As Sony continues to develop the PlayStation 5 concept behind closed doors, many fans of video games are wondering what the Japanese consumer electronics giant has in mind for its next-generation console. There are already many rumors swirling around regarding this extremely important system, but one intriguing suggestion in recent days has been that Sony could introduce two different versions of the PlayStation 5 when it is released.

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Sony offering consumer choice with the PlayStation 5

This would certainly be a significant departure from previous policy for the corporation, but in many ways it would be taking a leaf out of smartphone manufacturers’ books. Choice has become the byword of the mobile industry, with manufacturers launching diverse devices at a variety of price points with the intention of attracting every conceivable consumer.

Naturally, a video games console is never going to attract the same level of market attention as a smartphone; quite simply, far more people utilize mobile phones. But in a video games industry that is becoming increasingly diverse and complex, and in which the PlayStation 5 will Find yourself competing against a variety of the competition, it is essential for Sony to cover every possible base with the PlayStation 5 console.

Sony also has other factors to consider. While gamers are often attached to the concept of disk-based gaming, the reality is that both console and video games manufacturers would like to move towards a streaming system in the foreseeable future. But Sony would be extremely foolish to ignore the desires of gamers, and indeed its willingness to listen to its target market has played a massive role in the success of the PlayStation 4.

Two console strategy

But the Japanese company will also be eyeing the success of the PC Steam technology, as well as the increasing prominence of mobile gaming. This could convince Sony to release two separate consoles, one featuring a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, and another based around downloadable games. Indeed, both Sony and Microsoft have already been linked with producing a more affordable version of their existing games consoles without a disc drive.

However, there is no doubt that Sony will be supporting the new Blu-ray format; a disc-based cinema culture remains important to consumers. Sony need only observe the recent success of vinyl in order to understand that consumers of all media still favor the physical ownership model in large numbers. Streaming is convenient, downloading is fast, but physical media retains an emotional attraction to consumers that the new technology has yet to match.

With Sony Pictures having become one of the first studios to support the new 4K Blu-ray format, it is certain that Sony will install this in the PlayStation 5 when it is released. Critics of Sony policy in the past have pointed to the fact that the Blu-ray in the PlayStation 3 was perhaps a little premature. But in the long run, with Blu-ray having won the high definition format battle over the competing HD DVD, it seems certain that its inclusion and played a significant role in the success of the PlayStation 3 and 4 as the format became more affordable for consumers.

There have been a multitude of predictions over the years that video game consoles will eventually dump discs, and indeed that many other forms of physical media will die out completely. Unfortunately for the technology soothsayers, all of these predictions have been emphatically wide of the mark, as consumers continue to show a distinct preference for owning a physical product. It is therefore unlikely that disks will die out in the 4K generation, despite the huge amount of storage capacity that this resolution necessitates.

But Sony can at least offer an option to video gamers who do not feel the need to purchase physical discs. And one way to do this could be to release two separate versions of the console, with the more affordable version being based on downloading and streaming entirely.

Streaming price advantage

Not only would this benefit gamers, but the economics would seem to add up for Sony as well. Not only will Sony be able to offer this console at a significantly lower price point, but manufacturing would also turn out to be significantly cheaper. Analysts suggest that such a machine would feature significantly higher profit margins than one based around the 4K Blu-ray player, and this is obviously something that would attract any company.

Sony could also make larger profits by selling games digitally, and this is something that major games and manufacturers have been pushing for with increasing force. Games studios argue that on disc-based games are far more vulnerable to piracy, and in addition there is a vast second-hand marketplace that manufacturers would much rather avoid.

This tendency was aptly demonstrated by Microsoft’s decision regarding used games with the Xbox One that was so derided ahead of the console’s launch. The disaster that was the Xbox One unveiling event, coupled with the poor sales of the console, indicate that no gaming manufacturer will make the same mistake again. Disc-based gaming, and the opportunity to utilize pre-owned games is here to stay at least for the time being, but Sony could at least nudge consumers in what it would consider to be a preferable direction.

4K and VR

The other major aspects that will make or break the PlayStation 5 are the ability for the console to deliver true 4K resolution gaming, and the success or otherwise of virtual reality. By the expected release date of this console in 2018 or 2019, there is no doubt that 4K resolution will be established as a mainstream technology, and Sony must thus ensure that its console embraces this.

Additionally, although video games remain massive business, there is a limit to what game developers can do with traditional gaming models, and the next revolution in the niche is predicted to be virtual reality technology. How successful this can be for consoles is debatable, but with the PlayStation VR due for release later this year, Sony will have hope to establish this as a major part of its PlayStation armory by the time that the PlayStation 5 hits the market.