What Would Make You Want to Upgrade Your Console?

Yours truly back in June writing during Microsoft’s E3 presentation for the Xbox One X:

…it feels like Microsoft is less interested in challenging Sony with this high-end console than harvesting their hardcore Xbox fans for yet another console purchase.

I don’t doubt that this console will live up to its technical promises, but it won’t offer much to anyone who already has an Xbox One, it’ll still play the same games. Unlike an iPhone upgrade, the smaller physical form-factor won’t make the Xbox One X any more pocketable. A more powerful desktop computer can also run many of the same exclusive games in Windows 10.

Eurogamer’s headline from Martin Robinson yesterday: Microsoft’s final sales pitch for Xbox One X falls flat:

Microsoft stepped up its commitment to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, backing a proven winner and this year’s true phenomenon in what amounts to quite a coup for the Xbox brand, but the messaging was all over the place. This, it seems, is an exclusive in that very loose definition of the word, with all sorts of obfuscation being peddled out when it comes to future versions on other platforms. Maybe if Phil Spencer hadn’t skipped this week’s show he might have advised that, mindful of a Gamescom from the not-too-distant past and the muddied reveal of another Xbox ‘exclusive’, you can’t pull the wool over people’s eyes for too long.

There were better signs elsewhere, and the list of 100-plus games that will be receiving updates to make the most of the Xbox One X hardware makes for impressive reading – the promise of an improved and definitive console version of The Witcher 3 is almost enough alone to justify the upgrade, and elsewhere there’s an appealing list of games that will benefit from a facelift. But at this point in the console lifecycle, Microsoft needs more than prettier versions of multiplatform games if it’s to make serious inroads into Sony’s considerable lead this generation.

At this point I’m pretty sure that in general people aren’t interested in more expensive mid-generation console upgrades to support 4K televisions unless they have a tremendous amount of disposable income.

The argument that people would buy a desktop computer as powerful also doesn’t seem to hold water. Are people really buying them in droves? Where are the boastful hardware companies filling press release pipelines with numbers? I haven’t seen them, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong places.

I get the sense that people are pretty displeased with the PlayStation 4 Pro, as well, but at least Sony has truly exclusive games like Uncharted and that won’t also be available on Windows 10.

What reason is left to buy the upgraded consoles? Here I am back in June again:

That could change later on. In the future this could be the baseline version of the Xbox One and some games could require the Xbox One X to run at all. The same is true of the Playstation 4 Pro, and I wouldn’t recommend buying either of the original Xbox One or the original Playstation 4 at this point.

So, the fear of being left behind when games might require the upgraded consoles, that’s basically all I’ve got for reasons to buy the Xbox One X or PlayStation 4 Pro today. Maybe Microsoft and Sony don’t want to tank sales of the the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 Amateur. Is something going to change between now and November 7th?

PS4 Pro Boost Mode

When Sony’s upgraded Playstation 4 Pro shipped it only offered performance improvements for games that were updated to support it. That’s a manual process that costs money (in wages) on the part of the developer to support. Not every game is going to get an update. It’s an impossible task for games that have had their development teams disbanded, or small studios that don’t have time to go back and retest and resubmit their updates to Sony.

An upcoming firmware update (4.50) is to resolve this issue, partially. Boost mode will offer enhanced performance for all older games. With the caveat that there is no guarantee they will support it.

Richard Leadbetter has thoroughly tested the new mode for Eurogamer:

In short, boost mode will work best in stabilising performance closer to target frame-rates and should prove interesting on unlocked titles, but you can’t expect game-changing miracles. Games like Destiny that stick doggedly to their 30fps cap will see no improvement, and titles certainly won’t break their performance limits and suddenly run at 60fps. However, there are plenty of games out there that glitch badly or run nowhere near their theoretical limits. In this scenario, boost mode could be revelatory.

Enhanced performance isn’t everything, and I’d be surprised if Sony didn’t eventually blacklist games that don’t work well with the boost, but this is huge news for anyone that bought a Pro and a disappointment for anyone that bought the regular Playstation 4 before this functionality was announced.