It could be a very infuriating fall for owners of Microsoft’s Xbox One and Sony’s PS4 gaming consoles. A new report indicates, that both Microsoft and Sony could unleash refreshed versions of their offerings to give entertainment lovers access to 4K video playback of all things.
Rumors of an upgraded Xbox One and PS4 consoles that support 4K video actually stem from a leading proponent of 4k streaming, video subscription service Netflix. Forbes is reporting that Netflix’s Neil Hunt hinted at a refreshed PS4 with upgraded hardware that would allow users to stream 4k video content. Hunt went so far as to say that Sony’s already “promised” a new version of the PS4 for this purpose at CES 2015, according to the outlet. Hunt would definitely be in a position to know about Sony’s future 4K video streaming plans as he’s Netflix’s Chief Product Officer.
When contacted, Netflix representatives clarified Hunts comments, claiming that he believes both Microsoft and Sony will add hardware support for 4k streaming hardware when they do their “traditional two-year hardware refresh,” according to Forbes. Sony confirmed that “support for high-resolution 4k output for still images and movie content” is something they’re considering, but had no news to share. Microsoft said that it had “nothing to share at this time.”
It’s helpful to think of 4K video as Ultra HD. Proponents of the technology promise better looking video than we get with simple HD content today. Netflix, in particular has been keen to push 4K video since it offers it a leg up over cable and satellite operators. What’s interesting here is that, Netflix’s statements hints at hardware refreshes actually being necessary to get 4K video streams.
If the Xbox One and PS4 consoles that are on store shelves today can’t support 4k video, that’s one thing. Most people haven’t heard of 4K video, and most would argue that we’re getting closer to crossing a divide where video content has become clear and detailed enough that users won’t be bothered with yet another format. That being said, the Xbox One derives it’s name from being the one place users can turn to for all sorts of living room entertainment. It stands to reason that if 4K is popular enough, Microsoft will make some move in the space, at least. Sony hasn’t heavily promoted their console’s entertainment features, but the same reasoning applies.
So where’s the problem? Sony began selling the PS4 in the United Sates in November of 2013. Sales of the Xbox One started soon after. There’s sure to be a backlash from users who’ve already heavily invested in both consoles. Many of the users who have already have an Xbox One and PS4 are hardcore entertainment lovers who are going to want this type of functionality. It’s hard to imagine that adopters of either console will take too kindly to being asked to upgrade their device again to get functionality that some would argue they should have already had the right hardware to support.
It is worth noting that rumors are pointing to the gaming situation being any different that it is on those consoles today. Allegedly, both will gain 4k video streaming, but not 4k gaming. That at least prevents some confusion for buyers looking for decent gaming experience. Compatibility issues don’t seem to be a worry here either.
Microsoft sells the Xbox One in two versions. The Xbox One with Kinect 2 sensor costs $499. The Xbox One without a Kinect 2 sensor costs $349. The PS4 costs $399. All three systems include a free digital video game download, saving users an addition $60 on the cost of their first game. If Microsoft and Sony are planning to refresh their hardware, it’s likely they’ll wait until sometime this fall to announce them and avoid damaging sales of their current versions.