Is The Message

Sony Is Going In A Surprising New Direction With The PS5

Sony Is Going In A Surprising New Direction With The PS5

This is how Sony and Microsoft are going to reveal their next-generation consoles: slowly. Both have been peeking out with vague confirmations and promises, still far short of a full reveal but gradually making the presence of the PS5 and Xbox’s Project Scarlett known. And now both are doing a slow burn of a press tour, seemingly preparing the public for the eventual announcement leading into release. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal is one of the more interesting that we’ve seen from this current process, with Sony spending some time talking about not just what this machine will be able to do, but who will want to buy it.

In the report, Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida describes the product as something for “hardcore gamers who obsess over the latest features” continuing to say that it will be “ a niche product aimed at serious players”, saying that the company is aiming at an older, more mature audience than competitor Nintendo, which seems like it’s going to keep doing brisk business with the Switch. This means more of the sort of big-budget AAA exclusives that Sony has become known for over the past two generations, and less of the indie games that people can play on their phone or on their Switch. 

In some ways, this is the only thing that makes sense. A launch console is always an enthusiast product, typically coming in with a weak software lineup and appealing to people who absolutely need the latest hardware and can get everything ready for the mass market as they gradually sign on board. But the video game industry is constantly changing and expanding, and so the logic here is even more important than usual. In a world with more gaming options than ever, even the manufacturer of the most popular console brand on the market needs to think about who it’s appealing to beyond simply people that want to play console games.

This is both a natural evolution of the PlayStation brand and a shift in messaging. The original PlayStation was a successful mass-market device, but it was the PS2 that saw the widest appeal thanks in no small part to a feature that made it successful with a lot more people than just those that wanted to play Metal Gear Solid 2: at the time it was one of the cheapest and best DVD players could buy, and that helped rocket it to more than 150 million units sold.

Things shifted a bit after that. The PS3 was definitely an enthusiast product, something that you could tell just by looking at its launch price tag. But the PS4 has unquestionably dominated this generation, and after this it would have been easy to see how Sony could have doubled down on taking over the world: the company’s vision for a relatively straightforward box defined by top-flight exclusives struck a chord with gamers, and the company is going to continue going in that direction with the PS5. Which makes sense: the immediately apparently advantages from more powerful graphics technology are less and less striking every generation, and so it becomes more and more important to double down on enthusiast players when you’re trying to sell powerful tech.

The definition of “niche” is a funny one for a brand that’s likely going to hit 100 million units sold for the PS4. It’s a niche, sure, just a very big one. But while Sony would doubtless like to also sell 100 million units of the PS5, it knows that this thing is not necessarily going to be a true mainstream product at the beginning of its lifespan. We’ve seen what happens when Xbox tried to position a console as a mass-market device, and it didn’t end all that well.



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