This week at the Game Developers Conference 2016 in San Francisco, Sony rolled out the details of its plans for Playstation VR, including a price point and a release date. But the bigger story about its Playstation plans is a rumor flying around that the company is working on a souped-up Playstation 4, currenly (nick)named the PS4.5.
Kotaku has the story, citing developers who claim to have been briefed by Sony about the new machine. The report describes a version of the PS4 that would have more powerful internal hardware, allowing it to support video games at 4K resolution. The gist is, it’ll make for some prettier graphics on-par with higher-end PCs.
Where this gets interesting is how a beefier PS4 would play into the virtual reality game. Right now, Playstation VR is at the low-end of the VR tech spectrum, when compared to other competitors like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive. The latter two both use powerful PCs to create the images that appear in the VR headset, and they run them at a high frame rate — a minimum of 90 frames-per-second. For a comparison, movies are shown at 24 FPS, most games play at a minimum of 30 FPS, and fast-paced multiplayer games, like Call of Duty, work hard to guarantee 60 FPS.
Already, 60 FPS can push current hardware pretty hard, and guaranteeing 90 is even more difficult. But for VR, it can be pretty important, because the higher frame rate helps eliminate things like motion blur and can cut back on adverse side effects, like nausea. Yup, VR can make you sick, and the chances of it making you sick increase at lower frame rates because of the way your brain interprets the images coming out of the headset strapped to your face.
So a higher-powered PS4 makes sense if Sony wants to make a serious push into virtual reality. Right now, there’s little in the way of useful details, however. Nobody knows what the PS4.5 would cost—although with a recent price cut to $350, Kotaku notes it might be that Sony wants to put out a $400 version with a higher profit margin—or whether existing PS4 owners would be able to trade in or upgrade for a new version (most likely answer: probably not).
Sony hasn’t comment on the rumors, but it seems more than a few journalists with industry contacts have been hearing versions of the same PS4.5 story. Read the full report, with even more context, over at Kotaku.