Rather unexpectedly, actual official news surrounding the upcoming next-generation PlayStation console was revealed in an interview conducted by Wired with none other than Sony executive Mark Cerny. This interview provided a startling amount of detail about what will be under the hood of the upcoming system: a new CPU and GPU by AMD with support for 8K resolutions and ray-tracing, a disc drive and seemingly new form of super-fast SSD storage, as well as support for 3D audio and even backward-compatibility with PS4 titles. These are all very cool details, but the way it’s been revealed is what’s truly surprising.
History shows that Sony typically saves its hardware announcements for big events, whether it be a trade show like E3 or a media briefing of its own. But in recent times, the company has been shying away from the public spectacle. It ditched its annual PlayStation Experience show last year (2018), and even more surprising, the company pulled out of E3 for 2019—which has never happened before. As shown by the aforementioned interview with Wired, Sony is clearly hard at work on its next system, but (until now) it’s remained relatively silent and is passing up a lot of opportunities to talk about its future in a big way. Why is that? Well, it seems reminiscent of what Nintendo did with the lead up to that of the Switch.
Nintendo took a very strange route with the Switch’s announcement and reveal when compared to not just past Nintendo systems, but consoles in general. The world first officially learned of the Switch all the way back in the Spring of 2015 under the enigmatic codename of “Nintendo NX”.
Learning from the other guys
The late Nintendo President Satoru Iwata first uttered the term at an investor’s briefing of all places, which is not typically a venue where Nintendo makes announcements of such high caliber. Nevertheless, he likely did it to prove to investors that Nintendo was still in it for the long run, as that was a dark period for the company when Wii U sales were at an all-time low. Still, the NX was never really brought up again in any major official capacity until all the way in late October of 2017 when Nintendo revealed it to the world as the “Nintendo Switch”. But, again, the way this was done was quite strange: it happened via a YouTube video. No keynote at a big event, or media conference—just a YouTube video.
While this approach was quite different, it still proved to be effective. The Switch quickly shot up all over the Internet and ended up releasing just less than five months later in March 2017. Actually, the Switch was never featured at a big trade show (minus a conference Nintendo held in January 2017) until after its retail release, which is again quite unorthodox. That clearly didn’t stop it from becoming a success, however, as its sales have remained very strong up until now. So, what does this mean for Sony?
No doubt Sony has kept a very close eye on how things have turned out for the Switch. After all, the speed of its sales—while not a big threat to the PS4—have still been quite notable. Thus, it doesn’t seem wrong to at least assume that this has influenced the decisions that we’ve seen the company make recently when it comes to attending and holding big media events. The fact that the first core details of the PS5 are coming in the form of a simple interview on a single website is evidence of this. But still, another question remains: why now?
Stirring the waters for the future
Well, since Sony isn’t coming to E3 this year anyway, it could have done this at any time. But, right now is a particularly good time because we’re still a few weeks away from E3, and once it kicks off, gamers’ attention will be focused on it. With both Microsoft and Nintendo promising to bring big things to the show, especially in Sony’s absence, it only makes sense that if Sony wanted to say anything, doing it far away from E3 would always have been the best option. But the fact that it chose to wait until before the show is still notable.
It is believed that Microsoft will unveil its own next-generation hardware at E3 2019, though it hasn’t confirmed this (but nor has this been denied). As for Nintendo, while it likely won’t release an entirely new system anytime soon, there have been heavy rumors of two new Switch models that could appear as early as this year. Thus, the point is new hardware for gamers is on the horizon, seemingly from all members of the ‘Big Three’.
Sony likely decided to peel back some of the PS5’s veil as a heavy tease to the gaming community just to pull the rug from under everyone’s feet. The surprise of it all makes it even more of a hot topic because now gamers will likely assume further reveals could happen at any time. Again, this is basically the same strategy Nintendo used.
Ready to strike at any time…
This is effective because now the thought of PS5 will be floating around every gamer’s mind whenever Microsoft and Nintendo’s new hardware is shown off. The promise that Sony is building up is a big one, and it’s enough to likely convince a lot of folks to perhaps even hold off on the other new systems just because they’ll want what Sony is making first. Basically, Sony has just sent out the equivalent of an earworm.
Considering that the PlayStation brand has remained the strongest in the gaming world for over two decades now, this makes the current situation all the better for Sony. It’s in stark contrast to Microsoft which will be spending its next hardware reveal trying to prove to the masses why it should be trusted, as not even the high-powered Xbox One X has been enough to convince people to switch over. And speaking of switches, the Nintendo Switch will look even more basic from a technical perspective once either of these newer systems hit the market. So, with this soft reveal, Sony has made a strategic play in the beginning game of the next generation console race. We now know that the PS5 is not going to be on shelves this year, but we also now know that we don’t know when we’ll actually see it—just that it’s coming, and it’s coming with a fierce vengeance.