Sony has indicated it is in the midst of creating the follow-up to the PlayStation 4. Speaking in an interview with the Financial Times, company president Kenichiro Yoshida said “at this point, what I can say is it’s necessary to have a next-generation hardware,” but stopped short of outright saying a PlayStation 5 is in development.
The statement isn’t exactly a surprise, given that Sony is constantly thinking about new hardware and another PlayStation is all but guaranteed after the success of the PS4. However, the fact that Yoshida has publicly referenced next-generation hardware and Sony’s need for it could be an indication of where the company feels the PS4 is in its life, as well as an acknowledgement that a successor is in the works.
The PS4 is five years old now, having been released in 2013 and, traditionally, Sony’s platforms have a lifecycle of around six years. This was the gap between the original PlayStation and the PlayStation 2. Six years after the PS2, the PlayStation 3 launched, with the PS4 following seven years after that. However, GPU and CPU technology is advancing at a much quicker rate than ever before, as is internet speed. On top of this, the way content is delivered and consumed has shifted significantly and is on the cusp of doing so again, with advances in game streaming.
Developers, meanwhile, seem to already be thinking about new hardware. At E3 2018 Bethesda announced Starfield, a new game from the team behind The Elder Scrolls. In an interview with GameSpot, Bethesda Game Studios’ creative director Todd Howard said that the team is thinking about the best way to realise its vision for Starfield and, should it be necessary, will forego releasing it on PS4 and Xbox One to achieve this. Bethesda also confirmed a new Elder Scrolls title was on the way at E3 2018. However, it didn’t mention what platforms it is being developed for.
Bethesda is one of the studios that has been briefed on Sony’s plans. Marketing executive Pete Hines said in September that he knows “some stuff” about new hardware, both from Sony and Microsoft, but didn’t provide any further insight.
Furthermore, CD Projekt Red has been coy about what platforms Cyberpunk 2077 will be available for. By all accounts, the slice of gameplay it has shown feels next-gen, especially if it that level of quality is going to be extrapolated into a bigger open-world.
Although there are no further details from Sony on its next-generation hardware, citing “people in the games publishing industry with knowledge of Sony’s plans for a future console” the Financial Times says it “might not represent a major departure from the PS4, and that the fundamental architecture would be similar.”
In May 2018, Sony’s head of PlayStation, John Kodera, said the company “will use the next three years to prepare the next step, to crouch down so that we can jump higher in the future.” This would mean new hardware would arrive in 2021 at the earliest.
To date there have two revisions on the original PS4 model. Although the PS4 Slim packed the same hardware in a smaller form factor, the PS4 Pro featured beefier hardware to support 4K output. Microsoft, meanwhile, has released the same number of revisions, with the Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X.
For its part, Microsoft is making moves towards diversifying where its games can be played. Although it currently enables some games to be played on Xbox One and PC through its Xbox Play Anywhere program, the newly announced Project xCloud will push further into mobile devices. New gaming hardware from Microsoft is pretty much a given, much like a new PlayStation is, but as of yet Microsoft has not indicated when it wants to launch a new platform.
In November, Microsoft will host XO18, an event described as a “global celebration of all things Xbox.” It may be that we get further insight into its plans there.