Is the next generation on the horizon?
Speculation about the PlayStation 5 has grown more intense over the last week or so- this is because of some comments made by the well known Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter, predicting a 2019-20 release date for the system (a prediction he first made in an interview with GamingBolt, as a matter of fact), as well as due to a job listing by Just Cause developers Avalanche hiring people for a ‘next generation’ game.
‘Next generation.’ What exactly could that term refer to? Nintendo just launched their brand new system this year, and it is hugely unlikely they have a follow up in two years from now. Microsoft will launch he Xbox One X later this year, and it is equally unlikely they will want to undermine it in just two years as well- besides, they have stated before multiple times that they consider themselves as out of the generation cycle for now, anyway.
So, by sheer process of elimination, Sony and the PS5 are all that is left. And it would fit within a larger timeline, too- by 2019-20, the PS4 will be 6-7 years old, and the PS4 Pro will be 3-4 years old. That is usually the point when Sony introduces a follow-up to their console. The PS2 was introduced in 2000, six years after the original PlayStation; likewise, the PS3 was released in 2006, six years after the PS2. The PS4 was released in 2013, seven years after the PS3. 2019-2020 is in keeping with that expected timeframe and life cycle, then.
"Nintendo just launched their brand new system this year, and it is hugely unlikely they have a follow up in two years from now. Microsoft will launch he Xbox One X later this year, and it is equally unlikely they will want to undermine it in just two years as well- besides, they have stated before multiple times that they consider themselves as out of the generation cycle for now, anyway. So, by sheer process of elimination, Sony and the PS5 are all that is left."
Counter arguments I often hear to any proposition that the PS5 may be on the horizon usually are variations of ‘but the PS4 is selling so well, why would Sony bother with a PS5?’ Such counter-arguments forget multiple things. First, in sticking with my propensity for historical precedence so far, the PS2 was also selling well- in fact, it was selling better than the PS4 is- when Sony introduced a successor anyway. Sony brought the PS3 to the market to stay ahead of the tech curve- and the PS2 continued to sell for years afterward regardless. There is no reason whatsoever for that to not be repeated with the PS4 (or at the very least, attempted).
The second thing people forget is that Sony is a technology company- and PlayStation is its flagship product. Sony has long used the PlayStation line to push whatever new technology initiative it is cooking up. DVDs with the PS2, Blu Rays and 3DTVs with the PS3, UMDs and Memory Sticks with the PSP, online services and storefronts with the PS4, and 4KTVs with the PS4 Pro. By 2020, the PS4 will be seven years old, and the PS4 Pro four- at that point, they will be far too old to have kept up with whatever new initiatives Sony has cooked up since their release.
So, whether it is a new line of TVs (presumably Sony wants a console to be able to push out true 4K visuals), a new media format (high density Blu Rays), or just an increased push for services and streaming (beyond what the current PS4 can support), there is every reason to suspect Sony might have a company wide corporate mandate to launch a new console at that point in time, too.
There is also the last point here that many Sony fans would argue is irrelevant, but I submit is not- both of Sonys competitors have launched new machines. Neither of the two machines directly competes with the PS4 (and the Switch’s success has been complementary and additive to the PS4’s), but Sony runs the risk of losing audience attention by not introducing a new product to compete with the competition, and sticking with the old, tried and tested one, no matter how successful that old product is- this happened to Nintendo, with NES and SNES.
"The PS2 was also selling well- in fact, it was selling better than the PS4 is- when Sony introduced a successor anyway. Sony brought the PS3 to the market to stay ahead of the tech curve- and the PS2 continued to sell for years afterward regardless."
So, 2019-2020 sounds like when a new PlayStation console might be likely- but is it the right time to launch one? The PS4 got off to a rather slow start, with 2013 and 2014 being pretty dry for it, and games only beginning to come in thick and fast starting 2015. In that case, wouldn’t 2019 or 2020 be too soon to close the book on it?
Well, for starters- it wouldn’t be closing the book on it at all. Once more, as a reminder, the PS3’s launch did not disrupt the PS2 whatsoever. This was not just because of its sales momentum, this was also because the PS2 provided a cheap, attractive option to loads of developers worldwide to hit a large audience with. And thus, well after the PS3 had launched, games for the PS2 kept coming in from all quarters. There is no reason to assume the PS4, which is a similarly easy option for developers, with a similarly large and engaged install base, will be abandoned- especially by smaller indie and Japanese developers, who take a while to transition to a new system (just look at how long it took them to move on from the PS Vita- and the Vita was never anything more than ‘barely relevant’ as far as success goes).
This also forgets that Sony is likely to use x86 in the PS5. Not only would it help them maintain compatibility, but it would also help them consolidate the PlayStation services ecosystem further, rather than having to start from scratch like they did with the PS3 and PS4. The reason that is relevant in this discussion is that if the PS5 uses a more sophisticated variation of the PS4’s architecture, a PS5 coming out would not mean PS4 support has to cease immediately- in fact, especially for the first few years after the PS5 is out, PS4 can continue getting the same games as the PS5, except running on ‘lower’ settings (a bit like the PS4-PS4 pro relationship right now, actually).
"I think 2019-20 would be the perfect time for Sony to release their new system, and I feel like it would not in any way undermine the success of the PS4 whatsoever (while potentially derailing the Xbox One X just a couple of year after it has launched)."
My assumption, then, is that the PS5 will be out by 2019 or 2020. And, contrary to many others, I do not see that being too late. I do not see it being too early. I think it would be the perfect time for Sony to release their new system, and I feel like it would not in any way undermine the success of the PS4 whatsoever (while potentially derailing the Xbox One X just a couple of year after it has launched).
Will it be successful? Now that’s the thing that’s hard to predict. No one predicted the PS3 would stumble and cede the lead to Wii and Xbox 360 back in the day. No one assumed Nintendo and Microsoft would surrender their advantage with the Wii and Xbox 360 going into the Wii U and Xbox One. No one assumed the PS4’s dominance would be this absolute. No one could have seen the Switch and Nintendo’s resurgence occurring to the extent that it did. This is a highly mutable industry- trends, flows, loyalties, everything changes within years. A new console launch is a chance for a full reset, to consolidate your strengths from before, and wipe away your mistakes- or to repeat your mistakes, make new ones, and undermine your strengths. Sony is, realistically, in a strong position going into the PS5- and by all accounts, they should do well. But as anyone who has ever paid any attention to the gaming industry knows, only a fool would presume to speak in certainties when it comes to predicting what future trends might be for games and consoles.
Let the next generation begin.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to GamingBolt as an organization.