It is time for Sony and third party publishers to start taking the PS4 Pro a bit more seriously.
The PS4 Pro launched last year, as a higher end PlayStation 4 model, for users who might want better graphics for their games, or at least partial 4K support. It’s a well designed machine – it lacks the raw power of the Xbox One X, sure, as well as a lot of the extra functionality in that system; incredibly enough, it is also bigger than the Xbox One X while being weaker – but for what it is, it’s well made, and can boast some seriously impressive graphics in the hands of capable developers.
There have been some great examples of games which have utilized the full potential of the system. Just look at what Guerrilla Games achieved with it with Horizon: Zero Dawn earlier this year. The game supported checkerboard 4K rendering at a stable 30 frames per second with improved post processing effects. Third party titles like Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor, Nioh, The Surge, Final Fantasy 15, Mass Effect Andromeda and Battlefield 1 either run at checkerboard 4K or provide improved visual fidelity with super-sampling.
However, many games this year have launched without PS4 Pro support whatsoever or have just basically upscaled the resolution to 1440p. Games like Dishonored 2, Sniper Ghost Warrior 3, DiRT 4, Tekken 7 and Nier Automata feature next to improvements, besides may be a better resolution than 1080p. Arkane Studios’ Prey also launched without any sort of PS4 Pro support and only got a enhancement patch several days post launch. In short, PS4 Pro support for third party games has been pretty underwhelming overall. Most developers have preferred not to use custom techniques such as checkerboard 4K or have simply upscaled the resolution to 1440p. Heck, in games like Dirt 4, the PS4 Pro version runs at 1080p resolution and offers no features for 4K TV owners whatsoever.
In short, many third parties have not been taking the Pro seriously at all. Most barely bother with it beyond the absolute bare minimum that they can get away with, which legitimately adds nothing to the experience. Pro support for major third party games is often not there at all, until well after launch- and in many cases, Pro patches make the game perform worse than it does on a standard PS4 system, incredibly enough, due to very poor optimization. Things like this have all contributed to giving the PS4 Pro a mixed reputation.
The problem is, the average PS4 Pro owner probably wouldn’t even know it, because of how poor support has been for the console all around. Sony themselves remain very non committal to it- while their first party games that have launched since the release of the PS4 Pro have all supported it, Sony has still not added Pro enhancements to a lot of older PS4 games, including some that would benefit greatly from it, and that fans have been asking for for a while, such as Bloodborne. Microsoft on the other hand are reportedly committed to provide Xbox One X patches for older games such as Gears of War 4, Halo 5, Forza Horizon 3 and other older titles, all of which have been launched months and months before the console’s release this November.
There is also the fact that Sony has refused to market the thing at all. While I understand that the Pro is meant to be a product aimed at the enthusiast market, there are two considerations to be kept in mind- Sony actively works on making the PS4 Slim seem more attractive, including with very aggressive bundling, and great price drops (in fact, the PS4 Pro has not received a single bundle since its launch); meanwhile, Microsoft is actively marketing and pushing the Xbox One X, not just for newer games but also your older catalogue of games that I just mentioned above.
Ahead of the launch of the Xbox One X, Sony needs to work on rectifying these things- it needs to start ensuring that PS4 Pro patches and enhancements are not the bare minimum, and that they work as they are supposed to. They need to have some sort of mandate implemented that at least pushes the developers to include PS4 Pro patches on disc or have them ready via a downloadable patch on Day One.
It needs better development guidelines, better development tools, better mandates, and also better QA and certification processes for these patches. It also needs to actually start marketing the Pro, bundling it, reducing its price- whatever it can do, to make the product seem more attractive to the general masses.
Sales for PS4 Pro have been decent overall, but Sony needs to take it seriously as far as third party games development is concerned. It needs to ensure every game releasing on it have meaningful upgrades, specially for 4K TV owners, because that is the market segment that Sony seems to be aiming for.
The PS4 Pro is a great, well designed system, and it’s capable of a decent showing against the Xbox One X- but Sony and third party developers need to actually be 100% committed to it to begin with.