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