Sony has joined Microsoft in announcing that its next-generation console will be launching during the holiday season in 2020, as we all expected. The focus and hype is now on late next year rather than the current batch of upcoming PS4 releases. Considering how many games Sony has still releasing on its current home console, that is a bigger issue than one would expect. Despite PlayStation head honcho Jim Ryan and tech wiz Mark Cerny talking candidly about some aspects of the PS5 recently, there are decidedly more questions than answers at this early stage. By slowly putting out information on the system, Sony allows possible consumers to take in every feature and function of the future hardware. However, it also gives us more time to speculate, and potentially worry about what it will offer once it finally releases late next year.
The PS5 release date overshadows all of Sony’s upcoming PS4 releases
From recent history, we can expect one thing from the PlayStation 5’s launch line-up: a whole lot of ports and cross-generation games that will release on both the new system and its predecessor. Last time around, a few developers offered incentives for PlayStation 3 owners to upgrade their game to the PS4 version for a fee, but it wasn’t implemented widely. For many, buying a PS3 title late in the system’s lifespan was a mistake as they got an inferior version.
One thing we do know about the PS5 is that the device will be backwards-compatible with PS4 titles. So, at the very least, we know that the new system will be able to play these games that are releasing in this awkward interim period. That’s better than the situation was last gen, but there is still no word yet if Sony will offer free upgrades from PS4 to PS5 versions or what games will be coming to the system at all.
This uncertainty will cause some players to just wait to experience the upcoming exclusives. After all, if you could just wait a few months and potentially get better playing versions of The Last of Us 2, Ghost of Tsushima (if it happens to release by then), and Death Stranding, then the most patient people will be rewarded. Sony’s best bet to sell the PlayStation 5 at launch is to have it running the best versions of the most anticipated titles. Will everyone wait? Of course not, as people are impatient and there is no guarantee there will be PS5 versions.
But there’s a fog of uncertainty remains over top of them as players will have to wonder what resisting the urge to buy these games gets them. Perhaps the publisher is banking on people double dipping, as they did assuredly did with The Last of Us. After all, a PS5 port with included multiplayer would be a good reward for those who waited. And given the aforementioned history of early cycle remasters, they’re likely prospects and the mist surrounding them gives players an unwanted dilemma to contend with. This desire to get the best experience may also stem from the recent string of poor console versions — something the PS5’s power could assuredly avoid.
What Sony needs to do, and it doesn’t have to be immediately, but sooner rather than later, is to lay out their plan for how cross-gen titles will work on the system. If Sony reveals that it will follow in the footsteps of the PlayStation 4 Pro, which stopped developers from putting upgrades behind a paywall, then consumers won’t have much of an issue, and Sony could easily announce that all first-party titles will come with a free upgrade. However, things get much trickier when it comes to third-party titles as porting to a new console takes money and resources, and companies will want to make up that cost via any way that is possible. Ultimately, the situation is murky because there’s no perfect solution that pleases everyone, but consumers will need more information so they can make an informed decision as the PS5 release date nears.
The fact that this is something consumers need to worry about in general is a bit of a bummer. We’re in a great period of gaming where consumers get to see developers using every ounce of the current hardware. Late in a system’s lifespan is usually where some of the best games are released, and there’s no shortage of wonderful Sony swan songs that demonstrate that like God of War 2 and The Last of Us. These games, which have taken thousands of hours of work, should be what fans are focusing on rather than business strategies and possible ports and how long they could wait to play a better version. Remasters or upgrades of games don’t usually have to contend with this predicament but the stronger hardware on the horizon combined with Sony’s lineup of prestige titles in the next year makes this hard to not think about. The timing is key.
Microsoft isn’t facing the same scenario as Sony due to its past decisions and infrastructure
In stark contrast to PlayStation’s dilemma sits Microsoft, which will also be launching Project Scarlett in the holiday season of 2020. Sure, the company still has the same issue with third-party releases, but there is a way to experience its first-party titles without making a significant $60 purchase. This is referring to Game Pass, the Xbox’s signature subscription service that packs in all of Microsoft’s new releases and many of their past titles for just $9.99. Game Pass subscribers don’t have to worry about where they purchase Bleeding Edge, Psychonauts 2, Battletoads, or Ori and the Will of the Wisps as they know they’ll have access to them regardless of console.
Microsoft has also shown a willingness to put a ton of work into free updates. After the Xbox One X released, the console maker released a number of updates exclusive to the system. This wasn’t just for Xbox One titles, but Xbox 360 and original Xbox games also played better on the system. Phil Spencer and company have been trying to build good will with the system’s user base, so it is easy to assume that any Project Scarlett versions of titles will also be a free upgrade. It isn’t a certainty until it is confirmed by Microsoft, but it certainly fits the company’s consumer friendly modus operandi at the moment.
There is so much to be excited about for the PS5, but the slow drip of information has also created an unfortunate uncertainty that needs to be addressed by Sony. If the console maker doesn’t do it soon, then it will impact its most important PS4 releases as some players will probably opt to wait for a potential better version that will release in the future. Some people might be able to wait, but some won’t. A little clarification will go a long way in this case, and hopefully Sony has a plan that will please those that have stuck with them and plan to be an early adopter next gen.