PlayStation 5 – Probably the biggest news in gaming in 2016 has been the suggestion that Sony is about to release a PlayStation 4.5. A hardware upgrade was certainly not anticipated by analysts quite this soon, even though it was generally presumed that the PlayStation 4 would have a diminished shelf life in comparison to previous consoles.

This is because the existing Sony machine perhaps fails to deliver the level of power that contemporary gaming requires, and which is provided elsewhere. With PC gaming massively increasing in popularity over the last few years, Sony has a challenge on its plate to ensure that its console products remain relevant.

PlayStation 5 Console
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PlayStation 4.5 motivation

It is thought that this is one of the primary motivations for the PlayStation 4.5, with the Japanese electronics giant focused on delivering an enhanced gaming experience. And the release of this forthcoming video games console now seems to be a virtual certainty, with reports multiplying that confirm its existence.

So what does this mean for the PlayStation 5, the truly next generation console from Sony which was expected before release before the end of the decade? No one is quite sure what Sony has in mind for this machine, and what can be said with some certainty is that the release of the PlayStation 4.5 would give the Japanese corporation some breathing room.

And some in the video gaming fraternity already suggest that the PlayStation 5 could be abandoned completely. Indeed, this is the suggestion of the veteran gaming name Lorne Lanning, who apparently had some very interesting discussions with PlayStation president Shuhei Yoshida at a private dinner.

PlayStation 5 – Yoshida questions future

According to Lanning, Yoshida told the game designer, director, writer and voice actor at the DICE event in February 2015 that the PlayStation 5 may never be released at all. Yoshisa apparently describes the PlayStation 5 as an “if” rather than a definite, and the release of the PlayStation 4.5 will only increase this impression.

Nonetheless, Lanning indicated his support for the PlayStation 4.5 concept speaking in a recent Game Informer online video. Lanning suggested that the attitude that Sony was taking towards the future of the video games console marketplace was sensible, and indicative of the fact that agility and flexibility will be incredibly important going forward.

“None of us know what the future really looks like so how do we adapt to it faster?'” Lanning accounted that the Sony president had argued. “To me, that’s the way he was sort of thinking about it, which I think is the right way think about it.”

Diminished lifecycle

Undoubtedly the thinking of Sony on the PlayStation 5 is a reflection of the fact that hardware is unlikely to remain viable for the same period of time that has traditionally been the case. The 10-year life cycle of the console, during which the technology is in its prime effectively for seven years, seems to be well and truly on the way out. So this poses massive problems for the likes of Sony and Microsoft, as the companies cannot afford to invest vast amounts of money in hardware that will ultimately become obsolete rather rapidly.

“The idea that you’re going to release a piece of technology that’s going to last for seven years into the future is becoming I think less and less viable even though the generations of platforms are lasting longer,” Lanning commented. “So it seems like it’s in conflict.”

Video games consoles are increasingly forced to compete in a diversified marketplace, with smartphones and even devices such as the Apple TV offering gaming competition. The increasing complexity of AAA titles means that the casual gamer is perhaps more attracted to simpler games that ape the now retro gaming that the industry was built on. There is, of course, a much bigger marketplace offered by casual gamers, and thus the whole balance of producing the most technically advanced and expensive hardware becomes commercially compromised.

Additionally, more and more gamers are switching to PC platforms, as these become more affordable, and many hardcore gamers believe that they deliver an enhanced experience compared to consoles. What Sony must prove with the PlayStation 5 is that it is still relevant and can deliver the sort of user base that the company has enjoyed in the past.

ValueWalk has already reported that Microsoft may indeed never release an Xbox Two console, and the boss of Xbox, Phil Spencer, has also indicated that the corporation has no intention of producing an Xbox 1.5.

PlayStation 4.5 concept questioned

However, despite the logic of releasing a PlayStation 4.5 while Sony bides its time over the PlayStation 5, this new mid-generation concept may not appeal to everyone. Developers such as BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk have already indicated that the new hardware could be a “gigantic pain in the ass” for developers and consumers alike.

While this view has validity from a development perspective, it is difficult to see how a new PlayStation 4.5 console is a bad deal for consumers, as Sony has already indicated massive support for its existing installed user base, while offering a potentially upgraded experience to those who desire such a thing.

But there has to be a doubt whether Sony will ever release a PlayStation 5 with knockout hardware and specifications intended to take the gaming marketplace forward by another massive leap. Gamers may very well wish to see such a device, but the practical considerations may outweigh this desire. Will the PlayStation 5 actually make sense for Sony? Certainly the jury is out on this question, even by the admission of the corporation itself.

Death of the console?

Does this mean that the death of the video games console is imminent? This is something that has been predicted for quite some time, along with the demise of physical media. Yet consoles do remain hugely popular, and disc-based gaming is still extremely important to the industry despite the existence of streaming and downloading.

Sony’s attitude to the PlayStation 5 is very much wait and see, but it does seem that the days of the traditional console are numbered as the industry becomes increasingly balkanised and complex.