Have mid generation upgrades been a successful experiment? While there is a case to be made that rolling, iterative hardware upgrades allowing for continuous, iterative hardware platforms over discrete generational ones, is the way of the future, it is unclear if the market has accepted this idea just yet- the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X have done well enough, but so well that you throw out the traditional console model?
On the other hand, it seems developers absolutely love this new way of doing things, since it means they aren’t subjected to a full reset in pipelines every few years. Developers such as, for instance, Cory Barlog, the man behind the new God of War.
“I think incremental is always really good. I liked PS4 to PS4 Pro in the sense that with PS3 and PS4, it felt like, we’ve got to throw everything out, you know?” Barlog said in an interview with the Daily Star. “We had to redo everything. I don’t like those situations as a developer because I feel like I just got this thing. But if we can continue to incrementally grow, I think that it simply just allows us to push the limits without having to rewire our brains and figure everything out again.”
Barlog noted that while new hardware can be exciting, as a developer, he will always prefer the rolling, iterative model- it’s something that is simply easier to work with. “So I’ll always embrace the new sort of advent of hardware but as a developer, you’re never going to find me sort of crying for more of that. I think the more times we can be familiar, the better. So if I could run it much faster as opposed to throwing it all out and reprograming everything for the next generation or something, as long as we keep expanding like that, that’ll be great.”
I get where he is coming from- and indeed, other technological markets, from PCs to tablets to smartphones to even gaming handhelds, and beyond, all adopt this form of rolling hardware- there is no reason why game consoles specifically are a special case with discrete generations. Maybe this is something that will gradually change over time- we’ll see exactly what the PS5 is when it is announced. If it is built on top of the PS4 Pro, we will know Sony too have decided to go with continuous hardware platforms they iterate on.