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HD Report | July 20, 2017

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A Lack of 4K Media is Holding Back 4K Consoles

A Lack of 4K Media is Holding Back 4K Consoles
Matthew Byrd

Those who have joined the desperate search to find a Nintendo Switch at retail price have probably noticed that most retail stores around you are unfortunately still sold out of Nintendo’s increasingly popular device.

However, you may have also noticed that these same stores are perfectly willing and able to sell you one of the PlayStation 4 Pros that are seemingly always in stock. If you walk into a GameStop, you might also find that the clerks trying to push Xbox One X preorders on largely uninterested customers.

While there are some exceptions to that rule, the mostly indifferent reception that 4K gaming consoles have received is enough to make you think that most people don’t really care about owning 4K gaming devices and that companies like Microsoft and Sony are foolish to produce 4K gaming consoles so early.

The truth is the matter is that the immediate success of consoles like the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro is largely out of Microsoft and Sony’s control because they have almost no control over the slow growth of 4K multimedia.

Whether gamers like it or not, any modern console that is selling itself as a technologically innovative piece of hardware must be able to sell itself as a multi-media device. It’s been that way since the original PlayStation – the ability to play CDs on a console was a big deal in those days – and the overwhelming success of the PlayStation 2’s DVD functionality pretty much sealed the deal.

While it is true that desire for 4K is starting to grow – countries like Japan are leading the charge to make 4K broadcasting a standard – most of us who bought in on 4K displays early have found that there is a big difference between “4K video” and proper HDR footage.

At present, the most reliable source for true 4K quality are Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs. Unfortunately, most of these discs cost $20-$40 a pop. That is, of course, a big reason why many people have moved on to streaming services for their multimedia needs. So far as that goes, there are no truly great 4K streaming options. Netflix’s 4K library is too small, Sony’s Ultra streaming service is too expensive, and just about every true 4K streaming service requires an internet connection speed which many people will not be able to maintain.

Actually, YouTube has become one of the most reliable and feasible sources for 4K content. Of course, many of those videos are glorified 4K tech demos.

This leaves the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro in an unenviable position. How can Sony and Microsoft sell their 4K consoles as the best all-around 4K multimedia devices on the market – which they are – if there are so few good multimedia options for people to take advantage of?

At present, both companies are choosing to downplay expectations and explain that these consoles are meant for purists who want the most powerful devices available. That may serve for a time, but the problem is that there is no immediate solution to the 4K multimedia dilemma in sight.

Unless streaming services and studios start agressively pushing for more 4K content, it could be up to developers to lead the charge by crafting 4K gaming experiences that turn the format into something universally desirable.

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