It would be hard for anyone to argue that the PlayStation 4 hasn’t had a good run. Even though the PlayStation 3 was by no means a failure, its relatively underwhelming sales figures compared to the PS2 ultimately meant that it was an also-ran to the Xbox 360 and a distant third to the Wii in the previous generation of consoles. The PS4, meanwhile, is the undisputed king of this generation. Like all console generations, this one must end, which has meant that plenty of gamers are eagerly looking forward to the PlayStation 5.
The PS4 launched in 2013 to steady but unspectacular sales figures, but has asserted its dominance over the the competition over time. No doubt helped by the fiascos surrounding the Xbox One and the muddled marketing of the Wii U, the PS4 sold 10 million units in its first year. As of last December, 73.6 million PS4 consoles had been sold. By comparison, the Xbox One has shifted 36.78 million units and the Wii U 13.97 million before it was graciously put out to pasture by Nintendo — the Switch has already outsold it by a million, and it’s only been out for a year.
Solid figures, but still some way off the success of the PS2, which managed an astonishing 157.68 million units sold. It’s due to catch up to the PS3 sometime this year, but with the rise of mobile gaming and PC gaming now easier to get into than ever, the console market appears to be shrinking. For their next PlayStation iteration, you’d have to say that Sony are going to have to go all out and deliver something either truly innovative or really powerful while also affordable; a hard middle ground to find.
Sony’s next console hasn’t been confirmed yet, but is about as inevitable as the setting of the sun. You would have to think that they would stick with the numbered PlayStation branding, too, and not drift towards an unusual name that would just end up confusing people (see: the Xbox One and Battlefield 1). The PS4 still has an impressive slate of exclusives to come and a couple more years left in the tank, but it’s time to start looking forward to the PS5 nonetheless.
Until it’s officially revealed by Sony, here’s our wishlist for the PlayStation 5. Some of these are a little “out there”, but you never know unless you try, right? As an aside, I’m going to avoid wishing for more power, because that’s obvious.
1. Scalable parts
Let’s start off with the most contentious thing first. The main attraction of console gaming is ease of use: you just plug it in and (theoretically, minus updates) start playing. With the rise of PC gaming, however, this doesn’t quite ring as true — if you know what you’re doing, you can now build your own rig with little fuss as so much of it is clicking the right thing into the right place.
Considering how outdated most consoles become compared to PCs in just a couple of years and how so many people have switched to PC in recent years, Sony could take a big gamble and put a more customisable console on the market that scales to meet industry demand. The Pro is evidence of just how quickly things can move, so rather than having to get a whole new console, why not just switch up the parts?
This is probably just idealistic, but the ability to simply and painlessly swap out older components with just a couple of button presses might be a revolutionary idea and one that keeps the PS5 relevant for a long time. There would need to be a minimum requirement for all PS5 games to run at, of course, but there’s no reason why Sony couldn’t at least make it easier to replace a hard drive, or provide different resolutions depending on budget. For instance, if you really aren’t bothered by 4K gaming, why not just stick to HD instead and scale up to a better graphics card when you need or can afford to?
Logistically, this would be an absolute nightmare for Sony when considering warranties and how to specifically implement these scalable parts. The PS5 would probably have to be only compatible with Sony products or special PS5 parts so that people couldn’t just stick any old components in the console and end up voiding warranties. If the UMD and Vita memory cards have taught us anything, though, it’s that it can be a bit of a headache.
2. Game streaming as standard
While the PS4 has been quite successful, a lot of the services and programs surrounding it have been… less so. PlayStation Now, which seemed to release as a half-baked idea, is possibly one of this generation’s most unloved new ideas that seems to be failing because of poor execution. Even with PS4 games getting added to the service, it’s simply not catching on.
The reason for this is pretty simple: Sony took away backwards compatibility and made it a paid streaming service. Every business and their grandmothers wants to get in on the streaming act since the Netflix boom, but Sony severely undershot when they revealed Now. It’s years later and it still feels like it’s in beta. Game performance is choppy even with a wired superfast broadband connection and the catalog, while not terrible, is hardly good enough to incentivise gamers to part ways with their hard-earned cash when the price is as high as it is.
To fix that for the PlayStation 5, Sony need to make the ability to stream games a standard feature. Already have a PS4 game in your library that you want to play on your new console? Use the license to stream it on your PS5. It’s been in the offing for a long time, so the ability to digitally rent and then stream brand new games could also be a major selling point for the PS5. The industry will eventually get to that point, but one of the gaming giants has to make the first move.
The industry hates physical copies of games but is still beholden to them. The reason is simple: resell value. When you finish a game, you can trade it in or sell it online– that’s one less sales figure for the big companies if it’s not being bought brand new.
You can see just how hard the industry is pushing to effectively kill off physical sales with the overwhelming amount of subscription services currently available. Xbox Game Pass is making the most concerted effort to kill off physical sales for good, so much so that Gamestop shares plummeted when it was announced. Microsoft are going in hard on Game Pass with all of its biggest exclusive hitters included in the price of the service, too — how can retailers compete with that?
While there are still a massive amount of gamers who buy physically, digital is on the rise to the point where it will inevitably overtake physical. Last year, EA stated that 40% of all console game sales would be digital come the end of 2017. That number is surely only going to swell even more, perhaps even over the 50% mark in the next couple of years.
There will come a time when you won’t be able to walk down your high street and buy a game on a disc anymore, but until that day comes, Sony and the PlayStation 5 should still support the traditionalists. The blowback would be crazy, and you really don’t want terrible PR when you’re launching a new console.
4. More exclusives
When you really think about it, Sony haven’t done anything revolutionary this generation. Their main goal from the off has been to build the PlayStation brand on its line of exclusives, to make the PS4 the place to be if you want to get your hands on the best games that you can’t find on any other platform. Despite a faltering start, the line-up of PS4 exclusives and those still to arrive has to go down as the console’s biggest achievement.
To keep up with the main allure of picking PlayStation over any other platform, the PS5 simply has impress with its own impressive line-up of exclusives from the off. There’s so much competition now that they can’t afford to have a middling launch roster, or one that takes a couple of years to really start remember impressing. For instance, the Switch launched with Breath of the Wild and then Super Mario Odyssey just a little while later. By comparison, the PS4 only had the middling Killzone Shadow Fall and the gimmicky Infamous Second Son in its first year.
You would be able to place a pretty safe bet on the exclusive sequels that Sony will bring to the PS5. A follow-up to Horizon: Zero Dawn is an inevitability along with a new Uncharted at some point or another. They could do far worse than re-energising some of their dormant franchises, too: Killzone, InFamous, The Order, and Ratchet & Clank, to name but a few. Depending on the success of Death Stranding, we could also see more from Kojima and maybe even Team Ico with their ratio of one game for every PlayStation console since the PS2. Additionally, if Sony could convince FromSoftware to make another exclusive like they did with Bloodborne, that’s just like printing money.
Finally, whisper it, but I really kind of want to see how they finish off Knack.
5. All the previous PlayStation features from day one
It’s almost hilarious that the PS4 is coming into its fifth year and is only just getting the basic features of the PS3. It took Sony years and years to let gamers be notified when a selected friend came online, which is crazy considering that it was a basic fundamental of a much less refined machine.
Rather than releasing the framework of a very basic UI and a scant amount of customisation to go with it, Sony need to ensure that the PS5 is up to snuff from the get go. That means that things like organising your games into folders should be a day one ability, as well as setting custom wallpapers and uploading them from a USB stick, to name just a few of the simple necessities that the PS4 lacked for the longest time.
There’s one big feature above all else that would convince long-time PlayStation fans to make the upgrade: the option to change your PSN name. Owing to the needlessly complicated development of the PS3 and the online service for it, your PSN handle cannot be changed once you’ve chosen it. Ten years after first setting up my online account to play Killzone 2, I am no longer a huge fan of hip-hop and wouldn’t mind the ability to scrub my terrible young adult decision from history whatsoever, something which a lot of gamers would surely echo.
6. Backwards compatibility
That this generation has done away with the previous ones so wastefully has been a big talking point for the majority of it. Though I can’t say I am someone who habitually goes back to older games (I make an exception for Sons of Liberty), I can see where the frustration comes from when a new console can’t run a disc from an older one.
I’ve already touched on this when talking about game streaming, but Sony really need to make the PlayStation 5 feel like a culmination of the PlayStation brand by honouring its past with backwards compatibility. It’s wholly unrealistic to expect PS1 and PS2 games to be able to run on the console; not the case with PS3 and PS4. You should expect to be able to put in your discs and them run, no strings attached.
There’s been a massive market for lazy remasters this generation brought about by the biggest hitters refusing to acknowledge their previous libraries of games. The PS4 has PS2 Classics available from the PlayStation Store, though this is such a meager collection that it’s hardly even worth mentioning. PlayStation Now, while fine, doesn’t even begin to cut it when it comes to encompassing all of the games released for the PS3. The PS5 needs to have a strong if not at least promising array of older titles playable from the off.
The buzz surrounding Microsoft’s plan to introduce backwards compatibility for the Xbox One going all the way back to the original Xbox shows that it’s a lot of effort but effort that ultimately pays off. It also shows that it’s doable, so any excuses from Sony would just come across as hollow.
Sony have avoided cross-play this generation for two pretty understandable reasons: 1) as the dominant console, they don’t really need to, and 2) to protect their brand, that PlayStation is an “elite club” not unlike Apple. Cross-play would benefit Xbox and Microsoft infinitely more than it would PlayStation and Sony, which is why Microsoft have been pushing for it and Sony have remained silent.
However, as games like Fortnite have proven, there’s a massive market out there of gamers who are eager to team up with their friends regardless of platform. When you think about it, it’s a little wild that it’s 2018 and gamers across different consoles can’t play together.
Back in 2013 when the PS4 and Xbox One launched, cross-play wasn’t nearly as hot a topic as it is now. When the next generation of consoles rolls around and yours is the one standing in the way of cross-play, is that a PR risk you can really take? Sony don’t realise it, but finally relenting to demand and allowing cross-play could be a big seller for them when it comes to the PlayStation 5.
By finally pressing the button to allow cross-play (seriously, it’s apparently that easy), Sony would make the choice simpler for gamers as long as they kept up with their slew of exclusives and the perception of PlayStation as the gamer-first brand. The margins between consoles are getting smaller and smaller, so the next generation is going to be won on how they’re presented to the public. Take it from Microsoft and the disastrous Xbox One reveal: first impressions count.