UPDATE: 06-03-2017: The PlayStation 5 from Sony will be hotly anticipated, yet no professional gambler would stake money on when it will arrive. There is no doubt that the console marketplace is becoming ever more complex, with the tried and tested formula of the past no longer prominent in the present. The days of a console having a comfortable shelf life of ten years are over, and all major manufacturers are almost being forced to think on their feet in order to respond to this reality.
PlayStation 3 defunct
Nonetheless, news from Japan suggests that the release of the PlayStation 5 may be sooner than many anticipated. The company has recently announced the cancellation of the production of the PlayStation 3 in Japan. This was somewhat expected, after all the PlayStation 3 was released back in 2006 and is now largely obsolete as a machine for new consumers. But this could be big news for the PS5.
Analysts are already suggesting that the cancellation of the PlayStation 3 makes space for the release of the next-generation PlayStation 5. This may be wishful thinking, but at any given time Sony usually has two separate console generations on the go. While gamers can purchase both the PlayStation 4 and a PlayStation 4 Pro, these do not represent two separate generations, and thus the Japanese corporation may be readying the PlayStation 5 behind the scenes.
While the PlayStation 4 has performed pretty well in the marketplace for Sony, the climate of the console niche is about to be significantly altered by the release of the Xbox Project Scorpio. This next-generation console from Microsoft will immediately become the most powerful machine available, based on the specs that the company has already released into the public domain.
Although this does not mean that the device will become an automatic success, it does pose problems for Sony. One of the major reasons that the PlayStation 4 has outperformed the Microsoft Xbox One is that it was a more powerful games machine from day one, despite Microsoft’s protestations to the contrary.
Thus, Sony will not be keen on the idea of Microsoft possessing the most powerful machine on the market, and in many ways the PlayStation 5 is a natural reaction to the Scorpio. However, the Japanese manufacturer must also be careful about alienating its existing user base, particularly as the PlayStation 4 Pro was only released recently, accompanied by boasts from Sony that it was very much a gaming powerhouse.
PlayStation 5 uncertainty
Additionally, comments made by the Sony hierarchy indicate that the existence of the PlayStation 5 is far from certain. In a recent interview with Tech Radar, President Shuhei Yoshida stated that the release of the PlayStation 5 is very much a question of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’. This could simply have been the executive’s way of reassuring existing customers that their machines would remain relevant for many years, but it does nonetheless suggest that Sony is far from certain about when the PlayStation 5 will emerge.
Many gamers are hoping that Sony could make an announcement about the PlayStation 5 at E3 in June, effectively scuppering any presentations by Microsoft and Sony at this trade show. However, this is somewhat unlikely, and even if the PlayStation 5 was part of E3, it is important to emphasize that it still wouldn’t make an appearance in the existing calendar year whatever occurred.
The earliest conceivable release date for the PlayStation 5 is 2018, and the analyst community has already indeed pointed to this date as being significant. As mentioned previously, Macquarie Capital Securities analyst Damian Thong told the Wall Street Journal that Sony could very well release the next-generation console in the 2018 calendar year. Perhaps closer to the end of the decade is a more realistic prospect, but we should certainly expect the PlayStation 5 to emerge before 2020, and for the shelf life of the PlayStation 4 generation to be shorter than previous Sony machines.
The competition for the PlayStation 5 will be stiff, particularly as it is certain that the Xbox Project Scorpio will be in the stores at least 12 months before the Sony machine emerges. This means that the PlayStation 5 cannot be overpriced, as Sony will essentially face the same problem that Microsoft will with the Scorpio; namely that its rival can slash the price of an existing console in order to pose a commercial challenge.
So we should expect the PlayStation 5 to retail at around $500, although the price tag of the Scorpio will be a massive clue as to the likely cost of the Sony console.
Obviously games are very much dependent on the release date of the Sony machine. But it is already being suggested that a sequel to Uncharted could debut on the PS5, if The Last of Us Part 2 is a PS4 title (and, of course, Naughty Dog is extremely likely to port this massive game across to the PlayStation 5 eventually, as it indeed did with the first release in the series).
Horizon: Zero Dawn and Gran Turismo have also being tipped for early PlayStation 5 releases, while GTA 6 could even be a launch title for this massively significant machine. It also seems extremely likely that Sony will make the virtual reality capabilities of this console a particular focus and selling point.
The PlayStation 5 has already been linked with a mammoth graphics processing unit that would deliver 10 tflops of computing power; outranking the Xbox Project Scorpio by over 150 per cent. This would truly blow the Microsoft console out of the water, and possibly enable native 4K gaming at 60 frames per second.
It is certain that virtual reality would also massively benefit, and the shadowing that has been common in VR games on existing Sony hardware should be eliminated completely.
There is also likely to be a significant streaming focus in the PlayStation 5 generation, as developers continue to offer gamers more options for enjoying their products. It all adds up to what will be an extremely powerful gaming machine that will appear before the end of the decade.
UPDATE: With a 2018 PlayStation 5 release possible, analysts have been speculating about how powerful this machine could turn out to be. Certainly Sony will need to imbue the PS5 with significant power if it is to outrank, or even match, the forthcoming Xbox Project Scorpio.
Nonetheless, with a PlayStation 5 release likely to benefit from the latest CPU architecture from AMD, the PS5 has the potential to be an extremely impressive machine. The GPU included in the PS5 would also benefit from five years of improvement to Radeon technology, while the pure computing power of this device would likely outrank the existing PlayStation 4 by around 400 per cent.
Sony is also likely to bump up the performance rating of the PlayStation 5 by including more memory. But what will this impressive package of specs comprise in performance terms? Certainly the PS5 should be capable of delivering native 4K gaming, and it is even possible that this console will be able to run AAA 4K games at 60 frames per second.
The notion of 60 FPS 4K gaming is certainly an exciting one for potential console owners, but such a prospect would also pose logistical challenges. Bandwidth would certainly be an issue for the PlayStation 5, and Sony would have to make some tricky decisions regarding the media that such a console would utilize.
It is noticeable that Sony has moved away from emphasizing the importance of physical media recently, with the Japanese corporation refraining from including a 4K Blu-ray drive in the PlayStation 4 Pro. This would suggest that Sony would be reluctant to include this technology in the PlayStation 5, but practical considerations make it a necessity.
Meanwhile, Sony could also consider including a hybrid HDD / SSD setup in the PlayStation 5, which would serve the purpose of speeding up storage. Should 4K gaming become a standard in the PlayStation 5 generation, which is something that developers and gamers alike would welcome, then consoles will require a quite significant portion of storage in order to deal with what will be massive games.
E3 presence possible
While many have assumed that the PlayStation 5 would be several years into the future, we may even obtain our first glimpse of this console at the forthcoming E3 trades how. Nintendo has recently acknowledged that its releases will no longer have the lengthy shelf lives that have been common traditionally in console gaming. Thus, it seems likely that Sony will follow suit with its releases, particularly as it has more readily embraced state of the art tech than Nintendo, meaning that we may hear about the PlayStation 5 sooner rather than later.
It is even possible that major new titles such as Death Stranding and The Last of Us Part 2 could be delayed in order to launch alongside the new console. Perhaps it is a little too early for an announcement to be made during E3 this year, but we should certainly expect Sony to unveil the PlayStation 5 by the time the trade show rolls around in 2018.
UPDATE: 05-12-2017: In what has been an exciting year for the video games landscape, the rumors of a PlayStation 5 release from Sony continue to accumulate. It is suggested that the Japanese corporation will release this gaming console before the end of the decade, with reports recently emerging which suggest that 2018 could be a possible release date.
With the PlayStation 5 set to enter an increasingly crowded and complex marketplace, it will be intriguing to see what Sony has in mind for its next-generation console. The feeling is that the PS5 generation must deliver some unique functionality along with outstanding specs, and possibly be a more flexible performer than recent Sony consoles.
This flexibility could be delivered in a variety of ways, with the possibility that some form of mobile gaming could be included. But if Sony is to commit itself to a PlayStation 5 releases sooner rather than later then it could also release various versions of the machine intended to cater for different audiences.
Thus, it is not inconceivable that we could see a PlayStation 5 without a disk drive, as physical media is certainly becoming less important in general. This was acknowledged by Sony in its decision not to include a 4K Blu-ray drive with the PlayStation 4, something that has been mildly mocked publicly by Microsoft.
Other possible variations could include the amount of storage offered by the various PlayStation 5 models, with the video games market moving towards the sort of choice that has been a common in the mobile marketplace for some years, or as Apple has particularly committed to with the Apple Watch.
No set life cycle
Sony’s rivals could also alter their ethos in the coming years, with reports recently suggesting that Nintendo will take a completely different approach to its products in future. The Japanese company is looking to continue the production of its popular ‘DS’ series handhelds, with Nintendo president Tatsumi Kimishima commenting on this during an investor Q&A session.
But Kimishima also suggested that Nintendo’s product cycles are no longer intended to last for a set number of years, with the company needing to be nimble and amenable to change, depending on the particular needs of consumers. This will become an increasing trend of the video games market, and something that Sony will need to take into consideration with any PlayStation 5 release. Possibly this console could be upgradable in some fashion, but what seems to be certain is that the unwieldy gaming systems of the past are less likely to appear in the future.
The PlayStation 5 will enter a marketplace already dominated by Sony, and in which the existing systems have already achieved an impressive installed user base. Just this week, the huge player in the software industry EA indicated its belief that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will shift a combined 105 million units by the end of the calendar year.
This succinctly illustrates the fact that Sony must time and handle any PlayStation 5 release with care, ensuring that it doesn’t alienate its existing users. Increasingly, it seems that the console market will offer a slightly different experiences across several devices, while ensuring that none of these consoles is jettisoned from updates.
UPDATE: 05-02-2017: Macquarie Capital Securities analyst Damian Thong has certainly got tongues wagging in the video games sphere by predicting that the PlayStation 5 will be released in 2018. This came as a major surprise, as Sony had only recently unveiled its mid-generation PS4 Pro machine.
Nonetheless, Thong was insistent that Sony would “release its next generation PlayStation by the second half of 2018,” meaning that the device could even be available in stores little over 12 months from now. Yet despite the decent track record of Thong in predicting the release of Sony machines, many believe that the analyst is wide of the mark with this particular assertion.
The timing for the PlayStation 5 would seem to be completely inappropriate, despite the fact that the Nintendo Switch has only recently hit the stores. The release of the Switch may make it seem that the time for the PlayStation 5 is here, but, of course, the Switch was an entirely different kettle of fish from its Microsoft and Sony competitors.
Nintendo has always relied on innovation rather than processing might, and thus the power of the Switch is still behind the Xbox One and PS4, let alone the more powerful variants of these series. If Sony is to release a PlayStation 5, surely it would have to be significantly more powerful than the existing PS4 Pro, which would pose all sorts of problems.
However, the argument for the release of the PlayStation 5 is presumably based around the forthcoming Xbox Project Scorpio. This console from Microsoft will undoubtedly become the most powerful machine on the market when it is released in terms of processing, and will even offer a 4K Blu-ray drive. Sony will doubtless be none too keen on surrendering its power advantage, considering that the PS4 has outperformed the Xbox One.
Sony market control
While this could be a significant motivation for Sony, the fact remains that the Japanese corporation is currently in an extremely dominant market position. There is simply no pressing need for Sony to unveil its next generation console when its numbers are so far ahead of the competition. Sales figures indicate that the 60 million units shifted by Sony is at least double that of sales of the Microsoft Xbox One, while Nintendo is barely even in the picture.
Indeed, it is this gulf between sales of the Xbox range and the PlayStation 4 that has motivated Microsoft to release the Project Scorpio in the first place. The developer is willing to take risks as it is so far behind in the race; Sony has no compelling need to follow suit.
In fact, if Sony continues to release upgraded consoles on such a regular basis it risks completely alienating its user base. The PS4 Pro is barely out of the gates, and already there is speculation that Sony will release yet another console. This would hardly be an excellent marketing move from the perspective of all those people who have purchased the PS4 Pro, effectively relegating this mid-generation machine to a shelf life of just two years.
While there may be a general acceptance among consumers that the lifecycle of consoles is diminishing, surely 24 months is too little. And Sony is almost certainly smart enough to recognize this.
Games sell systems
Another major point to consider is that games typically sell systems, not specs. When hardware manufacturers make major boasts about their forthcoming machines it can certainly open the eyes of consumers. But by now the average video gamer is pretty hard-boiled to the realities of the industry, and realizes that even if there is a power deficit, as was the case with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, most games will end up looking rather similar.
While the majority of console titles appear on both Sony and Microsoft machines, it is generally considered that the best exclusive games have been on the PlayStation 4. With The Last of Us 2 and God of War 4 coming in the near future, there is little incentive for those who have committed to the Sony range to jump ship.
Another problem for Microsoft is achieving a balance between power and price. Promoting the enviable processing capabilities of its console has some value, but it will be difficult for Microsoft to gain market penetration if the price tag of the Xbox Scorpio is in the region of $500. Indeed, when interviewed recently, Xbox head Phil Spencer was keen to emphasize that the Xbox Project Scorpio would be an affordable machine, but it will certainly be difficult to deliver this and also specs that blow away the PlayStation 4 Pro.
With Sony having a lead in the market of thirty-million consoles, and the potential to slash the price of both the PlayStation 4 and a PlayStation 4 Pro when Microsoft Microsoft releases the Project Scorpio, there is no doubt that the Japanese company has little need to act rashly. When one examines these figures, it is in fact difficult to justify the release of a PlayStation 5 at this time.
Power and specs conundrum
If Sony is to release the PlayStation 5, it would mean that the power difference between this machine and the PlayStation 4 Pro would need to be substantial. And this would be extremely difficult to achieve, and probably impossible while also delivering a viable price point. Why would Sony take this risk, at the time when the console marketplace is extremely challenging, and also hugely risk alienating its core audience?
End of the decade
UPDATE 30/4/2017: It seems far more likely that the PlayStation 5 will arrive sometime around the end of the decade. This will enable Sony to give a decent shelf life to the PlayStation 4 Pro, while also having more time to develop a suitable next generation machine. Ultimately, Sony is in the business of making money, and the PlayStation 5 would not seem to particularly serve this purpose at the present moment. It is far more likely that the Japanese consumer electronics giant will allow Microsoft to take the risks in the current climate.
With the PS4 Pro performing very creditably for Sony and the Xbox Project Scorpio in the pipeline, talk of the PlayStation 5 has been conspicuous by its absence recently. However, a major analyst has suggested that the next generation Sony console may arrive sooner than most people expect.
2018 release date?
Macquarie Capital Securities analyst Damian Thong expects “Sony to release its next-generation PlayStation by the second half of 2018.” This is a pretty eye-catching prediction, as it would mean that the PlayStation 5 arrives on the market roughly twelve months from now.
Certainly there have been few other suggestions that have correlated with this opinion. With Sony only having released the PS4 Pro last year, a fully-fledged console in its own right, and the PS4 still a very credible machine, it would certainly be surprising if the PlayStation 5 was released in 2018. Some observers have already suggested that the PS4 Pro was released too soon after the original PS4 hit the stores, and Sony would be even more vulnerable to criticism if it launched its the next console generation just two years after the PS4 Pro was first unveiled.
However, it should be noted that this particular analyst has previously correctly predicted the release dates of the PS4 Pro and Slim models ahead of their respective launches. So far-fetched though a 2018 release date for the PlayStation 5 may seem, we cannot dismiss the suggestion of Thong out of hand.
Regardless of the accuracy of this prediction, we will not find out for some time whether Thong is indeed correct. The original PlayStation 4 was announced nine months prior to its ultimate release date, but the PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro revisions were unveiled just months before they arrived in retail outlets; actually merely one week in the case of the Slim.
Nonetheless, if Sony were to announce and release a PlayStation 5 console, it would enable the Japanese corporation to respond to the inevitable hype that will surround the Xbox Project Scorpio. This console from Microsoft will be more powerful than the PS4 Pro, meaning that for a certain period of time that an Xbox will be the most glamorous competitor in the console niche.
Sony could effectively minimize the impact of the Scorpio by unveiling the PlayStation 5 and getting tongues wagging about this true next generation release. However, it will be difficult to produce a PS5 without impacting significantly on the sales of the existing PS4 and PS4 Pro.
There would seem to be minimal need for Sony to take such a risk considering that it is already routinely outselling its main competition. And although the Xbox Project Scorpio will be a major challenge to PlayStation hegemony, the Japanese company can always respond to this release by slashing the price of the PS4 Pro and original PS4.
Another key consideration for Sony will be the existing video games climate. There is no doubt that the video games market is more complex and challenging than at any other time over the last 20 years, and this means that releasing a new machine into this environment will be sensitive. Indeed, Shuhei Yoshida, president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios, had previously suggested that the PlayStation 5 may never be released, indicating that it is a question of if rather than when the machine appears.
But if Sony does release a PlayStation 5 console, what can we expect from this next generation gaming rig? The first thing to state is that the specs of the machine will probably exceed those of the Xbox Project Scorpio, or else the console will simply be pointless. If the PS5 is to be released in 2018, it will not be an incremental upgrade over the existing PS4 Pro, it will be a figurative hand grenade tossed into the console marketplace.
Central to the capabilities of the PlayStation 5 will be the ability of the console to deliver true 4K gaming. The PS4 Pro does an excellent job of delivering 4K with its checkerboard technique, but it doesn’t quite have the power to deliver native 4K, and certainly not at 60 frames per second.
The first challenge for the PS5 will be to deliver 4K resolution resolution as a standard feature, and possibly to even offer native 4K at 60 frames per second. Certainly it should be possible to produce 60 frames per second at some upscaled variant of 4K, which would be a very attractive proposition for gamers.
In fact, Chris Kingsley, CTO and co-founder of developer Rebellion, even offered a particularly tantalising prospect for potential PS5 buyers. “Obviously new hardware should be able to support 4K TVs and possibly even 8K TVs at a push!” It seems rather early in the day to be talking about 8K resolution, considering that 4K televisions have yet to establish themselves as mainstream. But the technology market moves rapidly nowadays, and it is possible that Sony could trumpet 8K compatibility as a major feature of a forthcoming PS5.
PlayStation 5 VR
Virtual reality would undoubtedly be a major focus of the PS5 as well, following the success of the PlayStation VR headset. While this software has been able to deliver an excellent virtual reality experience, the fact is that it currently operates at lower resolution than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, and the standard PS4 struggles to deal with even this.
So the likelihood in the longer run is that Sony will eventually return to market with an updated version of the PlayStation VR headset, and that this could accompany the next generation PlayStation 5 console. This would then become an obvious selling point for the PS5, and we could even see the first example of native 4K VR console gaming with the PS5.
There will also unquestionably be a focus on streaming with the PS5, with Sony having already acknowledged the diminishing importance of the optical drive by declining to include a 4K Blu-ray drive with the PS4 Pro. But will Sony phase out physical discs with the PS5? Don’t count on it; this prediction has been wrongly made on many occasions!