As the past year has shown us, we gamers are living in strange times. As we get closer to the E3 expo in June, rumors are circulating about the announcement of the mythical PlayStation 5, and whether or not we should expect any news — or even a release date — in 2017. Fortunately, this is a topic that we can speculate on, even as the gaming scene has been made tumultuous by recent shakeups in console releases.
PlayStation 4 Pro? Xbox Scorpio? PlayStation 5? There are some connections to be made between these things, and evidence to suggest when (or if) we should expect to see the PS5. If that’s a topic on your radar lately, read on for details!
Where’s The Playstation 5?!?!
Iterative console releases aren’t necessarily a new thing. Ever since the PlayStation 2 first landed, we’ve been seeing incremental upgrades to consoles made during their relevant life cycle, and sometimes even after a successor console has been released. After all, the “slim” PS2 continued to sell quite well even after the PlayStation 3 was released, and the same goes for that skinny version of the PS3 once the market got its first taste of the PlayStation 4. Even though that standard has been around for years, however, it’s being changed by the gaming console giants.
In late 2016, we saw the release of the PlayStation 4 Pro. This year, we’re hearing more and more about the powerful upgrade to the Xbox One platform, still mysteriously titled “Scorpio.” The coming E3 conference in June is going to give us more of the relevant details about this interesting scene, but the past year has already shown us quite a lot about how things are going to shape up, and the path forward console manufacturers are opting for.
Even Nintendo, not regarded for producing the most powerful hardware, has been playing the console iteration game. In some ways, they’ve been doing it even longer than Sony.
- Remember the Game Boy?
- Remember the Game Boy Micro?
- Game Boy Color?
- Game Boy Advance?
- Game Boy Advance SP?
- What about the Nintendo 3DS, and the 3DS XL, and the 2DS, and the New Nintendo 3DS, and the various sizes that it was available in.
There’s a point to this, of course. It’s tempting to think that consoles have been releasing in various versions for a long time, and thus nothing is new beneath the sun.
Below, we’re going to paint that in a slightly different light.
Above, we’ve pointed out some of the most prominent examples of console iteration, during respective lifecycles. However, there’s one critical detail that unifies each of those examples, that wasn’t mentioned. All of them, except for one.
Most of the time, when we see different versions of game consoles, we can trust in one thing — they’re all able to play the same exact games. Whether you had a PlayStation 2 or a PlayStation 2 Slim, you were still able to play every game from the PS2 library without any trouble. The same could be said for the PS3 and PS3 Slim, or even the Xbox One and Xbox One S, released last year. Though all of these machines stack up differently next to each other, they all work to support their respective game libraries.
The big outlier from our list above is actually the New Nintendo 3DS XL. It was an iterative evolution of the portable 3DS console, but it featured an upgraded processor and memory. Thus, it could run 3DS games better than any other version of the console. And in addition to that, one game was released that was exclusively available to the new version, due to its upgrades in graphics and processing fidelity.
It was only one game because as it turned out, that concept wasn’t particularly popular among people who didn’t feel like buying another version of the same console, upgraded or not.
PS4 Pro & Xbox Scorpio
It wasn’t the last time that we’d be seeing more powerful hardware packed into iterative upgrades. The PlayStation 4 Pro is significantly more powerful than its predecessor, but Sony has managed to avoid infuriating its current user base by promising that all future games will be playable on both consoles — the Pro and the original. The Pro is simply capable of playing them better.
Microsoft has made similar promises with its upcoming Project Scorpio console. It’s a long-promised upgrade to the Xbox One, which is of comparable strength to the PS4. However, the Xbox Scorpio is going to be markedly more powerful than even the PlayStation Pro 4; it’s positioned to become the most powerful (and most expensive) console on the market. Like Sony, Microsoft has promised that all Xbox One games will remain playable on the original console, and the Scorpio will simply play them better. “Better,” in these circumstances, means playing games at a sustained 60 frames-per-second at 4k resolution. It’s a claim to be skeptical of, being that even gaming PCs with a price tag of $1000 and higher cannot achieve such graphics fidelity, in most circumstances.
There’s a lot to unpack in this situation, and a lot to speculate on. Sure, Microsoft and Sony have both promised that all games will be playable on original and “upgraded” versions of its consoles, but there’s a big difference between a game being playable and a game running excellently. Are we going to reach a time when we’ll have to shell out for a “Pro” version of popular consoles if we want to enjoy high-fps, graphically superior experiences?
Of course, PC gamers are already somewhat used to this. They don’t work in console generations, so much as they upgrade the internal hardware of their computers to meet the demands of the newest games. It’s not iterative, so much as it’s constantly evolving. And many in the industry speculate that consoles are heading in the same direction, with one great big caveat keeping the situations different — the internal components of consoles can’t be upgraded, and thus upgrading a console experience means purchasing an entirely new machine. A PC gamer can simply purchase a new graphics card, or more RAM, or any number of other, less impactful upgrades spread out across several years.
What Does This Mean for the Average Gamer?
For the average gamer, this means that we don’t exactly know what the future holds. Console manufacturers always hold all of the cards, but that’s never been so evident as it is right now. The promises that have been made about games being supported across many console iterations are vague, at best.
It’s possible that we might not even see numbered console releases, any further.
- What if there was no PlayStation 5, or Xbox 720 (or whatever Microsoft decides to call it.)
- Imagine a market where consoles were only slight upgrades from a previous version, but they were steadily able to access more games?
- That’s an exciting prospect as much as it’s a troubling one. And for gamers who are accustomed to enjoying their hobby on a leaner budget, it’s hard not to see it as alarming.
What does this mean for the PlayStation 5? That’s hard to say, but there’s plenty of room to speculate. After all, the Xbox Scorpio is definitely going to be showcased at E3, and Nintendo has just released a new console in the form of the Switch — and it might just be one of the best selling consoles of all time.
This leaves plenty of room for Sony to start making announcements, but should we expect to hear such news so soon after the release of the PlayStation 4 Pro? That’s a difficult sell, especially to those who might have shelled out big bucks to get their hands on the upgraded console. But on the other hand, Microsoft’s flagship platform is about to pull ahead in a big way.
Because speculation is all we’ve got, here is where this author is, right now — we should not expect to see a PlayStation 5 announcement this year. Moreover, it might even be two years before we even see such a console. Here’s the reasoning:
First, we have to look at how much the average consumer is willing to pay for a home console. The $300 to $450 mark seems to be the sweet spot, but the amount of power that can be fitted to a machine at that cost does not provide a significantly better gaming experience than we already have. In fact, that’s why we’re skeptical of the Xbox Scorpio. Microsoft has not announced a price for the console, but even PC gamers have to use a very high-end graphics card to achieve true 4k gaming at a reliably stable framerate. It requires the use of a GPU equivalent to Nvidia’s recent GTX 1080 and examining the prices on that hardware, it’s already priced at $500 and higher.
And if 4k is the next full-stop for graphics expectations in games, we’re still a considerable distance from making such experience affordable for console gamers. By this reasoning alone, we should not only stop expecting to see the PS5 this year, we should remain incredibly skeptical of Xbox Scorpio’s ability to fulfill its claims.
Of course, the fact that we’re so lacking in any details about this hypothetical console should clue everyone into the fact that we don’t have a release date. And because the console market is currently so volatile, it’s utterly impossible to predict when we might see such a machine. If past precedence is anything to go off of, we might expect to hear announcements next year (2018) and then a release the subsequent year (2019.) Speaking purely through speculation, this would give current technology a chance to reach that perfect, affordable price point for another compelling home console.
Even though we might be living in troubling times as fans of game consoles, it’s also a good time to be excited about what’s to come. We probably won’t see the PlayStation 5 in 2017, but if anything groundbreaking gets announced in 2017 (release dates or news) we’ll be sure to update this article to reflect it!