The next generation of video game consoles may be just around the corner. As part of Inverse’s rundown for 2019, we are making a bold prediction: Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s Xbox ‘Scarlett’ will both launch next year.
Little is known about the follow-ups to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Originally released in 2013, the two machines are starting to show their age as consumers flock to 4K televisions and virtual reality headsets. Both consoles received mid-gen upgrades with the PS4 Pro in 2016 and Xbox One X in 2017, designed for 4K gaming, but in some cases the resolution falls somewhat short of expectations. The requirement for all games to run on the original 2013 machines has also constrained developers to older hardware. Virtual reality is demanding more powerful computers than ever, but PlayStation VR games must run even if the headset is plugged into a PS4 that’s nearly six years old.
We’re reporting on 19 predictions for 2019. This is #1.
Historically, video game companies have released new consoles every five or six years. The major exception was the most recent set of launches, with the PS4 and Xbox One arriving a full seven and eight years after their predecessors respectively. The time for a new set of consoles may be almost here.
The 2019 Console Bonanza
Recent rumblings suggest a new console is afoot at both companies. At the E3 2018 conference in Los Angeles, Bethesda suggested that The Elder Scrolls VI and Starfield would launch on a new set of consoles.
The companies themselves are also talking up their next consoles. Kenichiro Yoshida, president of Sony, said in October that “it’s necessary to have a next-generation hardware.” At E3 2018, Microsoft head of the Xbox division Phil Spencer stated that “the same team that delivered unprecedented performance with Xbox One X is deep into architecting the next Xbox consoles, where we will once again deliver on our commitment to set the benchmark for console gaming.” These strong statements imply something is around the corner soon.
“I’m expecting Microsoft to announce the new Xbox at E3 in 2019 but actually ship the console in 2020,” Avi Greengart, research director for consumer devices at GlobalData, tells Inverse. “Microsoft could very well beat Sony to market in 2020 by launching the next Xbox in the Spring of 2020 rather than November, just ahead of the holidays.”
Greengart is not the only analyst aboard the 2019 train. Hideki Yasuda, an analyst with the Ace Economic Research Institute, believes that Sony could launch next year and beat the next Xbox, but it depends on the global supply of monolithic ceramic capacitors, which would be constrained by the launch of 5G cellular devices.
Why the Console Makers May Hold Off
The alternative is a 2020 launch date. Over on the Resetera video games forum, fans have divided themselves into “team 2019” and “team 2020.” A 335-page thread discussing the issue has a poll attached, and 62.8 percent of respondents have thrown their weight behind a launch in the second half of 2020.
Reporter Brad Sams is one is in the 2020 camp. He claims the next Xbox, codenamed “Scarlett,” will launch as a series of devices in 2020, with a $150 streaming box launching alongside a more standard several hundred dollar machine. The streaming box would work with Microsoft xCloud, set to launch as a public trial next year, which means that the kinks could be ironed out by 2020.
One major reason why these consoles may not launch until 2020 is their predecessors are still selling pretty well. In fact, 2017 was the best year for the PS4 so far:
In July 2018, Sony announced it had sold over 82 million PS4s, which looks set to surpass the PS3’s 84 million and has a decent shot of nearing the PS1’s 103 million. Unless something big happens, though, it’s unlikely to touch the PS2’s 155 million.
19 Predictions for 2019: What Inverse Thinks
Make no mistake: there’s plenty of reason to think that the next generation of consoles could arrive in 2020. But even by next year, the current consoles will be showing their age by struggling with 4K games and failing to power more immersive virtual reality experiences. Even the micro-USB connectors may seem outdated as USB-C takes off in popularity.
While sales are strong, Sony and Microsoft are operating in a new climate. Microsoft stopped releasing Xbox One sales figures in 2014, claiming to Variety that “engagement [is] our key metric for success,” and there’s perhaps some truth to that. Buyers play online, download games, and expect their consoles to sync with the cloud. Mid-gen upgrades like the PS4 and Xbox One X show performance is there for those willing to pay more. If these consoles are more like omnipresent platforms than discrete products, consumers may not feel left behind by buying an older machine if they know they can upgrade later.
While the consensus seems to be forming around a 2020 launch, Inverse is going to break from the crowd and declare that Sony and Microsoft will unveil their consoles in 2019, even if the actual release dates for the machines may fall into 2020.
Related video: Introducing True 4K Gaming On Xbox One X