The Catch-Up Game

Sony have released an upgraded version of their Playstation – PS4. This boasts a streamlined console with, as would be expected, new features. Confusingly, as well as the PS4, there is also the PS4 Pro. This has added features as well as the other added features.

While the delivery of these upgrades may be slightly confusing, they are aimed at accommodating ever-evolving new technologies in a very competitive market. The PS4 (and Pro!) have the capacity to host state-of-the-art add HDR sequences. As well as the looming possibility of Virtual Reality, widely believed to be the future of not just gaming but television and cinema, HDR presents the opportunity to be a frontrunner.

Already used in stills photography, HDR is the natural evolution from current 4K visual representation. Meaning High Dynamic Range, each frame of HDR imaging is in fact an overlay of the same shot taken at different exposures, or “stops” as photographers using old-fashioned cameras used to call it.

This overlaying provides the ‘dynamism’ of heightened contrasts and therefore apparent depth. It is only possible in still photography because the exact same image has to be shot more than once. As gaming imagery, as with other animation, is stop-start, i.e. one frame following another to simulate movement, this dynamic overlaying can be employed to startling effect.

Of course, HDR imaging needs appropriate technology to play it; processors and memory of gaming consoles, televisions and other displays needs to be of the right specification. Hence the upgrades.

Sony’s share of a shrinking gaming market is still strong; about half of the consoles sold in 2015 were Sony. The PS4 itself is about 80% of this share. Its biggest competitor is the XBox One, shifting about half the units of the PS4. As with Apple and Microsoft, however, the pressure to stay ahead of the game (as it were) is ever-present. Combined with the pressure of technological advance, releases of new versions of consoles are nervous times for the big brands.

This seems to be creating something of a buyer’s’ market, however. While the, literally, brand new PS4 has a Recommended Retail Price (RRP) of €299, Argos and other retailers are selling PS4 “bundles” at £150. Whether people will wait for fully-integrated HDR kit remains to be seen. As with new versions of the iPhone, wearable tech etc., Sony will gamble that enough people will take the risk of buying soon-to-be obsolete, if sleek, black plastic toys.

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