As we move into the holiday season, many people hope for new hardware in some capacity: PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, or heck, maybe even Vita or 3DS. We also should not discount the interest in accessories (e.g., elite/SCUF controllers, storage, and so on). Point being, people love new hardware. Maybe you find yourself getting one of the aforementioned consoles because you want another one or the current software selection and hardware fit well into your budget. Whatever your reasons, good for you!
This time next year however, many gamers will know exactly what to expect in terms of specifications and price of next generation hardware: the PS5 and Xbox Project Scarlett. Personally, I believe that we will also see a beefed up Switch that acts as a dedicated console to compete more in terms of power with the PS5 and next Xbox (though I believe it will be somewhere in the neighborhood of Pro/One X power).
I already own a Switch and decided against Xbox next generation, so I will discuss some of the big and more nuanced expectations I have for Sony's next-generation machine. I will do this by focusing on statements made by Sony and rumors and provide my analysis for what that may entail.
1. "We want early adopters."
Sony stated that they wanted to hit the ground running next generation with as much early adoption as they can get. Because of that, I expect a number of things. First, I believe that means PS5 will be anywhere between $400 and $500. While $400 would be fantastic, we also need to give thought to the technology in the machine. Sony wants to give us a very powerful machine at a reasonable price, and I think an increase in cost is fair, considering what we are expected to get. Second, I think we will see mostly sequels in the early years of PS5. One of the surest ways to get people on board is to give them something familiar and loved, and launching with that is a great approach. Microsoft recognizes this by launching with Halo and Nintendo has launched Switch with Zelda. I expect Sony to launch for the first time in their console history with an exemplary arsenal. I happen to subscribe to the notion that BluePoint is working on a Demon's Souls remake, and if they are preparing something like that for launch, I think we will really see something for everyone. Though the SoulsBorne games have gained popularity in recent years, we can still treat them as niche titles. Accordingly, I sincerely think we will see a diverse megaton lineup very early into PS5's life. Third, I expect a pretty serious re-rollout of PS Now and PS Plus. I will say something that is potentially crazy, but here it is anyway: I think we may see either a reduction in the cost to play online or a return to PS3-style online with an omission of cost entirely to play. That in itself could really motivate the frequent multiplayer types to gravitate toward Sony's machine. To me, it makes sense, especially if Sony also feels the need to compete with Switch and their online entry fee, though a huge difference will be in availability of certain titles. Since we should not expect many multiplatform games on PS5 to also be on Switch, Sony in this context would really only need to focus on undercutting Xbox.
2. "History is an important part of PS5"
We heard some time ago that history would be an important component of PS5's approach. Sounds fantastic, but what exactly does that mean? Well, my expectations are a bit more nuanced in this regard. First, to start with the obvious, I think we are going to get a machine that is the real deal in terms of backwards compatibility - all the way back to PSOne. If I recall they did hire some members of the PS3 emulation community, which is more than a little suspicious. BUT to do that, there is another consideration that is never really talked about, which brings me to my second expectation: PS5's controller will return to the era of pressure-sensitive face buttons. Why? Because for backwards compatibility to work, it needs to be. My third expectation is that, continuing with my prior point, the patents suggest the light bar has been axed from the PS5's controller. Good riddance, I say. However, it would be necessary for PS4 games, and we know PS5 is backwards compatible with PS4 at least. Therefore, I think it is reasonable to believe that the PS5 will be able to support the Dualshock 4 (in fact, I seriously think it is required for PS4 games). Assuming backwards compatibility extends to PS3, I think you may also need the DS4 for PS3 titles too. Why, you ask? Well..here's a crazy thought: I do not believe that the DS5 will support motion controls. The controller itself seems really feature-rich already. Obviously though, in order for the PS5 to recognize these controllers, we need Bluetooth. Seems like a "duh" moment, but yeah, that would be an expectation. This is why I believe history is so important with PS5: you will need devices from PlayStation's history to utilize PS5 well. Onto the last thing about history: I think we can safely assume PS5 supports the DS4. And given that I also expect the controller features to vary where DS5 may not have motion control (and definitely not a light bar), I wonder if Sony will allow developers to choose which controller gamers will require for some PS5 games. In other words: if developers want to use the light bar for some games and motion controls, will they make it so that these PS5 games require a DS4? I don't really know and I think it is unlikely, but it could be, especially when you consider the emphasis on history. I do not believe this emphasis ends with backwards compatibility - in may in fact be a necessary component for the PS5 experience in this way. There is one more thing about history I want to touch on, and I will do it in the next section.
3. "Those storage cards patents"
To be honest, those cards that people are talking about do not really seem like storage solutions to me. I guess I cannot say I am convinced of this much yet. I do believe we will see some serious storage constraints on PS5 when we consider expected cost and how we will have the option of installing parts of the game instead of the whole thing. I do not think those cards are for storage exactly - not in the way you think, anyway. For storage expansion, I think we will see USB-C thunderbolt SSD support. It would be pretty criminal to deny that much to us. So what do I think those cards are for? Well...my theory is bizarre. One thing about Sony is that, in addition to doing their own thing, they also like to cover the bases offered by their competition. We saw this with VR (competing with PC), motion controls in the SIXAXIS/DS3 and PS Move (competing with Wii), and the updated PlayStation Eye (Kinect). And so, I think those cards are meant to compete with Switch and xCloud. How exactly? I actually believe the Dualshock 5 is a smart controller in every sense of the word, and that hole on the bottom is related to those cards. I actually think it attaches like a dongle and can store games where you can use your phone's screen so you can take it on the go. This can be accomplished via Bluetooth, and would actually justify my thinking that they would remove motion controls from the DS5 - after all, why would you shake a controller that has a dongle hanging from it? On top of that, with history being such an important piece - and this is where I get really crazy in my thinking - what if the full backwards compatibility is achieved natively and allows ALL games to be downloaded via PS Now instead of streamed and can be taken on the go? Naturally, there would be some restrictions to prevent piracy, but I think it is quite feasible. 25 years of PlayStation history on the go. Sony is not stupid. The PS3's launch withstanding, they have consistently kept their finger on the pulse, and I think they will see a remarkable spike in PS5 adoption and PS Now subscriptions if people can download games across the spectrum of PlayStation history and play them on the go. Sony must know that a big reason why PS Now has limited appeal is because not all games can be played locally and streaming is still not a perfect solution. This would be exactly how Sony can directly compete with Game Pass, xCloud, Stadia, and Switch in one move. I never subscribed to PS Now because I saw it as a service with very limited appeal, but this would really make it into something very competitive. I am not sure if I can call this an expectation, but it certainly is something that would be fascinating in competing with Switch and xCloud. The remaining question in this regard however is...how can we get such a device to play games necessitating motion controls or the light bar? I do not have an answer for that yet, so this would be a huge hole in my thinking.
As always, thank you for reading. Feel free to agree or disagree (amicably) in the comments. It would be very interesting to have some discourse on this, and I would love to hear all of your thoughts.