You'll need an expensive TV for the new PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles
The Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 aren't even three years old, yet they're both staring down newer, better replacements.
Reports surfaced on March 18 that Sony's working on a "PlayStation 4.5" console to succeed its wildly successful PlayStation 4 console (over 40 million sold thus far). On June 10, Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Andrew House confirmed the console's existence in an interview with the Financial Times.
We haven't seen the new console yet, but here's what we know: It's codenamed "PlayStation 4 Neo" It's capable of powering 4K/Ultra HD gaming (on 4K/Ultra HD televisions). It's going to cost more than the current PlayStation 4 (which costs $350). It will exist alongside the current PS4, and all PS4 games will continue to run on both consoles.
It's not clear when the system will go on sale, though we've heard it could be as early as fall 2016.
Also in March, Microsoft's chief Xbox exec Phil Spencer told a room full of press during a stage presentation that the future of the Xbox One is "hardware innovation within a generation." Then, in June, Spencer got on stage during the annual Xbox press conference at E3 (the game industry's big annual trade show) and announced a much more powerful version of the Xbox One coming in 2017. It's called "Project Scorpio."
Project Scorpio is intended as a next step for Xbox One owners: It's more powerful than the current Xbox One by several magnitudes. It's capable of powering "high-end" VR headsets, like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. It's capable of powering 4K/Ultra HD gaming (on 4K/Ultra HD televisions).
All of this sounds pretty good, but there's an expensive elephant in the room: Both the PlayStation 4 "Neo" and Project Scorpio require a hefty investment in a 4K/UltraHD television.
Do you have one already? That's fantastic, but you're part of a small minority of 4K/UltraHD TV owners - less than 25% of US households are equipped, though that percentage is expected to rise dramatically across the next several years.
4K/UltraHD TVs currently cost somewhere in the range of $500 to $1,000, depending on size and options and which company you go with - Samsung's TVs cost more than Vizio's TVs, for instance. They aren't outrageously expensive, but you'll pay a lot more for a new 4K/UltraHD TV than you will for the standard HD equivalent.
But let's be completely clear here: There is no point in buying the PlayStation 4 Neo or Project Scorpio without already owning a 4K/UltraHD TV.
No caveat necessary - the main benefit of buying the new consoles from Sony and Microsoft is their ability to display games in a higher-resolution format than ever. It's what will make games on both new platforms look better than ever before. Otherwise, both consoles will offer the same games you can already play, that already look great in standard HD, on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Thankfully, you've got some time before either console launches.
Rumors put PlayStation 4 Neo coming out as early as this fall ("holiday 2016"), but Sony's staying mum for now. Project Scorpio is planned to launch in holiday 2017. In both cases, game makers will need to create games that are able to take advantage of the new 4K/UltraHD resolution. So, you've got anywhere from six months to 1.5 years before being able to even buy these new consoles, let alone harness their new abilities. But when you can get them, don't forget about the other part of the equation: the new 4K/UltraHD TV.