With the second major system update for the PS5 unlocking on September 15, players have finally been given access to the long-promised expandable storage feature. Working off third-party M.2 SSD drives, this new update mitigates the storage capacity issues of the PS5, but the potential for the update doesn’t stop there. Taking a step back, the implication of this move by Sony could illustrate the company’s change of tack, and indicate the direction they take for future console releases.
Turning Back the Clock
The idea of being able to expand hardware beyond its shipped specifications is not a new one, even excluding how Microsoft beat Sony to the punch with expandable Series storage. A more famous example of this concept is found in Sega’s Mega Drive/Genesis system which launched back in 1988.Originally offered as a simple standalone system, the Mega Drive saw strong competition against the Super Nintendo in particular. While the Mega Drive could match or exceed the SNES in some areas like the CPU clock, it lagged in other key areas like total RAM. Since the competition was so fierce, Sega needed an edge. This edge took the form of the Sega CD and 32X add-on attachments.
With these additions, the Mega Drive’s power was firmly above that of the SNES, though it still lagged far behind the next generation of consoles like the Saturn, PS1, and Nintendo 64. These additions were also expensive, but they nonetheless brought to light the important concept of system consistency, or the ability to play the same games on different systems.
Why is System Consistency Important?
In a nutshell, it’s because gaming systems are expensive, and having to buy the same games again and redesign games again for new systems is costly for both players and developers. Hardware upgrades can help maintain a system’s relevance for longer, saving money for both sides of the consumer/developer equation. For a direct example of this idea, consider the related interactive entertainment landscape of bingo casino games. The websites include hundreds of different games like slots, bingo, and live titles, all of which are built on flexible HTML5 platforms. If these systems required new devices for each new generation of games, the entire market would no longer be financially viable. While video game systems aren’t so strict in this regard, they still illustrate a similar concept of the financial complications between different systems.
Setting a Standard
Bolstering the idea of upgradable hardware to maintain lifespan is the move that console manufacturers have made in better inter-generational compatibility. While systems like the PS3 are so specialized that backward compatibility is extremely complicated, the same can’t be said about the PS4 and PS5. Relying on more standardized hardware and software has meant that all PS4 games are now playable on PS5, with some even offering substantial upgrades on the new systems. Combined with upgradeable tech within systems, and the gaming market offers more longevity than ever.
Looking into the possibilities for this current generation, it’s difficult to predict exactly where the new consoles might go. While upgradeable hard drives will inevitably save money for users looking to upgrade to more spacious advanced models somewhere down the line, these are limited in scope. Potential changes to the hardware power of later models could again create a gap, one which is much harder to address through component upgrades. In this way moves like the PS5 SSD update are only really partial solutions, though they’re welcome all the same. As for whether we might one day see upgradable console CPUs and RAM in the same vein, that much we wouldn’t bet on.