Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft’s New Hardware: What to Expect

The last console generation — with the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii — was a long one. It started when Xbox 360 launched in 2005 and ended when the Wii U hit the shelves in 2012, so we’re talking seven long years of three gaming consoles duking it out. New add-on hardware cropped up during that time, like the Kinect and PlayStation Move, but by and large it was a glorious seven-year period during which gamers could coast before even considering jumping on board the current lineup of systems.

We’re now four years into the current console generation, and it’s shaping up much differently than the previous one. It kind of feels like things are just getting started, but already Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo all have major new gaming hardware on the horizon. This is both a good and a bad thing. On the plus side, we’re getting powerful new machines that will let game makers create even more impressive experiences for gamers. Then again, all this new hardware won’t be cheap. Here’s a look at the upcoming gaming hardware, and what we know about it.

PlayStation VR

What to expect from Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft's new gaming hardware

A man wears a PlayStation VR headset | Source: Sony

Price: $400 and up
Release date: October 13, 2016

Sony’s foray into virtual reality follows similar steps by Oculus and HTC/Valve on PC. The difference is that PlayStation VR doesn’t require a powerful (and pricy) gaming PC to run it. All you need is a PS4, which over 40 million people already have in their homes. The drawback is that the PS4 isn’t nearly as powerful as a VR-capable PC, so some games will feel rudimentary in comparison. That’s no problem for someone just looking to dip their toe into a technology that could have a profound impact on gaming.

I demoed PlayStation VR and found it incredibly immersive. It really does feel like you’re entering a whole new world when you strap that thing on your head. Unfortunately, it left me with a slight headache that stuck around a couple of hours after I took the headset off. VR gaming is still in its infancy, so I hope issues like this won’t be a problem once developers learn what works and what doesn’t in VR.

PlayStation VR is a good buy for people with discretionary income who want to get in on the ground floor of what may or may not become a popular new way to play video games. If you don’t have the spare cash, or you’d rather not risk buying into a technology that could flop, it’s wise to wait and see how it plays out.

PlayStation 4 Neo

What to expect from Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft's new gaming hardware

Kratos and his son confront a giant in God of War for PS4 | Source: Sony

Price: TBA
Release date: TBA

Aside from acknowledging that it exists, Sony hasn’t offered any details on what the PlayStation 4 Neo is. But thanks to a pair of major leaks, we’ve learned a few things about what it probably is.

Basically, it’s a souped-up PS4, with faster insides than the standard model. The idea is that it will run all the same games as the original PS4, but they’ll look sharper and maintain higher stable frame rates. It will also support 4K image output, though for games to take advantage of this, they’ll have to be upscaled, as the hardware isn’t powerful enough to run games at true 4K resolution.

Rumors suggest Sony will release the Neo in fall 2016, but we’re getting pretty close, and the company still hasn’t officially unveiled the console. That could mean any number of things. It may still come out this fall, or it could have been pushed to 2017. It’s also possible — though less likely — that once Sony got wind of the Xbox One Scorpio, it went back to the drawing board with Neo and will make it more powerful to compete with the Scorpio.

Time will tell. Until we get an official announcement, there’s no reason to start saving up for it now.

Nintendo NX

What to expect from Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft's new gaming hardware

Not the NX | Source: Nintendo

Price: TBA
Release date: March 2017

Similar to the PlayStation Neo, we don’t have any official word about what the NX is, aside from it being a successor to the Wii U. But thanks to a massive leak by Eurogamer, we know what it almost certainly is: a portable handheld gaming system that you can connect to your TV to play games on the big screen when you’re at home.

If that’s true, then the NX will replace both the Wii U and the Nintendo 3DS, giving Nintendo a single device to make games for. I think this is a great idea, both for Nintendo and for gamers.

The leak suggests NX will sit somewhere between a Wii U and a PlayStation 4 in terms of power. That’s no surprise, because that’s how Nintendo has positioned its last few consoles. They don’t compete with Sony or Microsoft’s hardware in terms of power, but they’re fully capable of delivering the kinds of games Nintendo wants to make.

If you have room for a hybrid Nintendo console in your life, look for details soon. Rumor has it Nintendo will unveil the system in September.

Xbox One Scorpio

What to expect from Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft's new gaming hardware

A chip that’s powerful enough to be included in the Xbox One Scorpio | Source: Microsoft

Price: TBA
Release date: Fall 2017

The most powerful piece of hardware in the works by far is the Xbox One Scorpio. Microsoft is aiming to make this machine a full four times as powerful as the current Xbox One, which would eclipse the PS4 and the PS4 Neo by a wide margin, making it the most powerful gaming console on the market.

The Scorpio will support full 4K gaming as well as virtual reality, although Microsoft hasn’t divulged which headset will be compatible with it. The smart money is on Oculus Rift, since Microsoft and Oculus have already partnered up by including an Xbox One controller with every Oculus Rift sold. Bringing Oculus Rift to Xbox One Scorpio sounds like a no-brainer to help Microsoft compete with the PlayStation VR.

The other revolutionary thing about Scorpio — at least in the console space — is that it will be compatible with all games that run on the standard Xbox One, including all backwards compatible Xbox 360 games. The standard Xbox One will also continue to be compatible with all games going forward for the foreseeable future.

Microsoft’s vision is to create an ongoing gaming platform like Steam on PC. Steam games are endlessly backward and forward compatible, as long as your PC can run the games. On Xbox, the idea is that games you buy today will still play on whatever Xbox console you’ll be using in 10 or 20 years. It’s a bold vision, and it’s one I’d love to see Sony and Nintendo replicate if possible.

Prepare your wallets for new gaming hardware

All of this new hardware adds up to a major shift from how Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have done things in the past. Gone are the days when gamers waited seven years between console generations. Gone are the days when console hardware refreshes were only skin deep. That means gamers will probably be tempted to spend more money to keep up with top-of-the-line gear, but it also means we won’t have to wait so long before our consoles get new hardware features and adapt to new standards. It’s a brave new world out there.

Follow Chris on Twitter @_chrislreed

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