The PS4 Pro is Insignificant, and That’s a Problem

It was unveiled yesterday that since the launch of the PS4 Pro, it has accounted for one in five sales of PS4 hardware. Sony says it’s happy with this figure, that the console is performing ahead of expectations under severe supply constraints. I say that it’s probably not really good enough.

Back in December, Sony reported that 50 million PS4 consoles had been sold worldwide up to the 6th December. Before that, it reported that 40 million PS4 consoles had been sold worldwide up to the 22nd May. That means that on the day that the PS4 Pro was launched, the 10th of November, the sales of the regular old PS4 stood at around 48 million worldwide. VGChartz data shows that around another 10 million PS4 units have been sold since then, and if only one in five of those 10 million machines sold are PS4 Pros, that means there are 2 million PS4 Pro owners out there. That’s just 3.4% of the overall PS4 user base.

I count myself among those PS4 Pro owners. I think hardware-wise it’s a wonderful piece of kit. But I can also count on one hand the number of times I feel a game has actually made use of its extra power since launch – and I play a lot of games. Back when Sony was busy hyping the machine it said that every game going forward would have to support the PS4 Pro, and indeed they do, though perhaps not in the way that many of us had envisaged.

You see, when Sony said that every game from October 2016 onwards would have a PS4 Pro mode, it didn’t mean that every game would be better played on it, just that they’d actually work. For most owners, like myself, that means we’ve seen very little benefit. World of Final Fantasy was actually worse when played on a PS4 Pro until it was patched, and many other games have worse framerates to go alongside the prettier visuals. Most games, however, offer nothing – not even a resolution boost. To many, the best thing about the PS4 Pro is likely to be the “Boost Mode” added after launch – who doesn’t want to play Bloodborne with a little more buttery smoothness? – but it’s not really much of a consolation.

The fact of the matter is though, you can’t really blame game developers for not making the effort to support the PS4 Pro better. If you were a developer and you knew that only 3.4% of those buying your game had a more capable machine, would you go the extra mile to give it extra bells and whistles just for them? I wouldn’t. I’d make sure that the game was optimised for the 96.6% playing it on a standard console, and therein lies the issue – for a multi-tiered platform to truly succeed, each model needs to be on more of an equal footing. At the moment, the PS4 Pro is insignificant. It’s an irritating speck on a developer’s radar. A checkbox that needs to be ticked off as launch approaches. But it needs to be more than that.

Perhaps over time the install base of the PS4 Pro will grow, making it more viable for developers to care about. I daresay the launch of Microsoft’s Project Scorpio will also push developers to go the extra mile, as there’ll then be two consoles that can make use of any higher quality assets and effects that they create. Until then though, it’s hard to not be underwhelmed by the PS4 Pro.