It was on 20 February 2013 when Sony announced the successor to the incredibly successful PlayStation 3 console. That was then. It has been five years, since Sony unleashed the PlayStation 4 console out into the world of gaming. Also known lovingly as the PS4. And as things stand, it is still showing absolutely no signs of ageing. In fact, Sony has just confirmed that sold almost 100 million units of the PlayStation 4 console till date. In fact, Sony sold more than 5.6 million PS4 units over the holiday season worldwide and 18 million consoles were sold over the past 12 months.
Over time, Sony has ensured that they kept the PlayStation4 line-up refreshed. There was the slimmer variant of the original PS4, followed by special edition variants including one in Gold color, and finally the PS4 Pro. The original PS4 and the PS4 Slim run the AMD Jaguar processor clocking at 1.8GHz and upgraded the PS4 Pro to clock at 2.1GHz instead for 4K and HDR requirements.
In reality, no other gaming console comes close in terms of sales. Microsoft stopped giving Xbox sales figures as of early last year, when a Microsoft executive confirmed to the media that the company will now focus on talking about engagement rather than sales figures. The only real competition that the PS4 got last year was from the Nintendo Switch, which shipped more than 20 million units as of the last known numbers from July last year. The question now is—can the PS4 come close to, or even surpass, the 155 million units the PS2 console sold during its lifetime.
Research firm Strategy Analytics had predicted in early December that 2019 will see close competition between the PS4 and the Switch, with the former expected to sell around 17.1 million units while the latter predicted to shift 17.3 million units. They predict that Microsoft will be able to sell around 10 million Xbox units in the same period. ““During Microsoft’s FY18 Q3 earnings, we announced that gaming revenue grew 18 percent year-over-year, driven by Xbox software and services revenue growth of 24 percent, and Xbox Live monthly active users grew 1 percent year-over-year to 59 million. We continue to see strong growth with time spent on Xbox Live, and look forward to bringing more unprecedented experiences on Xbox One, Windows 10 PC and mobile,” is all Microsoft last said about the Xbox sales, indicating it isn’t exactly confident of its console in the current scheme of things.
The question is—what next for Sony and the PlayStation?
Sony clearly has a lot in store. In terms of the hardware, Sony has it well in control with the PS4 variants and the PS4 Pro. Now it will be all about building on the experiences. “Sony’s vision is to be a creative entertainment company, creating and maximizing communities of interest,” said Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Motion Picture Group, while speaking with the media at the Consumer Electronics Show 2018 at Las Vegas. Sony knows there will be tremendous competition in 2019. Entertainment space will see battles between streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon as well as the upcoming services from Apple and Walt Disney Co. The big advantage is that Sony has its own distribution network, Sony Pictures, available on the PS consoles, which can be leveraged.
There will also greater focus on PS Plus, the subscription service that offers select titles for free and enables discounts on other game purchases. Microsoft has been fairly bullish about its service, Xbox Live, which they have given a massive boost by adding titles from other developers as well.
At present, the PS software and the interface is largely focused towards gaming, and apps do seem like an afterthought. That might undergo a change, if Sony wants to push the PS4 as a wholesome entertainment device—this would put apps at a level peg with games.