The industry has been batting around rumors of an upgraded PlayStation 4 for a few weeks now. Today, GiantBomb obtained documentation that points to an improved system with the code-name NEO. According to their report, the NEO features improved CPU, GPU, and Memory compared to the original PlayStation 4.
Here's the rumored NEO specifications in comparison to the original PlayStation 4:
|CPU||8 Jaguar Cores at 1.6 GHz||8 Jaguar Cores at 2.1 GHz|
|GPU||AMD GCN, 18 CUs at 800 MHz||Improved AMD GCN, 36 CUs at 911 MHz|
|Memory||8 GB GDDR5, 176 GB/s||8 GB GDDR5, 218 GB/s|
The report mentions "NEO mode" and "NEO-ready" games that can take advantage of the additional processing power available in the new system. According to the report, every game released from October 2016 forward will need to support the PlayStation 4 and the NEO. Games released in late September will need patches to make them NEO-ready. Otherwise, developers are allowed to make their older games NEO-ready with patches as they see fit. There's no indicated release window given for the system.
Sony expects the NEO's power to be used for improved frame rates and visual fidelity. Early rumors pointed to the PlayStation 4 upgrade being aimed at 4K resolution output, but the documentation GiantBomb obtained says that Sony wants developers to focus on frame rate first: NEO-ready game frame rates have to exceed their PlayStation 4 limitations. Otherwise, developers are free to use the system's new power as they see fit. The NEO will support 4K image output, meaning those with Ultra HD Blu-Rays should be good to go.
Sony wants the PlayStation 4 and the NEO to co-exist, so the platform holder will be instituting rules to make sure the playerbase isn't split. The PS4 and the NEO use the same operating system and all your games will transfer over. There will apparently be no NEO-only games, meaning all games have to run on both platforms and Sony will not let developers add NEO-only features. Developers can have weaker versions of game features on the PlayStation 4 though; GB mentions a 4-player co-op mode on PS4 versus an 8-player co-op mode on the NEO, as one potential example. This is similar to the old Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak, which allowed some N64 games to run in a higher resolution mode if the Pak was detected.
Sony is probably hoping these guidelines will keep developers focused on both platforms in near the near future. One benefit of the NEO, which rumors say may retail for $399, is the potential for the classic PS4 to see another price drop this holiday season. That could push the system's price down to $325 or even $299, which would increase Sony's lead in sales considerably.
Given everything above, I'm not seeing the NEO as a must-buy for most consumers if it does indeed come out this year. This is a high-end enthusiast-level box for those who have upgraded to 4K televisions and want content that can scale to that platform. It won't become developers' target specification anytime soon, especially with 35.9 million PlayStation 4's out there already. If everything above is correct, it's great for early adopters and bleeding edge consumers, but everyone else probably won't care for a year or two.
We're at E3 next week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!