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PlayStation 4 says no to 4K games, but yes to 100GB 4K movies

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Sony fans have already dodged at least one bullet when it comes to the PlayStation 4: The console’s games will not output in 4K resolution. Since last summer, as Sony began to show off its 4K televisions that cost $25,000 and more, rumors have run rampant that Sony would push 4K technology in the PS4. By requiring developers to support that output, Sony could have driven development costs way up. The mistakes of the past, like packing the PlayStation 3 full of so many advanced features that it had to retail for $600, thankfully won’t be repeated. 4K games are out on PS4. 4K movies, however, are another story.

Speaking with The Verge, Sony COO Phil Molyneux said that the PlayStation 4 will support the Sony Entertainment Network’s “world’s first” 4K resolution movie service. Unsurprisingly, the data intensive movies won’t be available to stream (for now), only for downloading. The PS4’s hard disk drive will be taxed to the limit, though. Even if the PlayStation 4 ships with a 500GB hard drive like the most expensive current PlayStation 3 model, a sizable portion will be taken up by just a single 4K movie. According to Molyneux, 4K movies will clock in at approximately 100GB. That seems a fairly high estimate though, and most 4K movies would likely be half that.

If Sony does intend to eventually stream those movies, that presents further challenges. To stream anything that size without completely hogging all available bandwidth will require a better broadband infrastructure than currently exists in America. If a better fiber system can be established, then streaming 4K movies would be possible, albeit still somewhat impractical. Regardless, that level of streaming technology is still in its infancy. 

As Molyneux says, though, the PS4 will support more and more 4K content as time goes on and the technology becomes cheaper and more accessible. At this point, Sony sees 4K technology as the buoy that will keep its floundering television business above water. As it’s done with the Bravia TV line and the PS3 in the past, the PS4 and 4K TVs will ultimately be marketed side by side.

It will be years before 4K resolution televisions become a consumer draw, though. It’s only now in 2013 that HDTVs are saturating US homes. Roughly 75 percent of US television owners have at least one HD set according to the Leichtman Research Group. In 2008, though, when video game console retail sales were starting to peak for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 titles, HD television ownership was at just 25-percent. The new console generation may be about to start with PlayStation 4 and the next Xbox, but potential consumers are not likely to buy a new television alongside them. 4K may just have to wait for the PlayStation 5.