There were many arguments to be made, in the lead up to the launch of the PlayStation 4 Pro, that Sony were dropping the ball when it came to their new console. As the makers of the very first mid generation iterative console ever, Sony had a responsibility to actually introduce the concept in a way that would be palatable to the masses, and… it was arguable whether or not they were actually doing that properly. But once again, Sony have surprised us with their sheer acumen, and the power of their brand- while it’s too early to call it just yet, given that the PS4 Pro launched just last week, and that we don’t have either global numbers, nor sustained numbers, so far, it is now evident that the PS4 Pro has gotten off to a good start.
In Japan, a market increasingly averse to home consoles, a market that everyone was convinced the PS4 Pro would barely post any numbers in, with the Slim instead accounting for most of the PS4 sales in the region, the PS4 Pro sold over 65,000 units in its first four days on the market. Just for reference, that number is not only higher than what the standard PS4 Slim sold in that same week in Japan, but also higher than the numbers the Slim posted in its launch week in the country.
PS4 Pro’s Japanese numbers are incredibly compelling but not necessarily conclusive. Things usually launch well in Japan (remember how the PlayStation VR launched well there, before dropping off like a rock?), and sales trends in Japan are not necessarily indicative of trends in the rest of the world. Which is why the PS4 Pro’s performance in the UK is encouraging, too- the PS4 had been outsold by the Xbox One in the country for a while now, but the PS4 Pro galvanized Sony’s console, leading to a sharp spike in sales that Sony are hopefully able to sustain.
"The takeaway here is that the market is not opposed to the notion of iterative consoles by definition, and that customers are more than willing to buy a new, upgraded console."
The takeaway here is that the market is not opposed to the notion of iterative consoles by definition, and that customers are more than willing to buy a new, upgraded console- provided there is a compelling proposition on offer. While the question of whether or not Sony actually managed to communicate a compelling proposition is one we can argue on all day and night, it is indisputable that the PS4 Pro’s price alone makes it highly attractive- instead of spending $300 on a PS4, why not spend just $100 more, and get a better PS4 that will make all your games look even better?
This, then, is a vindication of the iterative console concept- which, you will remember, is something that we have been espousing the benefits of for a very long time, now. It means that the market is more than willing to entertain the notion of console refreshes every few years, along with all the benefits that go with that- continuous game development libraries and pipelines, no discrete breaks in game compatibility and ecosystems, and a constant evolution of technology. Continuously refreshed hardware has long been common for gaming arcades, smartphones, PCs, tablets, and handhelds- in other words, for anything that plays games except for consoles. But now, it is clear that it can be applied to the console gaming market as well. And that is big, important, and significant.
Most importantly, it establishes, right away, that Microsoft’s Scorpio can also do well now. Presuming that Microsoft don’t do something stupid, like pricing it too high (admittedly something that is not yet confirmed, given that they keep hinting that the console will be a ‘premium’ console), the Scorpio is not something that will be fundamentally rejected by the market. In fact, one might argue that (again, presuming that Microsoft does nothing stupid, which we can never be sure of with this company- remember, this is the company that tried to sell an underpowered, laden with Kinect, always online and connected console for $500) Microsoft could do better with the Scorpio than Sony have done with the Pro.
"It establishes, right away, that Microsoft’s Scorpio can also do well now."
This is not necessarily talking about the Scorpio’s power advantage over the Pro (though I imagine that is something that will come into play, too especially if Microsoft make it a chief marketing point)- instead, this is more about keeping the Scorpio’s release timing in mind. By the time the Scorpio launches, the PS4 Pro will have been on the market for a year (or longer). This means that Microsoft will have had a year to study what Sony did that worked, what they did that didn’t, how they should market their console, and what all they should avoid. Theoretically, they can learn from Sony’s mistakes and from their successes, and do a far more convincing and compelling job of selling the Scorpio than Sony has done with the Pro- and given how successful the Pro is in spite of Sony’s mixed messaging, the Scorpio could do even better.
But even stepping away from the confines of this unnecessarily trumped up PlayStation versus Xbox console war, that mandates that we pit the Scorpio against the Pro by definition, I think the Pro’s success is good news- it means that iterative consoles are likely to catch on, likely to be something that each company pushes out, and likely to constantly do well. It means that consoles become actual platforms, rather than discrete, isolated standards that increasingly fall out of sync with the rest of the gaming industry.
Microsoft have already hinted that they are now looking at a ‘world without generations.’ Nintendo has already hinted that the Switch is the start of a new platform for them, which will become a ‘family of devices, implying that they are looking at evolving and iterating the system over time. Sony have technically promised that they will have a proper next gen PS5- but they have never said that there won’t be a PS5 Pro. And given the success of the PS4 Pro, they’d be stupid not to push one out in the future.
"A rising tide lifts all boats, and that is never as true in any other industry as it is in the gaming one."
In other words, the success of the Pro is the final proof that was needed that the console market is now forever and irrevocably changed. The era of discrete game generations is now over- instead, we will now have continuous Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo platforms, evolving and iterating over time, and never resetting your game libraries, or game developers’ development pipelines, completely. This was necessary for the future health of the console gaming industry, and so it is good to see that the PS4 Pro has done well, indeed. After all- a rising tide lifts all boats, and that is never as true in any other industry as it is in the gaming one.
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