This year it’s all about the PlayStation 5 in enthusiast circles, but Sony’s real Top Trump could still test out the existing PlayStation 4. Despite comments to the contrary from the manufacturer, rumors abound that Microsoft is on the verge of discontinuing both the Xbox One S and Xbox One X as it focuses on the Xbox Series X and its as-yet-unannounced companion Lockhart.
For those of you who haven’t followed the latest rumors about the Team in Green, there is mounting evidence to suggest that it plans to introduce a cheaper and weaker next-gen console, which will share many features and components with its flagship, but which will target a lower resolution. It sounds like it’s planning a pincer attack on the PlayStation, with a more powerful high-end model and a more affordable alternative.
But if the Xbox One discontinuation news is true, Sony may still have the upper hand. Although we don’t know the price of the PS5 yet, we do know that the manufacturer has committed its future to the existing PS4. And if the company can lower the price of the last-gen console — the standard model still has an MSRP of $299.99 in the US — it may be able to dominate the entry-level market without hindrance for the foreseeable future. It’s unclear exactly where the more powerful PS4 Pro would fit into this spectrum, but it seems likely it would be discontinued as well.
Much will depend on the price of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, as well as the aforementioned Lockhart, but it’s not hard to imagine there’s a significant market for a standard $199.99 PS4 even after the new consoles launch. With the PS5 being backwards compatible and revenue from subscriptions like PS Plus and PS Now being constant, there’s a real incentive for Sony to keep its current console as well.
Microsoft isn’t stupid, and it clearly has a plan for Lockhart. But as early adopters tend to be enthusiasts, and many multi-format titles are multi-genre, it’s not immediately obvious which audience your entry-level next-gen console would serve between a cheap PS4 and a premium PS5. There’s an opportunity emerging here, but we’ll have to wait and see if, and indeed how, Sony takes advantage of it.