In Depth: Sony PS5: what will PlayStation 5 be like and when will we see it?

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Update: E3 2016 came and went without any sign of the PS5. Sony’s announcements this year focused more on the titles gamers could look forward to around the holidays, with the only hardware news coming in the form of a definitive release date for PlayStation VR. That said, don’t give up hope. The rumored PS4.5 has been confirmed by Sony execs who said that while the system does exist, they are unready to show it off at this time. We’ll update this article as we learn more.

PS5

It probably won’t happen this year, but the PS5 is almost guaranteed to arrive on shelves eventually. Yep, we’d bet our game collection that the Sony PlayStation 5 is probably in development right now.

How can we be so sure?

The PlayStation 4 has now sold 35 million units worldwide and has shown no sign of slowing down. There are plenty of excellent games still to come on this generation of hardware (see: the best games on PS4), but the next iteration is right around the bend.

Our wish list for an eventual PS4 update includes HDMI 2.0 connections and an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for 4K playback, something that should absolutely be possible on Sony’s next-generation of hardware.

On the software side of things, Sony has done a fantastic job re-working and improving the PS4 over the past two years – PlayStation Now, pre-loading games, YouTube streaming and PlayStation TV to name but a few additions – and we hope that trend will continue long after the PS4 runs its course.

There’s a chance the PlayStation 5 will be the big, component-packed box we’ve grown accustomed to heating our living rooms. But it also could be a palm-sized streaming device or dive even deeper into the world of game streaming skipping traditional hardware systems altogether. There are a half-dozen equally likely scenarios about how Sony can change its system, however, if we were a betting site, it’s unlikely that the PS5 will change too much.

Why? Sony isn’t big on change.

Gazing back 20 years to the original PlayStation and its successors – yes, you’re that old – it’s fascinating how little really changed until the internet explosion of the last few years.

That puts the PS5 in a strange position. When the time comes for a new system in the next five to 10 years, will Sony take this opportunity to change its platform forever or will it stick to its guns?

Here’s what Sony needs to place at the top of the priority list for its next system.crash bandicoot

Discs are so 20 years ago

Now that PlayStation Now and streaming capabilities are the norm rather than the exception, shouldn’t we scrap the disc drive already?

We can hear it from here. Despite the magazine dropping the legendary demo disc in the middle of last year, ex editor of Official PlayStation Magazine, Ben Wilson disagrees.

“Steam on PC has taught us that disc drives are becoming less and less necessary, but I can’t see them being phased out completely for a while yet,” he says.

“People love their boxed products, and ‘experts’ have been predicting the ‘imminent’ demise of the CD for more than 20 years. Remind me how that one has turned out? There will always be those who prefer special editions and sexy packaging to invisible downloads, and it’s those guys and girls who’ll ensure disc drives live on within gaming in some form.”

Looking at the ages of the people investing in technology (that’s us remember, and let’s be honest, we’re not getting any younger) we do still have the desire to buy physical products despite their ready availability online.

But it’s not just PlayStation (and better pricing on the PlayStation Store) that needs to evolve here. Our broadband speeds largely still leave much to be desired and a solid online infrastructure will have to be implemented before we depend solely on fibre-optic wires to get our gaming fix.

Adding an extra hurdle to a disc-less world, there’s yet another reason why the upcoming preloading feature will be like a gift from the PlayStation gods: size.

“I’d argue that the ever-expanding size of games would cause significant issues for a digital-only machine,” says Matt Pellett, current editor of Official PlayStation Magazine.”Both in terms of download times and the number of games people could store on their hard drive at any one time.”

Of course, there are also Ultra HD Blu-rays to consider. These high-capacity discs can store 50-100GB of data, and considering how intricate games are becoming, it’s the sort of media we’ll need our next next-gen games to be shipped on. But the discs are part-and-parcel with the player itself.

Sony is quite likely to want to keep momentum going with the new disc format too and so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see it wanting to do that with a UHD Blu-ray drive in the next version of the PlayStation.

With the new PS4.5 promising support for 4K resolutions, we wouldn’t be surprised if the new UHD Disc format ended up making it into a PlayStation before the PS5.

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PlayStation Now is the time

Sony’s PlayStation release dates

PS5 dualshock 5
  • PlayStation: 1994
  • PlayStation 2: 2000
  • PlayStation 3: 2006
  • PlayStation 4: 2013
  • PlayStation 5: ?

Then again, Sony already has a solution to its physical media problem with PlayStation Now. Game size? No problem. It’s all in the cloud.

But what about choice? If it wanted to, Sony could fill it with every game from its back catalog.

“If we end up in a place where streaming games is the norm, like it has become in the movie/box-set rental market, then the console itself is under threat,” says PC Gamer’s resident tech expert Dave James. “And if there’s no actual console, what do the developers target and what do they develop on and how does Sony make its money?”

So while a physical console still seems the most attractive prospect here for Sony, PlayStation Now seems an excellent solution as an additional feature, especially for accessing games from previous generations that saves you blowing the dust off that enormous original PS2 you’ve not been able to say goodbye to.

Another matter is the thorny issue of cost. If we’ve shelled out for the newest console, what’s the sting for the back catalogue?

“The big talking point of the PlayStation Now has been the price-point,” says Pellett. “Sony needs to get this right in order to be as competitive in the streaming market as it is in the console hardware market. With Sony’s library of games and the ability for people to revisit the games they can’t play on PS4 – and in some cases can’t buy these days – it could become a hugely important part of the PlayStation family.”

The suggestion of the PlayStation family here is important. Sony has already started shipping TVs with Playstation Now built in, and Samsung has also gotten in on the action, but this won’t be a replacement for the PS5 or any future consoles.

Too much rests on the power from our home consoles as new tech appears on the horizon. Yes, we’re looking at you Playstation VR.