Sony is doing well, quite well in fact, as its recent earnings demonstrate. But this year, the good news is not necessarily tied to the PS4. Sony posted strong profits based on selling image sensors for smartphones, and also in part thanks to an insurance payment for one of their factories damaged by last year’s earthquake in Japan.
The PS4 actually saw a year-over-year decline, dropping from 3.5 million units shipped to 3.3 million. The WSJ write-up of all this says that the console is aging, having debuted in 2013, and that analysts have been predicting a PlayStation 5 announcement in 2018.
In truth, the analysts I’ve read are split. Macquarie Capital Securities analyst Damian Thong says that Sony will debut PS5 in the second half of 2018, but Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter says 2019 instead, and so do a few others.
I’m with Pachter and the others on this one.
In the current state of the market, it doesn’t make sense for Sony to start up the process of teasing, revealing, promoting and launching the PlayStation 5 in 2018.
First of all, Sony is no rush. They’re the market leader by an incredibly wide margin, and while other companies may have to cut their console’s lifespans short due to underperformance (like Nintendo with the Wii U), Sony is very, very far away from that position, having had one of the most successful consoles in years, especially compared to its current rivals, Xbox One, Wii U and now the Switch, where PS4 has 60+ million systems sold. I’m not convinced anyone has even half that, at this point.
This console generation is also unique in that Sony has provided a mid-generation “upgrade” in the form of PS4 Pro, a better-performing console that doesn’t make the leap to a fully new generation, but one that exists as a “premium” version of the original PS4. This has the potential to extend the lifespan of the PS4 beyond what we’ve seen previously due to the fact that the Pro can boost game performance, which has not been part of the lifespan of past console generations since the days of N64’s expansion pack. Debuting PS5 a year and a half-ish after the Pro does not seem spread out enough.
Additionally, Sony has a number of high profile PS4 games on the horizon including The Last of Us 2 and a new God of War. That’s not necessarily disqualifying, as my guess is that all future systems from Sony or Microsoft will be backward compatible, but the point is that these games could easily still move PS4s in 2018, and they have been in the works for a long time with PS4 in mind as the primary platform.
2019 makes more sense for PS5. That’s six years after the debut of PS4 and three years after PS4 Pro. The next logical step there is either another Pro-like upgrade, or a full-on PS5, which I think is the more likely option. It will also put Microsoft and Nintendo in an odd spot, as a holiday release would be just two years after the launch of the Xbox One X, Microsoft’s own premium console, and two and a half years after the Switch, which Nintendo will need to rely on for a good long while. Previously, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all released consoles pretty close together, at least within a year or so, but the schedule has gotten so convoluted, that no longer seems possible. A 2019 PS5 would very likely mean that Sony would have the only major piece of new hardware on the market, while still giving the PS4 room enough to breathe and extract the most from its already-successful run.
We may see some sort of E3 tease in 2018 about a PS5. But it would be very, very minimalistic, I’d imagine, and instead be prepping for a winter/spring reveal with a fall/winter debut in 2019. If it’s any sooner or later than that, I’d be surprised.
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