actually know a whole lot about the Pro- we know when it launches, we know how much it is, we know it supports 4K and HDR, and we know it has improved specs, but Sony faffed about on sharing exact specific specs during the conference (they did update their official site to share exact specifications later)- probably because at this point, they knew that it would compare poorly to Microsoft’s Xbox One Scorpio, which was announced at E3 earlier this year.
And you would think that’s the death blow, right? The Scorpio seems to be so much better than what we know of the Pro (right now, it doesn’t even seem that the Pro can run 4K Blu Rays– to be clear, the existing Xbox One S can run 4K Blu Rays, let alone the upcoming Scorpio), so you would think that the Pro was done. Finished. The Scorpio clearly seems to be the superior product, so Sony’s offering is going to be outclassed… right?
"Simply put, having inferior specs is definitely not the death knell on a console."
This is where objectivity, rationality, and knowledge of gaming history can come in handy. However, simply put, having inferior specs is definitely not the death knell on a console- regardless of what the Xbox One and Wii U’s poor performance in the market might have you think. The original PlayStation was technically far inferior to the Nintendo 64, but it managed to overcome that thanks to a better gaming library- and both of those were rooted, in turn, to the PlayStation’s early launch, as well as its very low price, which made customers flock to it, and ensured that no third parties could ignore it.
The same thing also happened with the PlayStation 2 versus the Xbox and Gamecube, and then the Xbox 360 versus the PlayStation 3- early launches and cheaper prices meant the consoles got entrenched, sold a lot, and managed to consolidate their library, with third parties that were comfortable with the hardware, by the time the competition launched- the competition, which simply could not hope to compete with an established system, especially since by then, Sony (and Microsoft, in the case of the Xbox 360) were in the position of slashing their console’s prices and launching some well timed killer apps, making the even more attractive than the just launched systems with the poorer libraries that consisted of nothing but launch games at the time.
I’m here to say that this exact thing may happen with the Pro and the Scorpio, too. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Pro will necessarily do better than the Scorpio- I just think that the Pro’s early launch, and cheaper price ($399 is an excellent price, especially next to the Scorpio, which Microsoft are warning will have a ‘premium price.’ And when the current Xbox One lineup already caps at $399, then premium could mean as high as $500) will help negate some of the massive advantages that the Xbox One Scorpio otherwise holds over it.
"I am making this argument to point out that by the time the Scorpio launches a full year later, Sony might be in a position to slash the PS4 Pro price heavily, making it look far more attractive than Microsoft’s offering in comparison."
What will also work in Sony’s favor is the system’s early launch- with a November 2016 launch, the PS4 Pro launches a full year ahead of the Scorpio. I’m not using the head start here to make an argument for the install base (which is in any case meaningless for two systems which won’t have any true exclusives on them)- instead, I am making this argument to point out that by the time the Scorpio launches a full year later, Sony might be in a position to slash the PS4 Pro price heavily, making it look far more attractive than Microsoft’s offering in comparison.
What I am saying here, then, is that for as much as Sony appear to have gotten wrong with the PS4 Pro – and really, judging by that trainwreck of a conference, it doesn’t seem like they have much of a clue what they should be doing – they at least have the price right. $399 is the magic price point, as they well seem to know, given the PlayStation 4’s incredible success at that launch price, and Sony choosing to also price the upcoming PlayStation VR that. At $399, the PS4 Pro becomes a viable sell to someone either looking to buy a new PS4 for the first time this Holiday, as it’s a better model in the end than the cheaper $299 Slim, and it is also a reasonable sell for someone who is buying a new 4KTV and wants some content to go with it (although, again, the lack of a UHD drive in the system is definitely going to stunt its appeal to that market).
That $399 price should mean that, for as unappealing as the PS4 Pro is, it should still manage to sell a fair bit. It means that, by the time the Scorpio, which going by what we know right now, seems to be a more appealing offering, does launch, Sony will be in the comfortable position of slashing the Pro’s price further, and making it even more appealing. That, hopefully, is enough to sell it to the market somewhat- it should be enough to counter some of the disadvantages that the Pro has for sure. As the original Xbox One showed, even the most unappealing product can sell in decent quantities at a lower price.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.