Last week, Sony CEO John Kodera made waves while speaking to the Wall Street Journal when he said that the PlayStation 4 was entering the end of its life cycle. This was, of course, a very ambiguous statement with no exact timeline. It could suggest the arrival of PlayStation 5 would be next year or even in four or five years’ time. Personally, I think it would be a mistake for the new console to arrive before 2020. Let me explain.
The thing that should spur the dawn of a new generation is nothing to do with a set time period or just a desire for new hardware but a significant step in technology. With the first console generations, the timing of this step was obvious. When Nintendo brought out the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, and SEGA released the Genesis/Mega Drive, they moved from 8-bit technology to 16-bit. The next step was the 32-bit consoles which included the first PlayStation. Sony’s first foray into the home console market was released in 1994. It would be six years later that they would release the PlayStation 2.
The PS2 provided a couple of technological leaps. Not only did it move the PlayStation brand from a 32-bit system to a 128-bit system but it moved the optical media from CD-ROMs to DVD. Part of the reason that the PlayStation 2 became the best-selling console of all time was that it was an affordable and easy way to have a DVD player in your home. The extra power of this console allowed for truly 3D environments. There were 3D games on PS1 but they were very janky and rarely played well. The extra power, as well as the massively increased storage, of PlayStation 2 meant that developers could really immerse us in new worlds. It reigned supreme in the console market and was in production for an astonishing 13 years.
The PlayStation 2 generation was six years old when its successor the PlayStation 3 was released. While the PS3 was also a 128-bit system (that’s the level where processing bits would stay) it had 8 times as much system memory (a step up from 8MB to 256MB) and 16 times as much video RAM (a leap from 4MB to 256MB). Like its predecessor, the PS3 also brought in a new type of optical media with Blu-rays being preferred over DVDs. It also went from a 300MHz processor to a 3.2GHz model. All of this allowed a huge step up in graphical fidelity. The most noticeable being that High Definition visuals were possible. The PlayStation 3 also ushered in a real push for Sony’s PlayStation Network. Communications technology had moved on to the point where most people had a broadband connection which made online gaming something available to the masses and not just geeky PC aficionados.
The move to PlayStation 4 took seven further years. Sony’s current console was not that different on a base technological level to the PS3 but it did add more power and speed. RAM was bumped up from 256MB to 8GB and it was faster memory as well. Processor speed might look in isolation as though it was slower, down from 3.2GHz to 1.6GHz, but instead of just one core, the PS4 has eight of them. All of this is very impressive but for my money, the PlayStation 4 came a little early. There wasn’t a real technological leap forward. PS4 was targeting 1080p images which were something that PlayStation 3 was capable of. In my opinion, the mid-generation upgrade of the PlayStation 4 Pro is the console that should have been the step forward. The PS4 Pro is 4K capable. This is a true technological step forward. I’m not saying that the base PlayStation 4 isn’t a good machine, it’s just that I feel it should have been more. It might have meant that the PS3 generation of consoles would have lasted eight or nine years rather than seven but the way that both Sony and Microsoft both felt the need to do mid-generation upgrades does rather prove that they went too early.
All of this brings us up to date and I have to say I am more than happy with my PlayStation 4 Pro. Games like God of War and Horizon Zero Dawn look amazing on my big 4K television. My fellow Enthusiast, Brett, assures me that Detroit: Become Humanis jaw-droppingly gorgeous. And let’s not forget Spider-man coming later this year, that game looks incredible. I would be perfectly happy for Sony to ditch the base PlayStation 4 and focus on the Pro but the idea of moving on to PlayStation 5 seems premature. I realize that this generation is no longer in its infancy but how much of a step forward could it really provide. I remember when we were in the latter days of the PlayStation 3 generation thinking that PC games looked significantly better than anything us console gamers had but I really don’t feel that at the moment in this generation.
The PlayStation 5 will certainly hit stores at some point, I just hope it isn’t too soon. I want to be blown away (or at the very least majorly impressed) by the step up from this current generation and I don’t see that happening for a while yet. Microsoft may have stolen the title of “The world’s most powerful console” with the Xbox One X but that’s not a good enough reason to kick off the ninth generation (particularly as the improvement over PS4 Pro isn’t significant). It’s not even as though introducing a PlayStation 5 will offer a huge boost in revenue. The PS4 has been around long enough that the production costs will be low enough to allow a huge profit margin on each console sold. Please Sony, take your time and get it right the first time so we don’t require another mid-generation update.