The PlayStation 4 came out nearly five years ago. The same can be said of the Xbox One – the two video game consoles were announced and launched in 2013 with similar specs and target audiences.
Five years is a long time in a console’s life span.
Normally, both consoles would be looking at their golden years right around now – finally low enough in price for anyone to buy, large libraries of great games from years of availability, and even better stuff coming in the near future.
Five years into the PlayStation 2’s existence, it had three great “Grand Theft Auto” games, with “God of War 2” still on the horizon. Five years into the Xbox 360’s existence, it had two great “Halo” games, with a new “Grand Theft Auto” on the horizon. In both cases, we were already hearing about – officially or unofficially – the consoles that were going to replace them.
But that isn’t the case just yet for the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, to say nothing of Nintendo’s still-new Switch console. In all cases, it looks as if we’ll be living with the latest crop of home game consoles for the foreseeable future – and there are several good reasons.
What we “know” about the next PlayStation based on the scant reports thus far:
- Ben Gilbert / Business Insider
Does a theoretical “PlayStation 5” exist? Probably! It takes years of research and development, planning, discussion, design, and much more to shepherd a new game console into existence. There were most likely talks of the PlayStation 4’s successor during the development of the PlayStation 4 itself.
Is the PlayStation 5 coming out anytime soon? Probably not!
That’s the long and the short of the latest scuttlebutt, reported by Kotaku’s Jason Schreier earlier this month. According to his piece, work is underway on a new console in Sony’s PlayStation line – a full-on successor to the PlayStation 4, not a half step like the PlayStation 4 Pro.
But it’s still early days, and most game developers he spoke with had heard nothing.
That’s reflected in a recent interview at the annual GamesBeat conference with the former Sony Interactive Entertainment president Andrew House – his first interview since leaving Sony at the end of 2017. “I’m very bullish on longer life cycles for consoles,” House said.
He wouldn’t give up any details on a potential PlayStation 5 console, saying he was “no longer in a position to comment on those matters.” He did say he expected future game consoles to continue using discs of some form, though he specifically pointed out that his statement was not based on knowledge of Sony’s plans for a new PlayStation console.
Why it’s unlikely that a PlayStation 5 is coming out anytime soon:
Less than two years ago, Sony launched the PlayStation 4 Pro, a more powerful update to the PlayStation 4. It plays the same games but makes them look prettier and load more quickly.
It’s a kind of half step up, in terms of horsepower, from the PlayStation 4. If you’re buying a new PlayStation 4 at this point, and you have a 4K/HDR-capable television, you should buy a PlayStation 4 Pro.
Sony’s PlayStation 4 is in a strong position: Over 70 million consoles have been sold, putting Sony in first place by a long shot, and a relatively new PS4 console is on sale for the other 6.93 billion people who don’t own one yet. The company already has a large base of players to sell games to, and its hardware lineup is relatively fresh.
That means Sony can enjoy the higher profits that come with game and accessory sales while continuing to sell new consoles, thus increasing its userbase (which increases its number of potential game buyers, etc.).
In so many words: Why would Sony introduce a new console – even discuss one – at this point? It doesn’t make a lot of sense. It would risk burning a huge audience.
What we “know” about the next Xbox based on the scant reports thus far:
Not to burst any bubbles, but there are literally no rumors or whispers or blurry images or credible forum posts or whatever else about a new Xbox console. We’re talking strictly hardware here – there are no reports of development kits being sent out, no talk of specs a new Xbox console might have.
There is, however, a lot to be inferred about the future of Xbox from Microsoft’s Xbox leader, Phil Spencer. He told Bloomberg in an interview last November that Microsoft was working on a service “that doesn’t require a console.”
Such a service – a Netflix-style streaming service for games – wouldn’t work for every game. Anything that requires pixel-perfect precision and/or reflexive timing may not work because of latency issues. But it could work for many games, and it could be Microsoft’s key to moving beyond console hardware.
It would also line up perfectly with Microsoft’s bigger-picture “play anywhere” strategy, which enables Xbox games to be played on a variety of devices (not just Xbox game consoles).
Why it’s unlikely that a new Xbox is coming out anytime soon:
Microsoft’s newest version of the Xbox One – the $500 Xbox One X – isn’t even a year old. Moreover, the newest version of the Xbox One is a powerhouse. On paper, it’s over six times as powerful as the original Xbox One.
In reality, that only matters so much – Microsoft promised that the Xbox One and the Xbox One X would always coexist. That means games that run on the Xbox One X will also have to also run on the Xbox One, which launched way back in 2013. That’s great for Xbox One owners but ultimately limits the Xbox One X.
In short: Developers can’t harness the full power of the Xbox One X. The same situation applies to Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro.
Both Sony and Microsoft made a necessary but limiting promise with their “step up” consoles. Cutting support for those step-up consoles by moving to a new generation of consoles this early, especially in the case of Microsoft’s still-very-new Xbox One X, would be a strong way to burn a lot of customers.
What we “know” about the next Nintendo console based on the scant reports thus far:
Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo is in a league of its own.
The Nintendo Switch is just over one year old, and it’s still a hot commodity with no signs of slowing. Nintendo had to readjust its sales expectations for the first year of the Switch. It’s the fastest-selling Nintendo console of all time: Nintendo sold just shy of 15 million Switch consoles in its first nine months on sale.
The Switch is a home console as well as a portable console. That’s meaningful for many reasons, but one is especially important for Nintendo: When owners of Nintendo’s 3DS or 2DS are looking for a new portable console, or their first home console (or both!), the Switch is an obvious transition.
Beyond that, the Switch already has a tremendous library of exclusive games – including “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” “Super Mario Odyssey,” and “Splatoon 2,” and that’s before we start talking about big coming games like “Metroid Prime 4” and “Super Smash Bros.”
Nintendo isn’t coming out with a new console anytime soon, but just in case that mountain of evidence isn’t enough, The Wall Street Journal had a report back in March confirming as much. “Changes to the Switch itself – like a smaller version of the machine – were unlikely this year as Nintendo focuses on better manufacturing and shipping of the current model,” the Journal report said.
BONUS: Nintendo is working on developing new hardware for the Switch, but in a new way for the 100-plus-year-old Japanese company.
In a strange twist, Nintendo is apparently working with a San Francisco-based venture firm named Scrum Ventures to identify startups interested in creating Nintendo Switch hardware. The startups are specifically focused on creating “technologies that could lead to new experiences on Nintendo Switch.” Sounds like peripherals!
Since the Switch has Bluetooth connectivity, a USB-C port, and an auxiliary port, it’s possible to connect any number of devices to the console. Similarly, if the console is “docked” for home use, you can access standard USB and USB-C ports.
It’s unclear what type of technology Nintendo is looking for, but it’s clear from the coming Labo project that the company is open to experimentation. When Labo launches on April 20, Switch owners will be able to build cardboard game peripherals for use with their console – like so:
While it’s unlikely that Nintendo is replacing the Switch with new console hardware anytime soon, it’s likely that we’ll see new hardware of some type from the company in the not-so-distant future.