A PlayStation 5 Pro Is Sony's Riskiest Hardware Bet Yet

Who is this for exactly?

UKRAINE - 2024/02/21: In this photo illustration, PlayStation 5 (PS5) logo is seen on a smartphone s...
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A more powerful PlayStation 5 is in development and will drop later this year, recent leaks suggest.

The existence of the oft-rumor mid-console cycle refresh was confirmed by The Verge, which cites sources familiar with Sony’s plans. The console is known internally as Codename Trinity’ and will likely launch to the public as the PS5 Pro.

The console boasts increased performance over the base PS5 model, The Verge reports, with a more powerful GPU, a slightly more powerful CPU, and expanded system memory. The alleged result is a console more capable of producing higher resolutions, higher framerates, and ray-traced graphics. Sony will still sell the original version of the PlayStation 5, which got a redesign last fall, alongside the new and improved model. The console will also be capable of taking advantage of a new proprietary upscaling software dubbed “PlayStation Spectral Super Resolution.”

Sony released a slimmed-down version of the PS5 last November. Are players ready for a more powerful version of the hit console?

Sony Interactive Entertainment Inc.

According to The Verge, Sony has allowed developers to order test kits. By August, it expects all games being certified for PS5 to be forward-compatible with the console, suggesting a 2024 launch.

While it’s all well and dandy that Sony’s looking to release another piece of hardware this generation, one that better realizes the generational leap in graphics that was promised before the system launched, I can’t help but ask: who this refresh is for exactly?

By Sony’s own admission, we’re past the halfway point of the PS5’s lifecycle. And yet, it feels like developers have barely scratched the surface of what the console is capable of. Some of the most notable games on the platform, like Armored Core: Fires Of Rubicon, Elden Ring, and the annual Call of Duty, are all still released on the PlayStation 4. Only in the final months of 2023 did the console start to see notable third-party releases that weren’t on PS4, like Alan Wake 2 and Baldur’s Gate 3.

Sony hasn’t exactly led the charge of developing exclusivity for the PS5 either. Despite a strong selection of first-party titles released this generation, too few are true PlayStation 5 exclusives: GoW: Ragnarök, Horizon Forbidden West, and Spider-Man: Miles Morales are all playable on PS4. Of the PS5-only first-party titles, only Insomniac, with Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Spider-Man 2, has truly pushed the hardware in exceptional ways (sorry Returnal and The Last Of Us Part 1).

Spider-Man 2, the PS5’s most impressive showcase, already has ray-tracing implemented.

Insomniac Games

The PS5 has sold an impressive number of units, part of which can be credited to a post-2020 boom in gaming around the console’s release. Convincing a significant portion of those 50 million players (and counting) that they should spend another $500 (possibly more) for a boost in graphics will be a tough sell.

When the PlayStation 4 Pro was released in 2016, the promise of standardized 4K support was at least a significant enough jump in visual and performance fidelity for those with the setup to accommodate it. At the time, 4K displays were also being adopted by the general public en masse as home video releases and streaming services like Netflix promised to invest in producing content for the new resolution standard.

No such secondary boon exists for the PlayStation 5, a console that was 4K capable out of the box. This is an upgrade for games, and seemingly games alone. Improved ray-traced reflections and more accurate lighting are nowhere near as strong a selling point as “this console will work better than the old one on your brand-new TV.” Not to mention that several games, like the console's primary first-party showcase Spider-Man 2, already have ray-tracing features implemented. Will this thing be worth the asking price to improve standard graphical features?

When the PS4 Pro launched in 2016, the leap to 4K marked a more significant improvement over the base console than upscaled graphics and better ray-tracing.

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I’m not saying that it won’t sell. In the last two years, Sony has shown a willingness to pour resources into hardware R&D for new products, no matter how niche (or woefully under-supported in the case of the floundering PlayStation VR 2). And the unexpected, overnight success of the PlayStation Portal, a handheld dedicated to accomplishing the same functionality as a phone, tablet, or portable PC handheld, proves that players are willing to spend money on a luxury piece of equipment.

But with Sony’s new “anything is possible” attitude towards hardware and accessories, a PlayStation 5 Pro is the company’s biggest bet thus far. Unless a significant price drop is in store for the three-year-old base PlayStation 5, or there’s an organized concerted effort to communicate why ray tracing, better resolutions, and improved framerates are buzzwords worthy of rebuying a console that’s only now hitting its stride, I’m struggling to understand who the PlayStation 5 Pro is for.

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