As the PlayStation 4 continues to outsell Microsoft’s Xbox One, there are rumors that Sony is already working on the PlayStation 5 behind the scenes. The successor to the largely successful PlayStation 4 will be essential for the Japanese corporation, as the video games console market has been one of its most successful niches in recent years. It will perhaps be surprising to some people that Sony is considering replacing the PlayStation 4 so quickly, but there is a certain logic to this decision, and it is one borne out of necessity rather than choice.

playstation 5 release date
christianladewig0 / Pixabay

Question marks over PS4 future

Although the PlayStation 4 has been a well-received console from the day that it was released, and it has achieved a certain amount of commercial success, there are question marks about the ability of the console to deliver functionality that will be required in the future. The specifications of the device are already being left in the dust by desktop computers, and there are numerous functions and features that Sony would like to include in its video game offerings in the foreseeable future that will be impossible with the PlayStation 4.

Most notably, 4K resolution is already becoming a mainstream technology, and some games will now run on PC platforms in this detailed screen resolution. Although both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are theoretically capable of displaying games in this resolution, in reality it is simply not remotely possible. The PlayStation 4 doesn’t have the processing power in order to do so, and the Xbox One has sometimes struggled to run games even in 1080p resolution.

With virtual reality also on the horizon, and Sony’s Project Morpheus headset apparently nearing completion, there will be a certain pressure on the Japanese corporation to deliver a console that can provide this state of the art functionality. It is reported that it is VR which has motivated Sony to work on the PlayStation 5, and recent reports indicate that this process is well under way.

PlayStation 5 to appear in 2017?

Early speculation on the release of the PlayStation 5 suggests that it could happen as early as 2017, although no official word has come from Sony indicating any such release date. There is still a huge amount of internal decisions to be made by Sony regarding the PlayStation 5, with issues such as cloud-based gaming central to the makeup of the device. This console needs to be considerably more future-proof than the PlayStation 4, and deliver a package that will remain relevant for a considerable period of time.

There are already suggestions in some quarters that the PlayStation 5 could be the last ever console manufactured by Sony. The PlayStation 5, and the sequel to the Xbox One which is presumed might be named the Xbox Two, will represent the ninth generation of video games consoles. Alongside the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two could be a new offering from Nintendo as well. But after decades of consoles being extremely successful technology, their life cycle could be finally coming to an end.

Cloud emphasis

The emphasis on the cloud in particular could render consoles irrelevant. A future for video gaming is possible in which console boxes fitted with expensive components simply aren’t necessary, and gamers instead connect to ultra-powerful cloud servers in order to download and even play games live. Additionally, the video games industry would in many ways like to move towards a subscription model, and this is already to a certain extent in place with functionality such as season tickets and online gaming models.

Thus, PlayStation Now could play a much larger part in the PlayStation 5. This service is rather like Netflix, but for games as opposed to movies. But what can be said in mitigation against these assertions is that people have sounded the death knell for physical media in the past, and been disappointed. Music downloads were supposed to completely displace physical media such as compact discs, but the reality has been that the physical sales of music have stood up pretty well, even though services such as Spotify have become extremely popular. Vinyl sales are even proving extremely robust in recent years.

Sony fans strongly fought against the notion of paying for pre-owned games shortly before the release of the PlayStation 4, and gamers have worked collaboratively on several occasions in order to engage in video gaming activism. This is a consumer marketplace ultimately, so don’t assume for the sake of argument that games companies will get what they want with regard to the future of consoles.

Design and specs

In terms of the design of the PlayStation 5, concept images of the console have already appeared on the Internet. In the past, these have proved to be rather wide of the mark, and any attempt to google concept images of previous consoles will reveal this pretty quickly. Fans of the PlayStation range have typically assumed that Sony will greatly complicate the design of the console in future editions, but until now the corporation has kept things relatively simple.

Very little is also known at this juncture about the PlayStation 5 hardware. It seems extremely likely that AMD will be involved in some capacity, though. Another possibility for the console is that Sony might implement Project Morpheus virtual reality functionality within the PlayStation 5 as a standard feature. It is also possible that Sony could decide to release more than one model of the console, and offer a base stand-alone model without virtual reality, similar to Microsoft’s belated approach to its Kinect system.

A radical approach to the PlayStation 5 concept could see PlayStation Now encouraging Sony to remove the optical drive. However, it would be wise to bet against this decision, as gamers are almost certain to push for disc-based games to remain part of consoles for at least the foreseeable future. Market research will almost immediately reveal that disc-based gaming remains popular, and should Sony or Microsoft fail to pay attention to this, then the other could completely clean up simply by delivering it.

However, we could see a flash storage drive included in the PlayStation 5, and the improvement in broadband speeds across the world will certainly have an influence on the amount of cloud-based gaming and downloading which is possible with this next generation console.

It will be essential for Sony to ensure that the PlayStation 5 is capable of 4K resolution, as one does not exactly need to be Nostradamus to see that by 2017 this technology will be part of mainstream society. The momentum behind Ultra HD 4K TV is quickly gathering, and in just in the last few days, the British Corporation BT announced the first 4K television channel in the European continent.

So based on this we can expect the processor in the PlayStation 5 to be vastly improved over the existing PlayStation 4, and Sony will certainly have to pull out all of the stops with the chipset included. This makes the issue of price a delicate one for Sony, as the corporation must also bear in mind that Valve steam will be on the market as well, and also that the price of PCs is rapidly declining. But the PlayStation 5 will surely launch at a similar price point to the PlayStation 4, as a more expensive launch would seem to be commercial suicide.

The game industry is going through a disruptive and transformative phase, and no one is quite sure what will develop. But the PlayStation 5 is likely to deliver incredible functionality and specifications when it is released, and become part of a console generation that popularizes 4K, cloud-based and VR gaming.