The video game marketplace has become rather dramatic and complex recently, with each of the big players veering away from the usual approach to console releases. No one is quite sure what Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have planned for the coming years, with strong rumors indicating that the PS5 could emerge sooner rather than later.
This is perhaps necessitated by the forthcoming Xbox Project Scorpio, which Microsoft will drop before the end of the calendar year. This super-powerful games console will outrank the existing PlayStation 4 Pro, meaning that Sony could feel the need to respond with a suitable competitor.
And an analyst has claimed that the PS5 will indeed arrive in 2018, which is a particularly interesting notion considering that the same individual predicted the release of the PS4 Slim. However, many are sceptical about this suggestion, with Sony facing a dual-conundrum if it is indeed to bring out a PS5 in the foreseeable future.
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Firstly, the existing PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro consoles are performing extremely well for the Japanese manufacturer. This means that the commercial need for a PS5 release is simply not particularly pressing. Indeed, Sony is essentially murdering Microsoft in the console marketplace, meaning that the onus is on the Xbox range to eat into Sony’s market dominance.
Secondly, the PlayStation 4 Pro has only been released relatively recently, and it will be rather difficult for Sony to unveil a PS5 without alienating its existing customers. While it could be argued that the PlayStation 4 is now on its last legs, it is still, nonetheless, selling pretty well, and Sony has a massive installed user base of PS4 users.
This means that any PS5 release must be timed perfectly, and this would seem to suggest that 2018 would certainly be too early. And a major industry analyst has now come forward to confirm this view, suggesting that we should not expect the PlayStation 5 to emerge in 2018.
Michael Goodman, director of digital media strategies at Strategy Analytics, believes that the idea of a PS5 released in 2018 is counter-intuitive. Goodman gave an interview to We Write Things, during which he expressed his scepticism that Sony would poison its own punchbowl by releasing a PS5 so soon.
“My original thought was that you’re going on four year cycles, not two year cycles. I’m skeptical that they will launch a new console in 2018 after a two year time frame. I don’t think it is going to move to a two year cycle. [Sony] still has to pay back R&D. I mean there is a lot of expense that went into building the Pro. Are you going to undercut that market before it has made money?”
This is a logical suggestion by the analyst on a financial level, but one must also consider the lack of good will that this would also display to customers. Sony only just released the PS4 Pro to a big fanfare; now it is supposedly ready to replace this state of the art system with a PS5. This surely wouldn’t make a huge amount of sense, and would rankle with customers who have been attracted to the PlayStation 5 precisely because Microsoft alienated then with the public relations disaster that was the original Xbox One.
Goodman is also sceptical that it is possible for Sony to deliver a system that exceeds the forthcoming Xbox Project Scorpio in technical and spec terms.
“Strategically, launching a new console in 2018 gives you, in all likelihood, the upper hand because you’ll really be able to either equal or usurp Microsoft. If Sony does [launch a new console in 2018], how much improvement are you going to get? Microsoft is already pushing the envelope pretty hard. Let’s just play devil’s advocate and say Sony does push it to 2018. Are they going to be able to leapfrog Scorpio and by how much? Is it going to be enough to make a difference?”
PS5: Commercial considerations
While any improvement over the Scorpio may be welcomed, this has to be balanced against commercial considerations. When Sony does release the PlayStation 5, the baseline requirement for this system should surely be 4K resolution gaming at 60 frames per second. It will be extremely difficult for the corporation to deliver this in the next 12 months, and doubly difficult if the PS5 is to be remotely affordable for the average consumer.
And then the company has to factor into the equation the fact that the most compelling audience for the PS5 would be existing PlayStation 4 Pro users; precisely the people who are most likely to be annoyed that Sony has released a new console.
It all suggests that the release of a PS5 console in 2018 is rather unlikely, no matter what certain analysts have predicted. This would seem to be an extremely unwise commercial move for Sony, and one that would only serve to alienate its customer base, at a time when it is literally wiping the floor with the competition.
A more likely release date for the PlayStation 5 would be towards the end of the decade, possibly just before the 2020 Christmas marketplace. By then Sony would be able to deliver 4K gaming at sixty frames per second, and to reveal a PS5 system that would truly blow away consumers, while also seeming well-timed and appropriate.