PS4, PS5 and Beyond: The Rumors and What They Might Mean
If the rumors are true, the PS5 may be upon us sooner rather than later. Dean ruminates on what this might mean for the future of console releases across the board. Also, spoilers for Steinbeck.
There is a scene in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, where one of the farm workers, Candy, is forced to put his loyal sheepdog down by another farm worker, Slim, as he was old and past his prime. In exchange, he gets a puppy from a new litter recently born on the farm.
Normally, I try to shy away from using scenes in literature as an analogy, but it is what came to mind last Christmas, after I bought a 4K television. I looked at my PS4, sat silently under the TV. He had life left in him but he couldn’t deliver the performance my new television could promise. We had some memories, too. He heard me rage-quit when playing Bloodborne and spent hours with me as I explored the Commonwealth wastes in Fallout 4. It’s always sad, in a bizarre sort of way, to exchange one console for the other. But it felt justified, on this occasion.
So, I took the old boy down to GAME and traded it in for credit towards a PS4 Pro. It’s a fine machine, capable of streaming 4K video and upscaling games, but it’s not the same. I must learn to love again.
Now, let’s imagine that a year on, Candy is sitting in his bunk. The memories of his old dog are just that – memories, as he has moved on and grown close to his new canine pal. Slim walks in and starts talking about a new batch of puppies and now Candy should give up his new friend for a new dog. It’s been a year, mate, just give it some time.
That is what I thought when I started hearing rumours about the PS5 recently. Now, there are always rumours about new console releases. From the moment that a new console comes out, we’re busy speculating about the next. What gives credence to these recent rumours is that they come from Macquarie Capital Securities analyst Damian Thong.
What is significant about Thong’s (don’t go there) speculation is that he previously predicted – correctly – that Sony would release a souped-up and a slim version of the PS4 in 2016. As we now know, he was referring to PS4 Pro and the slim-line PS4 being put out by Sony. (Editor’s Note: While multiple articles indeed claim he predicted the PS4 Pro and Slim, no past articles or posts can be found regarding these predictions; we have only the word of The Wall Street Journal’s Takashi Mochizuki as seen in the linked article above).
Analyst who correctly predicted PS4 Pro and Slim says next-generation PS would be released…https://t.co/mWTZzuRSSS
— Takashi Mochizuki (@mochi_wsj) April 28, 2017
Sony haven’t commented or confirmed whether this prediction is true or false. But one has to wonder if Sony are concerned, given the imminent release of Xbox Project Scorpio and how, if the tech breakdowns are correct, it will blow PS4 Pro out of the water. Could we see Sony rushing out the next iteration to the PlayStation line to keep up with Microsoft, and maintain market dominance?
Whilst I don’t think Sony would release the PS5 in 2018, the recent trend of iterative console releases, modeled after how softphones are released, is starting to become worrisome. The idea of seeing a newer, slightly more powerful version of a console each year will be of a detriment to the videogame industry and its consumers.
To be fair, the idea of game libraries being available and existing indefinitely across various mid-generation releases is tantalising. It is always sad when upgrading to a new console when you realise that your collection of games, amassed over several years, is now obsolete. Sony and Microsoft have done well to enable backwards compatibility for some of the bestselling games of the previous generation. But this doesn’t compare to what we had with PS2, which shared a similar architecture to the PS1, and enabled backwards compatibility for each PS1 game. In recent years, building a new console in either the PlayStation or Xbox family means starting from scratch. Even Nintendo, famed for their loyalty towards providing backwards compatibility, have begun to shy away from the concept.
Despite this, running the video game console business in the same manner as the softphone industry just isn’t feasible. Softphones are, for all the little novelties they offer, considered an essential item. As such, network providers offer tariffed payment schemes to make them easier to afford. Consumers buy into this, as they consider the softphone an everyday item, and are willing to add it to their monthly expenditure. Just like any other monthly bill, like insurance or electricity.
We don’t view videogame consoles in the same way. For how much they have advanced, becoming all-encompassing media-machines, they are still seen as a luxury item, procured with an upfront cost. Traditionally, the price point for a new console is between £400-£500, but putting down such a large amount is assuaged by the knowledge that you won’t need to fork this type of money out for another six years – the average console generation lifespan.
Now, it is key to note that, due to the backwards compatibility across each mid-generation release, that upgrading isn’t essential as you can play the same games on older hardware. It just won’t look as nice. However, gamers are becoming more literate about the technology that runs their game consoles and are knowledgeable about each component in the machines and what it is they do. Sony and Microsoft are aware of this also and it forms part of their marketing strategies, embracing ‘4K’ and ’60 FPS’ as buzzwords, chucking them to their respective fan-base to sell newer consoles.
Sony should stick to their guns and not release another mid-generation iteration of the PS4, and what we have now should hold them over until the PS5, which should wait until at least 2020. The PS4 has a ridiculously large install-base – nearing 60 million. To keep the product line as it is won’t confuse consumers. Developers will benefit also, as they won’t have to work harder to release games on numerous iterations of the same console. Whilst it is argued that developers will do what they must to get a game out to such a larger base of gamers, at what point does this become unfeasible if there are five or six versions of the same hardware?
If Sony do give us another, slightly more powerful version of the PS4, we’ll be entered in a console war arms race, with each company releasing a new machine each year, with marginal increases to performance over the competition and their own previous consoles, and it is the consumer who will lose out on this deal.
Back to the bunkroom, Slim is looking expectantly at Candy. “Well, do you want one of those dogs?” Candy lays on his bunk, the chin of his dog nuzzled against his Candy’s thigh.
“Well, I hardly had him a while,” he says softly. “He’s been good to me so far.”
“What if I told you,” Slim steps towards him, “these new dogs have 4K Blu-Ray players as standard.” Candy looks away. “And 4K native resolutions – none of this checker boarding stuff.” Candy turns back to Slim before looking back down at his dog, whose large, brown eyes look up at him. Candy sighs.
“Get the gun.”