Written By: Mark Armstrong
We’re close to celebrating the fifth anniversary of both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, and sales figures confirm that Sony clearly defeated Microsoft during the eight generation of videogaming. Indeed, PS4 sales are almost double those of Xbox One numbers, even after the Xbox One X updated model in 2017 which allows for 4K gaming on the Microsoft platform. Combined with the growing presence of PlayStation VR and the recently-announced PlayStation Classic, it’s safe to say that things are going very well for Sony right now.
But since 2018 will mark the sixth Christmas for the current flagship consoles, it can only mean that we aren’t far away from the next, ninth generation on videogaming platforms. Sony and Microsoft are well into the process of bringing their next major consoles to life (these projects take many years, you know), and the heavy rumour is that we will get at least one of these machines by Christmas 2019. The PS5 seems the most likely, considering that the mid-gen revamp for Xbox One only arrived a year ago. Or maybe Sony will allow for one final year of PS4-related momentum, which could see the next console arrive in 2020 (meaning that both major consoles would launch during the same Xmas holiday for the second time).
Whenever it arrives, though, the PlayStation 5 needs to be something special in order to maintain Sony’s success. The disappointment of the PS3 as a whole proves that things can turn sour in the blink of an eye. Though the Nintendo Wii was the largest-selling console of the seventh generation, the Xbox 360 was considered the real success story to hardcore gamers, but all of the good will fans had for Microsoft disintegrated after the controversial design specs were revealed for the Xbox One (some of which were cancelled in response), which at least partly explains why Sony has comfortably held the #1 spot for the last few years.
What can the PS5 offer to entice gamers to choose Sony over Microsoft again? Some might say that the PS4 wasn’t as big an upgrade over the PS3 as people would have liked, but it hasn’t stopped the console from being a much more successful platform. Certain improvements seem inevitable, given the enhancements that we have come to expect between console generations. Others seem based on hope rather than expectation, yet they could prove to be the difference-maker when the time comes for gamers to choose their next preferred console.
I don’t know what Sony are going to do with the PS5, but I have some ideas as to what they could do if the PS5 is to be another runaway success …
1. 4K Graphics
This is an easy one: 4K is the natural progression for videogaming graphics, and as noted earlier, the Xbox One X already offers this for select titles. The PS4 has very limited 4K capabilities, even on the PS4 Pro mid-gen update. Therefore, 4K gaming across the board should be a given for the next Sony console. Bear in mind that it will likely be the early 2020s before 4K televisions will be the standard amongst homeowners, but the PS5 can lead the way by showing people that there is nothing quite like 4K graphics, especially on a Sony console.
2. A Fair Price
This is tricky, because it’s only natural to assume that the costs of producing these machines by the millions cost, well, many millions. So, how do Sony price the PS5 at a level that is fair to both their own manufacturers and the general public? There’s no chance that it dips below £300, at least not initially, but going over £400 is a risk, especially after how much the starting prices turned off gamers when the PS3 launched. I would suggest that £349 is a feasible figure, or £399 at a push. Bear in mind that you would still need to buy the likes of another controller and other games, which would add a good hundred quid or more to your purchase. So, expect the PS5 to be priced at either £349 or £399. Anything more is too much for consumers, and anything less is too low for Sony. The lower figure – £349 – is ideal, and would likely be deemed acceptable by fans.
3. Backwards Compatibility
This is a big one. This was the one really major advantage of the Xbox One over the PS4; the Microsoft console allows for many past Xbox 360, and even some original Xbox, titles to be played on the current console, whereas classic PS games can only be played if they happen to be available in the PlayStation Store. Ever since an early PS3 update removed the ability to play PS1 and PS2 titles, Sony has shied away from the idea of backwards compatibility (even publicly stating as much on more than one occasion), yet it’s the feature fans would love to see the most, especially those who have large libraries for the PS3 and PS4. It’d be great if the new console allowed for complete backwards compatibility of the entire Sony catalogue, but that seems unlikely. If the PS5 could at least allow for full playability of both PS3 and PS4 titles, though, it would receive a lot of positivity, and it would please those who own those platforms now, once they realised that their current libraries could live on.
4. Multimedia Music Playback
The PS4 strangely does not allow for the playing of CDs or the downloading of MP3 files, in contrast to the PS3. Though the console does provide access to Spotify, it just isn’t the same for those who play games that, in the past, allowed you to import or simply play music. So, whilst I want to see Spotify continue to have a presence on the PS5, this (the other big absentee from the current Sony console compared to its most recent predecessor) should return in full, allowing you to play your old CDs while downloading MP3 files for use in other games.
5. New Social Buttons On The Controller
The controller itself can change in one of two ways, since the touchpad on the PS4 controller hasn’t been capitalised on very much. The first, to me, would be to take away the Share button and bring back the Start button, while placing two very small buttons on each side of the controller handles, one each for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Twitch (you could argue that Instagram and Snapchat could also have a button, allowing for images to be shared from specific games). Whereas the Share button initiates a process to upload or stream your gameplay, this would allow one button-press (assuming you’ve linked your accounts to the respective sites on your console, of course) to immediately set up a post involving video footage or an image, and then you simply type in your message and press Send. If social media teaches us one thing, it’s that people want their messages out there as fast as they can, and this would allow for such quick-fire activity.
6. A Touch-Screen On The Controller
The other change I would make to the controller would be to replace the current touchpad with, well, a touch-screen in the manner of a smartphone. This could allow you to sign into your online account via a simple swipe of the finger, spell out hand-writing messages which then appear on screen, or even play mini-games in the same way that the VMU allowed for extra games to play on the side whilst you had your Dreamcast console switched on. A controller doesn’t necessarily make the console, but the more that it can offer while not compromising the gamer experience, the better.
7. Grand Theft Auto VI As A Launch Title
It’s amazing that we haven’t seen a new GTA game on the PS4 yet, and even more so that we may not see it at all. Which would only add to the appeal of Grand Theft Auto VI if it were a launch title for the PS5. Could there be a better way to kick-start the PS5 era than with arguably the most anticipated videogame of all-time? Okay, so it could just be saved for 2020 or 2021, by which time the majority of the target audience will have bought the console anyway, but it would be a real shot in the arm for gamers if the next GTA title formed part of the starting line-up for PS5. This would also make for the possibility (albeit a low one) that another GTA game could arrive before we eventually waved goodbye to the PS5.
8. Improved PlayStation Store
It’s safe to say that the PlayStation Store could be better, from the confusing interface to the clunky text entry to the high prices for games that have been around for years, despite having been followed up by sequels. A more user-friendly menu, easier text entries (with some predicted text available for popular game titles) and more discounts/reduced prices for titles beyond their first two years would be a positive step for the service, and a vital one when you consider that digital game downloads are only going to increase, with the number of people playing games from the disc getting smaller year-by-year. In addition, reduced annual PSN membership fees would definitely help; free membership for those planning to join solely for the purpose of buying future DLC might be a nice touch as well. Both would differentiate it from Xbox Live, which is unlikely to drop its own membership fees given that the Xbox’s popularity was driven initially from online gaming.
9. Increased Crossplay
The Fortnite/Sony controversy proved one thing: people like to play with their friends across the same console, but they much rather do so when they can also involve friends with different consoles. It isn’t easy to pull off, but it can be done, and a great response to its hesitation surrounding crossplay for Fortnite would be for the PS5 to establish itself as a crossplay-friendly console for almost all of the big games. Not only would it please those who have friends that own an Xbox One or a Nintendo Switch, but it will also make those on the fence think that, by buying a PS5, they can play their favourite games with literally anybody, while also benefitting from the PS5’s unique feature set.
10. PlayStation Live
Other than the expected improvements (increased horsepower and memory storage, faster downloads, extra Cloud capabilities etc), one final and very cool feature could be for the PS5 to interlink with its own TV channel, albeit as an online streaming service. You can watch your friends play their games online if you know where to find them and how to find them, but imagine a dedicated OTT streaming service where you could create groups for your family and friends, and then when you don’t feel like playing a game, just go to PlayStation Live, choose your friend and sit back and relax while watching them in action, especially if they happen to be in an online scrap against another user. Literally anybody could watch anybody else at one time, and best of all would be the chance for you to intervene with their live gameplay through voice/text commentary (that they would see, though they may not necessarily know where it is coming from, which would make things more entertaining), or for you to interrupt by saying “room for one more?” and entering the battlefield in a flash. As both a programme to watch others and to add your own contributions to totally independent sessions, PlayStation Live could be a really cool feature of the PS5, one that could change how we approach online gameplay.
I’m sure we’ll hear other announcements about the PlayStation 5 that will generate real excitement, but these are my own personal suggestions as to what could make the PS5 better than the PS4, and better than what Microsoft will have to offer with its next Xbox platform. Time will tell as to whether these or Sony’s planned enhancements will maintain the company’s dominance of the videogame market, and it may be a few years before we know for sure; not everybody agrees that 2019 will see the arrival of the PS5. But whenever it comes, gamers will be expecting the PlayStation 5 to be another big success, and I hope that some of my suggestions could be a part of Sony’s master plan to make the PS5 the new standard of modern videogaming.