Despite a spate of rumors, Sony conspicuously had no new information about the PlayStation 5 on Monday evening at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. The company released some new official sales numbers, confirming the PlayStation 4’s status as the second highest-selling video game console of all time, but the only new information about the PS5 was… its logo, which looks a lot like the PS4’s.
Sony usually comes out strong at CES, and last month was marked by the surprise debut of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X at the Game Awards. Now would’ve been a good time to start building hype for the PS5, which is part of what drove the rumors about today’s conference to begin with. Instead, Sony has stayed relatively quiet on the subject.
(In fairness, though, so has Nintendo; the 2020 release schedule for the Switch, at time of writing, is strangely barren.That being said, as far as the ninth-generation console wars go, Sony seems content to treat Nintendo like a footnote.)
“We look forward to revealing new details,” Jim Ryan, the president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, said on stage, after going back over some of the disclosed features of the upcoming PlayStation 5. It’s still due out at the end of this year; it’s still planned to feature haptic triggers on its controllers, an ultra high-speed solid-state drive, hardware-based ray-tracing capabilities, 3D audio sound, and ultra HD Blu-Ray capability. Beyond that, all the remaining big questions remain unanswered.
The primary reason why the PS5 was brought up at all, in fact, seemed to be to tie in with the theme of the conference, “The Future is Coming,” which primarily dealt with Sony’s identity as a “creative entertainment company.” With award-winning movies (Once Upon A Time in Hollywood just won three Golden Globes), successful musical artists, and the #1 and #2 best-selling video game systems under its roof, as well as a host of new technologies meant to augment creators’ capabilities, this show was all about Sony’s continuing success in multiple forms of media.
One interesting part of the presentation was the official release of a new set of sales numbers for the PlayStation 4, which hadn’t been updated in about a year. According to Jim Ryan, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment, the PS4 has sold over 106 million units worldwide, which makes it the second most successful console of all time, beaten only by the PlayStation 2.
To expand on this.
14.4 million PS4’s sold in 2019 (Down from 18m in 2018).
274 million PS4 games sold in 2019 (Up from 231m in 2018).
38.8m PS+ Subs is up from 36.3m subs at the beginning of 2019. https://t.co/w6J0LioFwr
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) January 7, 2020
This is actually a little more impressive than it sounds. If you go back and look, the PS2’s success owes a lot to several irreproducible factors, like how it was one of the least expensive DVD players on the market at the time of its initial release, and how many of its competitors either came out much later or spectacularly flamed out. The PS4 had much stiffer competition, a notoriously weak launch lineup, and wasn’t being exploited by Sony to win a format war. It’s arguably the first Sony console to succeed at market simply by virtue of being a good, well-marketed system with fun games.
Ryan further reported that over 1.15 billion PS4 games have been sold through retail, which suggests that the number applies strictly to physical media, and the PlayStation Network features 103 million monthly users, with 38.8 million subscribers to the PlayStation Plus service. Even PlayStation VR has sold 5 million headsets.
Even with that in mind, however, it’s strange that Sony didn’t have any new information to share about the PlayStation 5. The last year of the PS4’s run does still have a couple of upcoming high points, such as the upcoming open-world samurai epic Ghost of Tsushima (developed in Bellevue, Wash., by Sony studio Sucker Punch), but Sony’s still keeping all its cards close to the vest.
This probably shouldn’t be that surprising, however. In the history of the eighth generation of video game consoles, a solid argument can be made that Sony won simply by waiting.
Back in 2013, at E3, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would launch at a price of $499, and sticker-shocked the world. Sony managed to score a big PR victory by subsequently announcing that the new PS4 would be a hundred dollars cheaper and wouldn’t feature any of the strange digital rights management issues that Microsoft had been talking up at the time. As such, its current silence may simply be another example of Sony being willing to let everyone else go first.