Last year’s fall release of Sony and Microsoft’s next generation gaming consoles, the Playstation 4k and Xbox One, marked the appropriate next step in entertainment technology. Two of the most notable features with both new consoles are their powerful internal processors and updated graphics cards.
Many gamers and critics have lauded these improvements and claim that the gaming experience offered by both machines is finally up to gamers’ expectations.
However, many on the other side question whether or not the next generation consoles arrived too late considering the rise of 4K resolution televisions and will they be able to keep up with continuing trend of Ultra HD resolution technology. Already, many gamers lament how the Playstation 4 supports 4K resolution for photos, videos, the interface, and movies streamed through Hulu and Netflix, but not for any actual games. Many from the disgruntled gamer’s camp believe that 4K gaming should be a given after considering how many consumer electronics brands already widely support 4K resolution.
Gamers also find fault with Microsoft for not pushing developers to jump on the 4K bandwagon, as many big name studios have resolved to continue to produce games in 1080p, even though the Xbox One supports 4K games. In an interview with Forbes Yusuf Mehdi, Microsoft’s Vice President of Marketing Strategy and Interactive Entertainment, stated that while there are few developers making the jump to 4K, “there’s no hardware restriction there at all” (extremetech.com). Still, a major issue concerning 4K is the compatibility of each console’s Blu-ray drives.
Currently, there is no standard for content above 1080p; i.e., each layer on the disc contains 25GB, with dual layer discs (50GB) being the industry standard for feature-length video discs (Wikipedia). This leaves both Sony and Microsoft having to guess what sort of drive should be utilized so that discs exceeding 50GB may be supported without overheating the console or risk breaking the drive or scratching the disc.
One possible solution is to release later versions of the consoles with BDXL (supporting 128GB) drives rather than with the standard (inferior) BDROM drives (supporting 50GB). Another significant issue is the rate at which hardware and software alike is revamped and replaced. Currently, the two game consoles and most 4K TVs support HDMI 1.4 output, but already there is buzz about HDMI 2.0 replacing the current standard as early as fall of this year.
The primary issue, however, is beyond the technical specifications of these new entertainment systems. That is, unless consumers can afford to upgrade their current home entertainment centers to even the more modestly priced 4K TVs currently on the market, after paying upwards of $400 to $600 for either system and certain games and movies that support 4K, the grand total exceeds $1,000. The margin for gamers switching from consoles to customizable PC units, that can sport even more powerful processors and impressive graphics cards, is steadily growing. The thing to remember with these two consoles is that all hardware and software is standardized; processors, graphics cards and Blu-ray drives are not top of the line since Sony and Microsoft must mass produce these machines at a cost-effective value.
Currently, it seems that the leap to 4K in the gaming world has a lot of ground to cover before consumers can reap the full benefit of 4K technology.