Microsoft and Sony have been going on quite a bit about 4K gaming. It’s one of the staple buzzwords used to market the PS4 Pro and the upcoming Xbox Scorpio. Sony released the PS4 Pro last year for $399.99, promising 4K gaming resolutions but forfeited to inform gamers that the 4K would sometimes drop below par, utilizing checkerboard filtering to hit resolutions close to 4K and doing so at only 30fps.
Well, Michael Pachter didn’t seem entirely too impressed with the push for 4K. He questioned in an interview with The 1099 whether or not 4K was really needed, with GamingBolt quoted the analyst as having said…
“I’ll wait and see what Scorpio is and what it’s priced, […] but from what I’ve read, it’s probably over engineered. I’ll believe it will run a game at full 4K… except, do we really need that? And I get the PS4 Pro is weaker, but there’s a lot of room between 1080p and 4K. 1080p is 2 million pixels, 4K is 8 million pixels. My understanding is that Oculus runs at 2.6 million pixels, so Oculus isn’t even 4K. So when they say Scorpio will be 4K, if Oculus with a $1500 PC can’t be 4K, do you really believe Scorpio, at $400-$500 can be 4K? I don’t know, I want to wait and see. So it sounds great, and everyone is excited, but… who has a 4KTV?”
Finding sales data of 4K TVs can be a little tricky, but there are some indicators from some stats to give you an idea of what the adoption rate is like for 4K content viewing.
The Steam hardware survey for December 2016 revealed that the resolution with the highest adoption rate was 1920 x 1080… otherwise known as 1080p. 38.21% of PC gamers using Steam have adopted 1080p. The next most popular resolution is 1366 x 768, which is a laptop monitor size… 24.76% of Steam users play their games on laptop monitors when using a single primary display.
4K on a single monitor would be listed under the “Other” category, which only has a 2.34% user share. So, anything above 1440p (which also includes 8K) only has 2.34% of Steam’s user share.
Even for multi-monitor displays, 4K isn’t the most popular resolution, having only a 0.65% share of the pie. The most popular resolution for multi-monitors is still 3840 x 1080 with 30.91%… which usually breaks down into two monitors running at 1920 x 1080p. The next most popular resolution for multi-monitors is three or more monitors, with 23% of the share.
Essentially, this tells us that while 4K has its users, it’s a small minority amongst those still running 1080p or attempting to adopt 1080p. And keep in mind that this is for the PC gaming market, so they’re usually a curve ahead of home consoles. 1080p resolutions actually saw a 0.15% gain over the last quarter from Steam users, where-as resolutions above 2K only saw a 0.05% gain. So adoption rates for 4K are happening, but at a rate that’s 10% lower than the adoption rate of 1080p.
So what does this tell us? People are still trying to achieve 1080p.
Will people really want to dish out $500 for a console that can do 4K at 30fps when they really want 1080p at 60fps?
Some hardcore enthusiasts disagreed with Pachter, saying that 4K adoption is good since they themselves bought a 4K television. However, enthusiasts aren’t the mainstream audience.
Without hard numbers it’s tough to tell how many casual television owners have access to a 4K monitor or television screen. For the most part, 4K is very popular in the enthusiast benchmarking community due to the fact that they’re constantly pushing hardware to the limits. But benchmarkers aren’t the casual mainstream market, and Microsoft can’t settle for selling the Xbox Scorpio to the benchmark community alone.
It’s a risky move by Microsoft given that the Scorpio is still leagues off from having comparable power to the most high-end gaming PCs on the market, but if the games line-up looks good and the price is decent, it could help push 4K into the mainstream the way the PS3 helped push Blu-ray into the mainstream.