The PlayStation 4 is still going strong, not least thanks to being reinvigorated by the launch of the Slim and Pro variants, along with PlayStation VR expanding the gaming potential of the system. Still, the games industry doesn’t tend to sit still for long, and we’re confident that deep in Sony’s HQ there are engineers quietly working on the PlayStation 5.
Whatever the PS5 ends up being, we can be pretty certain it’s still a good few years away, but why should that stop us rampantly speculating on what the next-gen console might feature? Obviously we’d expect some ramped up specs, but what other features could the PS5 include? Will it be portable like the Nintendo Switch, or feature built in virtual reality? We don’t know anything for sure yet, but we break down the possibilities as best we can right here.
Will there be a PlayStation 5?
With the growth of streaming services like PlayStation Now, many have speculated that physical consoles are a thing of the past. PlayStation Now is a cloud-based gaming service that lets you play PS3 (and soon PS4) games on the PS4 and PC, with all of the actual processing done on Sony’s servers – only the visuals and user input are sent back-and-forth.
Yet we still think there will be a PS5. Not only does the PS4 bring in a huge amount of profit, Sony boss Shuhei Yoshida has been quoted as saying the future of the PlayStation is up to developers.
“If they still feel that we need more machine power – ‘we want to realise this and that and that, but we cannot do it with the PS4’ – there’s a good reason to have the PS5 so developers can create their vision,” said Yoshida.
The PS4 is a powerful console, but unlike gaming PCs it doesn’t benefit from the possibility of regular processor and graphics updates. High-end gaming PCs have outperformed the PS4 for years, and even with the PS4 Pro the gap will only grow until one day we reach the stage where the PS4 is notably inferior to PCs, and then game developers will demand more power.
Plus, with PlayStation Now Sony will be able to keep customers happy by allowing them to continue using their PS4 games on a new PS5 without the worry of building in traditional backwards compatibility.
When is the PS5 release date?
As you’ll read below, we were fairly certain that the PS5 release date was still some time away. However, in a report by the WSJ, Macquarie Capital Securities analyst Damian Thong who correctly predicted the PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro launch dates has said Sony will launch the PlayStation 5 in 2018.
Sony President and CEO Shawn Layden in June 2017 told German site Golem.de that it would “probably be some time” before the reveal of the PS5.
This follows an earlier comment in early 2016 from Sony’s software product development head Scott Rhode, who told MTV: “Very soon we’ll start thinking about what we’ll do next. That’s the culture at Sony. We always have to do something that’s bigger and better than what’s already been done.”
Sony UK boss Fergal Gara added that “It’s probably a sign of the times and how much has changed in seven years, but I think the willingness and the appetite to pick up new technology fast has probably changed quite a bit.” For the next few years, though, he said Sony will be putting its weight behind the PS4.
Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot told Gamespot: “As Sony launched PlayStation 4 Pro last year and Microsoft Xbox One X this year, we think we still have a minimum of two years in front of us before something new is coming,” adding “But that’s our perception, we don’t have any confidential information on that front.”
The gaps between PlayStation releases have been getting longer and longer, so fans could indeed have a while to wait for the PS5. There were five years and three months between the original PlayStation and the PS2, then a further six years and eight months before the PS3. The PS4 came almost exactly seven years later, in November 2013, so we should probably expect to wait at least that long for the PS5 – suggesting the earliest likely release would be November 2020.
Games consoles are naturally long-lifecycle products, with customers investing considerable expense in both the platform and its proprietary titles. However, Sony is reportedly working on shorter timeframes between its PlayStation launches.
That’s the thinking of Macquarie Capital Securities analyst Damian Thong, who told the WSJ he thinks we could see a PS5 announcement as early as 2018! He came through with his release date predictions for the PS4 Pro and Slim, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed he is third-time lucky.
Of course, we’ll update this article as soon as more concrete details on the PS5 release date are available.
Also see: Best games consoles
How much will it cost?
Without knowing exactly what’s on offer, it’s impossible to accurately predict how much the PS5 will cost. With the PS2 costing £300, the PS3 £425 and the PS4 £349, we can only assume Sony will stick around the £400 mark. After all, it has other consoles and gaming PCs with which to compete.
What design can we expect?
Concept images of the PS5 have already popped up on the web, including those used to illustrate this article (courtesy of David Hansson). We suspect it will retain the black box, blue light theme, but will be sleeker and more stylish than before.
Streaming service PlayStation Now and digital downloads could be enough to let it do away with discs, so it could even be more compact too.
Read next: How to play PS4 games on PC
What will the PS5 specs be?
As you might expect, very little is known about the PS5’s hardware. Going by AMD’s enthusiasm over the PS4, we can only assume it will remain onboard the Sony ship for the PS5.
As mentioned above, one possible change would be to see the PS5 drop the optical drive, in favour of a focus on digital downloads and the PlayStation Now streaming service – that would allow them to either make the design more compact, or leave more space and power for higher spec processing and graphics units.
On the other hand, ditching physical games is a sensitive subject. Retailers are understandably uncomfortable about the shift to digital, and might be less willing to stock or market a PS5 that they couldn’t sell games for. Since Sony needs their support to sell the console itself, we’d be surprised if it was willing to ditch the disc drive entirely.
Again, we’ll update this article as more details become available.
Will there be a new DualShock controller?
A new PlayStation console will likely bring with it the launch of a new DualShock controller – so what can we expect from a potential DualShock 5?
First up, what we don’t expect to change. Sony has kept the basic button layout constant across the range of DualShock controllers, so don’t expect any updates there. We’d also expect it to keep the gyroscopic controls, along with the light bar and touch pad that have made the DualShock 4 stand out from the competition this generation.
One of the big improvements we expect is Sony’s own take on HD Rumble, an innovation features in the Switch’s Joy-Cons and Pro Controller. This advanced haptic tech allows players to detect things as subtle as the number of virtual ball bearings rattling around in 1-2-Switch, and we’d be surprised if Sony’s next controller doesn’t feature its own take on the technology.
It’s also possible we’ll see the addition of some of the features commonly seen on pro-level controllers such as Microsoft’s own Xbox One Elite controller, including back paddles and customisable buttons. These are increasingly popular, but they’re also probably more than the average gamer needs, so we’d be surprised to see them on the base controller – but expect some sort of DualShock 5 Pro to include them.
Will the PS5 have built-in VR?
With the huge success of the PlayStation VR, it’s no surprise that the PS5 is likely to include virtual reality support. Still, there are some unsettled questions about what exactly that support will look like.
One possibility is that Sony will release an updated, enhanced version of PlayStation VR to coincide with the PS5 launch. By 2020, PSVR will have been out for four years, and with the rapid advancements in virtual reality technology right now, we’d expect Sony to have a few improvements ready by then. They could include improved tracking, better visuals, more control options, and probably a few things we haven’t even thought of.
The other big question is whether Sony will include built-in VR support with the PS5, packaging the two products together to make VR a core part of the PlayStation 5. While we can see the advantages – it’d be a great way to further the company’s dominance of the mass-market VR industry – the downsides seem too significant. It would massively drive up the base cost of the console, and leave it ripe to be undercut by Microsoft offering a more traditional gaming experience for a much lower price.
Will it be a portable like the Switch?
One of the other major questions around the PS5 is whether Sony will follow in Nintendo’s footsteps and release a handheld/home console hybrid along the lines of the Nintendo Switch.
There’s some precedent of course – Sony previously released both the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita, and the latter can even link up to the PS4 and be used as a remote screen and controller for games.
Still, disappointing sales of the Vita mean it’s unlikely that Sony has much appetite to return to the portable market. And besides, the PS4’s current dominance was driven partly by its position as the most powerful console on the market – we just can’t see Sony making the sort of compromises on specs necessary to make the portable form-factor work. We think they’ll leave the Switch to Nintendo, and focus on pushing the traditional games console model further for now.