BioWare Founder on PS4/Xbox One Upgrades: It'd Be a "Gigantic Pain in the Ass"

"I just think it's bad."

157 Comments

One of the more interesting industry storylines of late has been around the commentary and rumors regarding plans that Microsoft and Sony may have to release new console hardware before the existing generation is over. To be clear, no official announcements have been made. But with the latest rumor suggesting Sony may announce its "ultra-HD" PlayStation 4 before October, it's a topic that's generating a lot of discussion, though there are many questions still to be answered.

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We recently had the chance to speak with retired BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk, who said he is not very keen on the idea of a mid-cycle upgrade. If a developer had to support two different platforms at the same time (the latest speculation is that Sony's new PS4 will run ultra-HD games and standard PS4 games), it could create a major headache, the RPG luminary told us, though it wouldn't be unprecedented.

"I'd say that'd be a gigantic pain in the ass that flies in the face of the purpose of consoles," he said. "It's funny, there's actually some stories behind that. For example, the original Xbox...Microsoft actually had multiple different DVD drives. They didn't tell anyone that, but as a developer you discovered that you have different performance and sometimes you'd have these boxes of refurbished drives and different brands and different equipment. It caused incredible variability."

Zeschuk went on to say the benefit of having locked system specs as consoles currently do is that it's clear to developers what they are working with.

"The whole purpose of consoles is the set of requirements that you work against from a hardware perspective," he said. "To change that is complete lunacy."

The discussion around a mid-cycle hardware upgrade stems back most recently to the beginning of March. At an industry event, Xbox boss Phil Spencer was quoted as saying, "You'll actually see us come out with new hardware capability during a generation." He didn't say this generation, however. Still, it's an interesting development, and one that Zeschuk says may come from Microsoft feeling as if its Xbox One was outmatched from a technical perspective compared to the PlayStation 4.

"It's almost like Microsoft may feel that Sony got overpowered versus them at the start, and maybe wants to kind of catch up," he said. "And Sony's like, 'Well, if you want to do that, we'll play this game.'"

Whatever the reason, Zeschuk isn't on board with the idea.

"I just think it's bad," he said. "I think, 'lock it' and let developers do their thing. But at the end of the day, if you can focus your development effort on one set of hardware requirements and target, you are going to get a better result. It's easier than having to split it, adding more people, having to port things across."

"It's like dipping your toe back into the PC pool where you have to consider all these things. It was nice on console not having to consider like performance sliders. But it's just crazy. I guess maybe [Microsoft and Sony] feel the need to."

From a consumer perspective, if Microsoft or Sony were to release a new console in the middle of an existing cycle, that would be "really irritating," Zeschuk said. While Apple may be able to get millions of people to buy new phones every year, and mid-cycle hardware upgrades already have a history at Nintendo with the DS, console upgrades on a short interval may be a long shot.

"I don't think they can pull an Apple and get you to upgrade mid-cycle."

In other recent news on this topic, Spencer recently talked about how he's satisfied with the Xbox One at the moment and that Microsoft is not planning an "Xbox One and a half."

"If we're going to move forward, I want to move forward in big numbers," Spencer said, explaining that he doesn't have any inside knowledge about PlayStation's plans or the rumors currently circulating. "For us, our box is doing well. It performs, it's reliable, the servers are doing well. If we're going to go forward with anything, like I said, I want it to be a really substantial change for people--an upgrade."

Sony's new PS4, according to multiple reports, can handle "higher-end gaming experiences," including virtual reality. Sony's upcoming PlayStation VR headset, which runs on PS4, is due out in October. Sony itself has admitted that PlayStation VR, which is powered by the PS4, may be technically inferior to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, which run on higher-end PC. The improved PS4 would help close the gap, the latest report said.

What do you make of the chatter around mid-cycle hardware upgrades? Let us know in the comments below!

Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com

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panda0nX

have either company announced any of this stuff i can find any official announcement

Avatar image for kopesettik
Kopesettik

It's actually a load of bull...everything he said. It's clearly a smear campaign...but to protect what? Preserve PC's open nature, maybe? Preventing this looming console/ PC integration, perhaps?

Both the PS4 and Xbox One run on standard x86 architectures and most graphics engines now scale themselves. Everything this guy said, contradicts everything about next gen API's, such as DX12. Part of the entire point of DX12, and supported graphics engines and dev kits, is bringing PC and console development into one...one of the same --bringing console-like optimization to PC, unifying the development process. As a result, the game engines do all the work. Nobody is Porting anything.

In fact, in an effort to make the console's new backwards compatibility model a "set thing," and same as PC, means that the consoles, from this point on, will have to be "more PC..." more standardized and unified. This Zeschuk guy is basically saying that this wasn't already part of the development territory, on account of PC's, whose hardware more vastly differs than any incremental console upgrade ever could. I read an article from CDProjekt's head guy and while he did confirm that consoles are easy to develop for because they are all the same, he also made Zeschuk's same point, but applied to PC's. Stating that PC's are tough to develop for because they are constantly moving and so varied. You basically take what's popular in the PC market at the time, chart out your plans, but come mid-development, a plethora of new hardware is trending, and it changes everything. It is because of these PC disadvantages, that API's and development kits, and graphics engines needed to get smarter. Anything nowadays can scale from something as low powered as a phone, all the way up to a desktop. The engines do it themselves. What's Bioware using these days? Unreal Engine 2? And 2010 era dev kits? Come on... The actual, and historical concept of porting died back when consoles failed to differentiate themselves from PC's any longer. The term "port" is being loosely and inaccurately thrown around now. The moment Sony and Microsoft both dropped PowerPC architectures, in exchange for x86, all of that changed and even the PC benefited from this. In fact, even back in the Xbox Original days, developers praised it for it's standard x86 architecture and the fact that you can use the very same PC dev kits(XNA) on the Xbox, which made development virtually the same as with any PC.

So, Zeschuk is basically saying that PC is a pain in the ass to develop for. Because should an incremental upgrade be introduced to the market, the console ceases to become the console, and becomes the PC, in that now they have different. standardized, x86, PC hardware. He's protecting something... Likely, he's one of those spokesmen put out there to help keep in place the barrier that has always separated the supremacy of PC's, from consoles.

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panda0nX

@kopesettik: ^this guy knows where its at

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ArchoNils2

@kopesettik: this pretty much :)

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starjay009

I kind of agree with him. Consoles were made for one purpose - gaming with stability. If consoles were to be constantly upgraded, then people are better off with PCs that are way better in terms of performance, graphical fidelity, customization etc. And this whole hoopla about 4K gaming on the consoles is total BS. Even most high end PCs cannot do 4K gaming ideally unless the rig is paired with multiple 980Ti s or Titan Xs and we are supposed to believe this nonsense ? Give me a f**king break !

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Kopesettik

@starjay009: You're not really thinking in terms of next gen API computing, as far as PC is concerned. But you are right --a high end PC is currently hard pressed to game at 4K, presently. However, multi-adapter arrangements will work differently now, with DX12 and Vulkan.

SLI once used to use something called AFR(Asynchronous Frame Rendering), which everything is going back to. Even back during the advent of 3DFX's SLI in the late 1990's, SLI functioned similarly. Somehow, everything changed to SFR(Single Frame Rendering?), which meant that VRAM doesn't stack, stream cores do not stack, and cards now functioned a little more similarly to Raid 0. In SFR each card renders an alternate frame --card 1 renders frame 1, card 2 renders frame 2, and so on. So, having more than one card doesn't help future proof you in the least. When one card is out of date, so are all of your others. So every two or three years, you're shelling out over a grand to upgrade to two or more high end cards and you are throwing money down the drain, as each card is not seeing potential. DX12 does, however also supports SFR, but the whole point of where we are headed with EMA(explicit multi-adapter) is that ideally you will even be able to mix-match cards and their VRAM stacks, their stream processors stack, etc. So, if I'm running two 6GB 980TI's, then I have 12GB of VRAM and 3072x2 Cuda Cores, which means plenty of 4K power. This is why you want Vulkan and DX12 to be fully leveraged...and soon.

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Joker2988

no console has power to run 4k for a long time(decades) even upgraded one area51rebuilt, best way to fix the concern of devs is to go fully to PC and port the scraps to consoles after

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Area51Rebuilt

They don't need upgrades yet. The whole 4k gaming OS going to be ridiculous. How many people out here are going to drop a 1000 dollars on a 4k TV. Then go and drop another 400 on a new console just for it to be obsolete in 2 years. The smarter thing to do would to be to wait another 2-3 years and release two different models. A higher end gaming machine. (One that can handle 90+ fps preferablyand 4k gaming) and one that offers mid level gaming. ( still 60 fps on 1080i). Have them about $150 apart and call it good. You would then have. A little bit that is qualified for everyone. The people who are OK with 1080 resolution gaming and 60 fps then you would have the option for the more " hardcore" that want that max fps. And 4k gaming. Everyone around here keeps saying that developers should be getting us those 60+fos but its up to Sony and Microsoft to build a machine that will get 60+fps and sorry but a quad core and 4 GB of RAM probably won't do that. HDD are not going to do that either. Time to switch over to 5+ Ssd. Time to either unlock consoles for home upgrading. Or put the Best of the best for the price. We need. Octa core processors. At least 16 gigs of RAM. And the 5tb ssd. Why? So we don't have to upgrade again in two years

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SolarChainsawHD

The only thing I care about is: what will happen to us people who bought PS4 like 2 years ago?

Will Sony provide free ugrade to atleast people who bought the PS4 via Sony official website?

Otherwise it is technically a business suicide move by Sony.

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gunnmetal

@solarchainsawhd: looking at sony now, you will have to buy a new console, and also probably you won't be able to play the same game on both.

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Plerpy

@solarchainsawhd: LOL

Are slim models business suicide? This is essentially the same thing except this time your new model gets a bit of a performance boost.

Looking forward to it if it actually becomes a thing. I get two consoles per gen anyway so at least this time I feel like it's for a reason.

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ExcelEVO

@solarchainsawhd: It most likely a cost reduction off the newer PS4. Like trade in your old PS4 get a $100 off PS4.5.

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Lisinski_Gaming

10 fps on pearl market and op locker, ya ps4 needs an upgrade

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game4metoo

From a pc gamer. Looking at the console gamers, i say you all have gotten screwed just as much as us pc gamers. We got screwed by microsoft bombarding use with uwp and u got hit with paying more on consoles than building a rig. but pc still has linux and wine. So u can either stay with console or go pc. U have choices too.

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FreeRyu

@game4metoo: You only get screwed over by the uwp if you let it happen. Don't blame anyone else.

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game4metoo

This guy might find it as a pain in the ass but really, this console generation suck and if sony and microsoft dont do an upgrade developers might end up going pc anyway. Ps4 and xbox should've came out with these features from the get go but no. They got complacent with the fact that pc was and the back and last gen sales. They didnt expect pc to have such a surge. So now they're playing catch up

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CyclicalBeats

@game4metoo: This is so wrong. PC sales are doing great and having a surge but for standard AAA games that are generating the most money in the industry, console game sales still dominate. I'm talking about your big AAA WRPGs, Shooters, sports/racing games. Developers aren't going anywhere and certainly aren't thinking about going only PC. Why would they turn their backs on the majority of their fanbase and all that money? That is completely asinine.

Sincerely,

A PC gamer who actually has a fucking clue.

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game4metoo

@cyclicalbeats: what? Maybe I didn't word my statement properly so I'm going to try again. Consoles gamers buy consoles for the convenience of plug-n-play right? So If sony and microsoft introduces the whole "upgrade your console like pc" thing u really think console gamers are going to stick around? there is ppl in this comment section and others referring to the console upgrade stating that if they wanted to upgrade there consoles like a pc they would have got a pc.

This basically is upgrading like a pc. C'mon man. In such a short time their coming out with a ps4.5 and phil talking about upgrading xbox one like a pc.

If u were a console gamer and u paid your money for a console u thought was gonna last 7 years and in 2 u have to upgrade cause its already behind it technology, wouldn't u feel cheated? I know I would.

They're upgrading to a ps4.5, that doesnt mean that the life span increases. Just means you bought two consoles in 7 years.

I'm just saying, developers tend to go where the money is. Which is why we have all these games on pc(steam) because of money. The Increase. from console to pc. From ff to dragon quest.

I'M not saying this will destroy consoles, but more slow down sales. I think gamespot posted an article about that already too. sale analysis or something like that.

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shtiken

@game4metoo: Nah, as a person who plays on console I want upgraded hardware every 3 years or so, and I want every game I buy to be compatible with all future updated consoles from the same brand. That won't change anything about it being plug and play. Why would I want it to stay stagnant for 7 or 8 years, I'm not that poor. Hell, the only thing I keep that long is a fridge or a car. And it's still nowhere near PC's large number of possible configurations, it's just 2 devices, shouldn't be that hard for developers. They already develop games for multiple platforms, and this isn't even a different platform, it's just more power on an existing platform. This could make console gaming even better. I welcome it and will buy day 1 if it's indeed more powerful and plays the same games only better. And the people who don't care about performance can just buy the regular console at a lower price.

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Lisinski_Gaming

PS4 NEEDS an upgrade. Im sick of getting 10fps playing battlefield on certain maps

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streamline

@lisinski_gaming: Don't play battlefield on certain maps.

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aeon44

@lisinski_gaming A troll is a troll.

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twister75

@lisinski_gaming: ....hahahhaaaaaaa...troooooooooooool!!!

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Rihoko_Inverse

If any console. That needs a upgrade ( something like the AMD XConnect. External GPU technology. not new console! ) It would be Xbox One. Make that Hardware like $100 or even $150 and it can make every game run smoother. ( with better FPS/RES ) I would buy it in a heart beat!

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mjonk2pc

It's just gonna add a 4K Blu-ray player and compatibility with 4k streaming services. There will be no gaming improvements. Bonus if there were but I doubt it will be so.

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Abdulrahman1981

I think last gen consoles (PS3 and Xbox 360) could run today's games with no issues, Sony and Microsoft should've introduced PS4 and Xbox One with a better hardware end of this year. What are they going to do now? Ask us to buy an ad on like when Sega made the Sega CD to play 4K games?

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aeon44

@Abdulrahman1981: Some of the games will work on last gen but with lower quality and probably an unstable frame rate.

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Rihoko_Inverse

@Abdulrahman1981: Joke of the day. or just one of the best ones here.

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joalopes

OK. Here's the deal. Let's say Sony targets 4k resolution while keeping the same graphics quality. Since 4k requires a lot more processing power that would be the same as adding a much more powerful GPU. In turn that also means that the new console would be capable of running games at a lower resolution with better graphics and framerate. So basically a new generation console. Sure, this is a much needed upgrade if you want your platform to support VR games with much better graphics than its currently possible. But in practice its a generation leap. So, let's get this straight. Targeting 4K isn't as simple as adding some kind of hardware that converts content to 4K. It is not the same as adding 4k support for video content. Supporting 4K in games is processing almost 4 times more pixels than HD resolution. Given that GPUs that are capable of doing that cost as much as a console, how is Sony going to sell a 4K console for $400 and profit?

This article makes no sense. Its pure illogical speculation. The only thing Sony may do is add 4K support for video content. But games will continue to run the same. 4K graphics is simply too costly.

Unless Sony believes there is a market for a 4k $800+ console don't expect 4K gaming coming to consoles any time soon.

If 4K gaming was possible for $400 people would already be doing it on PC.

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crashmer

The only big number right now is 4K native 30fps anything bellow that is simply not worth it.

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givenchy7

I'm not worried about a new PS4 at all! Technology moves rapidly....SONY knows how many PS4 users they have...if they think that they can introduce a new SKU to work along side the PS4 so be it.

Avatar image for hyru99
hyru99

Dangit I just bought my PS4 and have plenty of Harddrive space on it. I know that consoles get sleeker and slimmer in past generations, but COME ON! Super HD?!! Screw you Sony and possibly screw you MS . I will keep upgrading my PC and play on that from now on if thats how it is. Say what you want about steam, but I got lots of games to play and even more I have yet to buy from them. Eat it consoles, and enjoy!

Avatar image for aeon44
aeon44

@hyru99: OMG! I didn't know Sony and MS are into Super HD capsules.

Does this mean the newer consoles will have slim models soon?

Are you related to Michael Pachter? lol.

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ExcelEVO

This whole gen has been about the... High resolution and FPS!!!

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hyru99

@excelevo: Yea apparently we didn't read the fine print that there would be a upgrade a bit later down the road that was what they were really talking about.

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aeon44

@hyru99: If they did said anything like that when they unveiled PS4, it probably wouldn't have the hardware sales it has now.

Big BS though it wouldn't be bad if there's a promo or if we can just trade our standard PS4 for the upgraded PS4.

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Rihoko_Inverse

@hyru99: yea.

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EdwardNygma

I don't think it is a good idea either but it really is still a rumor at this point.

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bluebird08

I completely agree with everything he said.

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giedrius1001

it was obvious, what with laptop grade performance approaching 4k telly boom, both companies made big mistakes switching to mobile chipsets. Now everyone can buy 4k telly for as low as 700 dollars, where is underperformed consoles who cant even run properly on 1080p/60fps, and we was waiting bloody 8 years for next gen to come out and got middle finger straight from the start. The they things go, consoles not going to be main gaiming platform anymore. I just got ps4 at the end of 2015, just to learn what not even 3 years old machine will be replaced with more powerful one. Gamers dont care about how slim or beautiful their console look like, or how cheap it is, for do i care i better choose to have fat ps3 size ps4 with desktop grade cpu and at least 2k capable gpu and be save for next 6 years or so having PC quality games on my super machine. And if you would pay instead of 399 dollars of launch price 499 or 599 its fine with me, at least you pay for machine who will last 6 or more years years. Even ps3 was big fat and expensive at launch but still manage to sell like crazy, but look at ps4 its selling good but not good enough comparing to ps3. Microsoft and Sony go back to desktop roots and give us real gaming machines, not some overclocked tablet hybrids

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Etagloc

Console gaming, is now, more expensive than PC gaming.

I can kinda see why, they really failed to put good enough hardware in the current generation of consoles, even this early in the cycle, they already struggle to keep a steady 30 fps in some games.

And with VR on the rise. I can see were this is going.

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LouiXIII

I agree 100%

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Raydermatic

I think the PS4.5 will be nothing more than UHD BluRay support (BR drive and HDMI port upgrade and it will incorporate the PSVR external box of chips into the system. The rumored increased APU may just be to meet what the external PSVR chip-box does, without needing ALL of those chips.

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alaskancrab

@Raydermatic: agreed. this isn't about the consumer, but Sony trying to save some cash. That break out box and extra cables is obviously one thing they can eliminate to price things cheaper.

Avatar image for Jeff_Dranetz
Jeff_Dranetz

Console gaming can improve with hardware advances with out altering the software of the games themselves.

Higher clock rates, SSDs replacing HDs, will reduce texture pop and load times. More advanced upscaling circuitry can bring 1080p gaming to Xbox One titles that are 720p that upscale to 960p, like "Ryse of Rome". 4K can be approached in the same way. The games themselves won't have to be modified. Right now, I have couple of games with such slow load times I won't play them until I move them to a USB 3.0 SSD, Dragon Age: Inquisition for example. If MS came out with a new Xbox that booted with an SSD, upscaled higher, reduced texture pop and increased frame rates, I'b buy it. Though I'd keep my existing one, for head to head playing (Halo 5, and Starwars Battlefront have glaringly and annoyingly left out split screen co-op play. It's because, while the Xbox One was a great advancement over the 360, it doesn't seem to have the processing power to bring all the 360 features over to the One, and maintain the expected improved performance. A dollar short so to speak.

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Numinex10

@Jeff_Dranetz: What a load of gibberish

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Fordy269

@Jeff_Dranetz: so are you saying the xbox one isn't powerful enough to do all the things the 360 did