Console Watch: 2018

Could we get a surprise in 2019?

A year or two ago I joked to a friend that the PS5 would probably release in 2019. I was mostly joking since the PS4 was (and continues to be) on an amazing trajectory. I’m pretty sure the PS4 has soared past the 80 million mark and, although sales growth is slowing, the console continues to be in high demand. This led me to believe that Sony would want to delay the release of the PS5 for as long as possible in order to maximize the PS4’s potential. That was what I thought then but now I’m not so sure.

The reason I’m questioning my original logic is, ironically, because of Microsoft. Phil Spencer, Head of Gaming at Microsoft, announced that the company is actively working on their next consoles (emphasis on the “s”). I now believe that this may force Sony’s hand and bring the PS5 to market sooner than expected. I have already written a post about what I think the next generation will look like. In this post, however, I want to share the reasons why I believe the next console generation (excluding Nintendo) is coming way sooner than most expected.

Sony:

  1. The PS4 is 5 years old – Let’s face it, the PS4 isn’t getting any younger. It did receive a facelift in the form of the PS4 Pro but, let’s be honest, there isn’t too astronomical a difference between the base model and the Pro. Sure, the Pro does output resolution close to the 4K mark but it didn’t really convince that many people to abandon their vanilla PS4’s. Let’s also remember that both the PS1 and PS2 had lifespans of 6 years while the PS3 lasted 7 years (though there were extenuating circumstances in this instance, i.e. the Great Recession). If Sony follows the pattern, the PS4 is ripe for a successor very soon. Although Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO John Kodera said it would likely be 2021 before the PS5 releases, I think this is a load of bull given PlayStation’s history. My money is on the PS5 appearing way before 2021.
  2. No PSX and a lackluster E3 – Sony recently announced that their fan-centric PSX (PlayStation Experience) would not happen this year despite it being a staple of the PlayStation brand from 2014 to 2017 (I know the event started during the PS2 era but we’re focusing on the PS4 here). Sony has used PSX this generation to make big announcements (like The Last of Us: Part II) and to allow fans a chance to try upcoming games. The omission of this event in 2018 leads me to believe that Sony has no more big announcements left for the PS4. This seems even more credible given the fact that Sony only displayed 4 first-party games during ES 2018: one of them, Spiderman, is already out; The Last of Us: Part II will more than likely release next year (I would bet money on it); who knows when Ghost of Tsushima will come out (though it almost looks like a next-gen game); and we all know Death Stranding has several more years of celebrity trailers before Hideo Kojima unleashes it upon the world. A lowkey E3 along with no PSX 2018 leads me to believe that the PS5 is right around the corner.
  3. Persistent Rumors – Both of the reasons listed above seem like enough evidence but I also want to address the rumors swirling around. We all know that rumors can’t be taken at face value but they just keep appearing. It really started back in March when a leaker with record for getting things right stated that PS5 dev kits had been shipped to third-party publishers. If true, that would mean Sony already has a prototype to get the ball rolling and is making sure its publishing partners are ready to go when the PS5 releases. Always remember though to take these rumors with a grain of salt. Even I will admit that the first two reasons I’ve listed are way more credible than this here rumor section.

 Microsoft:

  1. They’ve killed before – This reason is a little tongue in cheek but it doesn’t make it less real: Microsoft isn’t afraid to kill off consoles. Remember the original Xbox One? Yeah, Microsoft halted production of it right around the time the Xbox One X released. And the Kinect? It was discarded so fast that it almost dragged the OG Xbox One out with it. And let us not forget the OG Xbox console. It lasted a paltry four years before it was cast aside to make way for the Xbox 360. As I have hopefully demonstrated, Microsoft is willing to do anything necessary to ensure it can make money and compete in the console marketplace. As we know all too well, the Xbox One family of consoles is lagging far behind the PS4 in terms of sales so it is a prime target for Microsoft. I will say that, if Microsoft does unveil a new console for 2019, their management team must have huge balls given the fact they released the $500 Xbox One X in late 2017.
  2. Phil Spencer speaks and Scarlett rumors follow – As mentioned at the beginning of this post, Phil Spencer himself, the Head of Xbox, already announced at E3 2018 that Microsoft is developing new consoles. I don’t remember a company ever announcing that it was actively working on new hardware while still trying to sell you the current model. This may be unprecedented. Phil even went on to defend himself on a YouTube video saying that the Xbox One is getting old and no one should be surprised the company is ready to move on (this goes along with the first point I made with Sony). Not only this, but a few months after E3, rumors began circulating about a project within Microsoft with the codename Scarlett. The rumors suggest that there will be two Xbox consoles next time around: a traditional box and a device for streaming games. If true, it will be interesting to see if this strategy pays off.
  3. XO18 and studio expansion – Microsoft made the announcement relatively recently that it was bringing back an event that it hasn’t held in five years: the XO events. Similar to PSX, these events were geared towards fans and featured some hefty announcements (the purchase of Rare was announced at XO2). Phil Spencer himself will be present at XO18 in Mexico City on November 10th and he has promised that there will be first-party announcements. Depending on what is announced, this would be very surprising to me since Microsoft just recently expanded its first-party studio portfolio. Most of the studios the company purchased have released games over the past year so I wouldn’t think they’d be ready to reveal anything yet. Who knows, maybe Microsoft has a trick up its sleeve or its just trying to build hype over a whole bunch of nothing. Rumors (again, take them with a grain of salt) do imply that Microsoft has been on a hiring spree internally and that may mean projects are further along than I expected. Hopefully, we’ll finally learn what that second team at Playground Games has been working on. At any rate, all the noise being created around XO18 gives me the impression that Microsoft may show more than just games at that event.

*Bonus Reason*

This piece of evidence applies to both Sony and Microsoft. AMD’s CEO Lisa Su said that her company is working with both console manufacturers to perfect each one’s “secret sauce” for their next consoles. This is probably the best piece of evidence that I have for why I think the consoles are coming in 2019, not 2020. This is an outside company openly stating that it is actively helping with the development of consoles. Now, I don’t know how long it usually takes to develop a new console but this definitely means hardware releases are imminent. It’s only a matter of time before we see them in the wild.

 

What do you all think about the next generation? Is it coming sooner rather than later or do you think I’m crazy? Are you even ready for the next generation? Let me know and thanks for reading!

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