Or will Microsoft take over after launch of Project Scorpio
Sony has finally put all of its cards on the table, at least for the current generation of consoles. With the reveal of the PS4 Pro, the company unveiled the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle it had set up with the PlayStation VR headset. Both projects were said to go hand-in-hand, with the more powerful console also giving Sony a shot at 4K gaming on its new device.
And 4K, along with HDR, was the name of the game at Sony’s PlayStation Meeting. After much speculation as to whether then unannounced PS4 ‘Neo’ would be able to handle 4K, Sony demonstrated firsthand that the answer to that question is in the affirmative. How it achieves that is another matter entirely, and something which we will discuss shortly.
But no doubt, this was a huge victory for Sony, even though the actual reveal was perceived as underwhelming. The key piece to take away from the event was that Sony had finally ushered console gaming into 4K territory, something which would seem nigh impossible even a few months ago.
This was made possible, in part due to PC gaming’s increasing popularity which posed a massive threat to consoles. But more importantly, a few months back, we saw the beginning of mass production of AMD chips (specifically GPUs) on a completely new process node. Global Foundries’ 14nm FinFET lithography is what single-handedly made it possible for Sony to even entertain the possibility of 4K gaming on a console. Prior to that, the costs of jamming together that much compute power were simply not feasible for a console.
The big question now is whether, with Microsoft’s shadow looming large by virtue of Project Scorpio, the PS4 Pro will provide enough of a head start for Sony to run away with this generation?
Let’s look at the facts. While Sony do indeed have the benefit of releasing a 4K gaming console before Microsoft, the latter’s device is much more capable than the former’s. At least on paper. The PS4 Pro has 4.2 TFLOPs of peak compute, whereas Project Scorpio has 6 TFLOPs. That is essentially the difference between a GTX 1070 and a GTX 1060. And while we’re comparing apples to oranges, ask any PC gamer and they’ll tell you how big of a difference that is.
That is why Sony is having to make use of certain forms of ‘trickery’ in order to achieve 4K on the Pro. Specifically, Sony uses a custom ‘checkerboard’ algorithm for outputting 4K resolution. Even though it is an approximation technique, it still comes mighty close to native 4K image quality.
Unfortunately for Sony, ‘mighty close’ is not native. And Microsoft has pointed that out, rather unapologetically.
This move on Microsoft’s part means that Project Scorpio will be looking to render true 4K resolution, which if nothing else, provides a decent marketing edge to Microsoft. Combine that with Microsoft’s continuously rising sales figures for the past two months, and we suddenly have a game on our hands.
The truly baffling exclusion of 4K Blu-Ray playback from PS4 Pro is yet another Achilles Heel of the console. And it would certainly make for an interesting story, in the event of Microsoft winning this console generation: that Sony’s own patented technology became its downfall.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Lest we forget, Sony still have an arsenal of top-notch exclusives. Some might even say it has the best bunch of exclusives, and frankly, there is little evidence to argue otherwise.
Sony has been in the lead for most of this console cycle, due to two main factors – superior tech and superior software. With one of those crutches shortly about to be taken away from Sony, it would be interesting whether stellar games alone could labor Sony away to the finish line in pole position.
From our perspective, it could go either way. But one thing is for sure: Sony’s piece in the console pie is about to shrink.