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DF Weekly: Beyond Astro Bot, how can Sony market a PS5 Pro?

Making the case for an enhanced version of the PlayStation 5.

Last week, Sony delivered its latest State of Play and while there were a wealth of new games revealed - many of which look promising - one question remains. How is Sony intending to launch PlayStation 5 Pro if the only key triple-A exclusive launching in the same time period is Astro Bot? Make no mistake - as you'll see in this week's DF Direct Weekly - we see Team Asobi's next offering as one of the highlights of the year, but it's not quite the juggernaut release that's going to sell consoles.

However, maybe we're missing the point here. Going into the PS5 Pro project, Sony would have been well aware that the concept of an enhanced console had been proven - but this time the firm has real data on how many sales it should expect. It's generally accepted that both Xbox One S/Xbox One X and PS4/PS4 Pro had an 80/20 split between base and enhanced consoles. That's a niche then, albeit a fairly substantial one when you're dealing with millions of units, and depending on pricing, I'd expect sales to continue along similar lines.

There's a good argument that the PS5 Pro may not have the same appeal as its predecessor, which leaned heavily into the 4K HDR capabilities of then-new screens. However, one might equally argue that a new display would only be on the shopping list for a niche audience anyway. The people who wanted a best-of-the-best PlayStation experience in 2016 will be the same people who want the same thing with PS5 Pro in 2024.

This week's DF Direct was filmed in IGN's UK studio, after a 'getting to know you' meeting between Gamer Network and IGN. John, Rich and Alex in the same room! It's a collector's item.Watch on YouTube
  • 0:00:00 Introduction
  • 0:01:04 News 01: May 2024 State of Play: Astro Bot
  • 0:11:00 Concord
  • 0:19:51 Marvel Rivals, God of War Ragnarök PC, Dynasty Warriors: Origins
  • 0:38:15 Silent Hill 2
  • 0:51:35 Skydance’s Behemoth, Alien: Rogue Incursion
  • 1:00:18 Monster Hunter Wilds, Path of Exile 2
  • 1:10:22 Infinity Nikki, Ballad of Antara, Where Winds Meet, Until Dawn
  • 1:19:23 News 02: Are PlayStation PC ports meant to sell PS5s?
  • 1:36:03 News 03: Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 will debut on Game Pass
  • 1:47:30 Supporter Q1: What games will Sony advertise alongside the PS5 Pro?
  • 1:55:26 Supporter Q2: Will Nvidia launch another hardware-reliant software feature with 5000 series GPUs?
  • 2:02:35 Supporter Q3: If Hellblade 2 had arrived last year, where would it have ranked on your Graphics of the Year video?
  • 2:07:00 Supporter Q4: What are the best settings for using the Quest 3 wirelessly with a PC?
  • 2:12:20 Supporter Q5: What’s the best way to deal with VRR flicker on OLEDs?
  • 2:15:32 Supporter Q6: How does DLSS affect CPU usage?
  • 2:21:40 Supporter Q7: Could a PS4 handheld enhance the look of older games?
  • 2:24:44 Supporter Q8: What are you ordering for dinner in London?

I'm also reminded of the games line-up Sony had back in 2016 - it was similarly bereft of console-selling first party titles. The list here shows no new games from the likes of Naughty Dog, Sucker Punch or Insomniac. Instead, what we got were a range of good third party releases and mainstay franchises including Call of Duty, FIFA, Final Fantasy and Battlefield. Switch some franchises around and I'd expect the same situation this time around for PlayStation 5 Pro.

And I keep bringing this up in various Directs, but we've yet to see the pitch from Sony. We'll undoubtedly see major enhancements to the firm's existing first party titles: higher performance, higher perceived resolutions, improved ray tracing effects - and a likely boost for 120fps support in some games (CPU resources permitting). I'd also expect to see a focus on its PSSR upscaling technology, based on machine learning. Assuming the quality level is comparable with Nvidia DLSS or Intel XeSS, developers have an interesting choice ahead of them - in theory, game-makers could run at lower resolutions than the standard PS5 version and still deliver convincingly good 4K presentations. The freed-up GPU power, in combination with the extra performance from the 60 compute units, could then be routed towards the areas where we expect the Pro to excel.

I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest to see the enhanced PC RT features of Ratchet and Clank and Marvel's Spider-Man re-routed back to consoles. I can well believe that Gran Turismo 7 will achieve full 120fps support and an on-track RT mode, while the new hardware opens up a range of possibilities for games like Returnal - whether the developer opts to enhance performance or quality modes. I'd also be intrigued to see frame generation demonstrations - whether it's achieved via FSR 3 or with Sony's own machine learning silicon. I can't help but think that with the current AI hype, Sony would be keen to position PS5 Pro as well-positioned for whatever features would benefit.

I'd also imagine that we'll see a big focus on 'ultra boost' mode. This essentially directs the extra GPU power of the PS5 Pro towards legacy PS5 titles. Bearing in mind how common dynamic resolution scaling is this generation, and how many games aren't quite hitting their performance targets, we should be seeing a range of titles looking better and running better than they ever have before.

I have to admit, I'm very curious to see how the FSR 3 frame generation implementation in Immortals of Aveum will look, even if Ascendant Studios makes no additional changes to the coding. The fact that Sony is also making it much easier for developers to add PSSR upscaling to legacy games - without having to update the development environment - should also be transformative to a range of older titles that do get Pro upgrades.

In theory then, there's plenty of potential for Sony in marketing an enhanced console, if not quite the eye-catching message that PS4 Pro had in its day - a 4K console for a 4K screen. And the key question is the extent to which an enhanced console is needed at all when it seems as if it's still early days in tapping the potential of the hardware we've already got. But maybe PS5 Pro doesn't need a 'killer app' at launch, if a wealth of legacy games and every title going forward will benefit from its extra horsepower.

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