The advent of social media, and the ensuing shrinkage of attention spans that goes along with it, means that very few among us have the patience to read news articles beyond the headlines. And in these clickbaity times, such dependence on headlines leads to much confusion. That is exactly how a couple of friends, who were in the market for a PlayStation 4 console, approached me with one burning question: when will the PlayStation 5 be released and would it be wiser to avoid buying the PS4 at the moment?
There’s no straight answer to this question because the all the hullabaloo surrounding the PlayStation 5 is all based on speculation. Sony obviously has neither officially announced the supposed successor to the PS4, nor has it either confirmed or denied the rumours as of this writing. However, before you dismiss the PS5 rumours off completely, you might want to know that this speculation is more informed than one would imagine and come from a rather reputable source. The talk surrounding an impending PlayStation console update was sparked after a well-regarded analyst Damian Thong suggested that Sony will launch the PlayStation 5 in the second half of 2018.
A Credible Source
While such speculation usually isn’t paid much heed, but Thong is considered one of the most credible analysts in this space. He had accurately predicted PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro launches in the past, so it wasn’t surprising for the media to sit up and take notice. The lack of any response or announcement from Sony might be at odds with this prediction, but let’s not forget that no sane console maker will torpedo its current console by announcing a successor while the outgoing model has been selling like hot cakes. It hasn’t been long since the PS4 Pro has been launched, so it makes no sense for Sony to scare customers away from plonking down $400 on a console that’s about to be obsolete.
Furthermore, Thong’s predictions were also corroborated by another analyst Michael Pachter, who in turn believes that the PS5 will launch sometime in 2019 or even possibly 2020. His rationale behind the date is that Sony is waiting for wider adoption of 4K TVs before bringing out what will be a true-blue 4K gaming console capable of upsetting Microsoft’s Xbox One X in that space. He adds that Sony is waiting for the 4K TV market to reach adoption rates of 50 percent in the USA and 35 percent in the rest of the world. Pachter has another ace up his sleeve. The analyst predicts that the next generation PlayStation console will bring back a feature that has been a sore point for many PlayStation loyalists. That is backwards compatibility.
The PS4 disappointed hardcore fans by doing away with PS3 compatibility. While that spawned a number of HD remakes and remasters of PS3 classics, but the quality for many such remasters was sub-par. Microsoft capitalised on this misstep by going the whole hog and implementing excellent backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 titles, thereby creating a compelling reason preventing existing Xbox 360 owners from jumping ship to the PlayStation camp. After all, no one likes their game library worth thousands of dollars to be rendered useless. Pachter therefore speculates that Sony will be wary of committing the same mistake and is likely to make the PS5 backwards compatible with the PS4 Pro and base PS4 Slim models. This seems plausible because it would be a corporate suicide to make a $400 console obsolete in possibly just two short years since its launch.
However, all this begs the question: why release a new console generation when the current one has been doing so well? To put this into perspective, the launch of the die-shrunk PS4 Slim and the mid-generation upgraded PS4 Pro consoles rejuvenated sales for the Japanese console maker. The numbers are astonishing at 20 million PS4 units sold in the last fiscal year, which is in addition to the 40 million units sold from its inception until May 2016. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Sony has virtually no apparent reason to bring out a new console and therein hurt the sales of the existing PS4 range, which has been doing remarkably well.
The Xbox One X Factor
Well, all that does make sense until you consider Microsoft’s Xbox One X console. Touted as the most powerful console, the Xbox One X summarily takes the performance crown from Sony and positions itself as the premier console capable of delivering the best 4K gaming experience. If you hark back to the projected 4K TV adoption rates by 2019, half of the US population is expected to own one set, with 35 percent of the world having upgraded to 4K TV sets. It makes sense for anyone in the market for a gaming console in 2019 to opt for the one that promises optimal 4K gaming. The Microsoft Xbox One X then appears as a lucrative choice, since its significantly powerful than the PS4 Pro and hence better at 4K gaming.
Therefore, it is crucial for Sony to come up with a credible answer to the Xbox One X, if it hopes to capture the 4K console gaming market. As it stands, no amount of optimisation is going to help the PS4 Pro catch up with the decidedly more powerful Xbox One X. A brand new console engineered from the ground up for 4K gaming then makes perfect sense for Sony in 2019, when 4K TV penetration will have reached optimal levels.
Should You Wait for the PS5?
Having said that, don’t hold your breath waiting for Sony to announce the PS5 just yet, because it makes zero sense for the console maker to acknowledge these rumours and hurt PS4 and PS4 Pro sales, which have been going quite well for a while now. Going by the past record of the analyst who set off the PS5 rumours and the rationale behind Sony’s need for a credible 4K capable competitor to the Xbox One X, there’s a good chance that a next generation PlayStation 4 successor is looming on the horizon and we could in fact see it materialise circa 2019.
What should you as a consumer respond to these seemingly credible rumours and speculations? Well, someone who has a PS4 but is looking at a PS4 Pro upgrade would be better off holding his/her horses and waiting it out at least until more information (or an official denial) comes from Sony itself. If you don’t have any console as of now and want to invest in a PS4 or PS4 Pro, my advice would be to go for one right away, as there are plenty of top-tier AAA games on the platform to last you until 2019, not to mention a delicious range of AAA titles that have been announced for 2018.
To be honest, no matter how promising the PS5 sounds, it doesn’t make sense to go without games for at least two years (if the PS5 launch rumours are to be believed) just to wait for a rumoured console. After all, it’s the games that make a console and not the other way around.