The PlayStation 5’s Life Cycle Feels Like It’s Ending Before It’s Even Begun

PS5, we hardly knew ye.

Two dualsense controllers of the Playstation 5. (Photo by Nikos Pekiaridis/NurPhoto via Getty Images...
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After a disappointing quarter, Sony is getting ready to send the PS5 off into the sunset — a surprising announcement considering how little the console has done to prove itself. PlayStation 5 sales are slowing, Bloomberg reports, and Sony expects that trend to continue as the console enters “the latter stage of its life cycle.” But coming barely more than three years after launch, this feels like a premature retirement for a PlayStation generation that hasn’t done much to even match the success of its predecessor.

Sony reportedly sold 8.2 million consoles last quarter, missing estimates by around 1 million sales. Because of that, it’s now expected to sell 21 million consoles this fiscal year, rather than the 25 million it previously predicted. All that is to say, people aren’t as eager to buy the PS5 as Sony hoped, and the company doesn’t expect interest to pick up.

PlayStation hasn’t lived up to anyone’s expectations this console generation.

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“Looking ahead, PS5 will enter the latter stage of its life cycle,” Naomi Matsuoka, senior vice president of Sony, said. “As such, we will put more emphasis on the balance between profitability and sales. For this reason, we expect the annual sales pace of PS5 hardware to start falling from the next fiscal year.”

There’s no single culprit for players’ lack of interest. The pandemic and a generally crappy economy have both disrupted game development and left potential players with less disposable income, which certainly has some effect. But Sony also seems to be suffering more than its competitors, and that can’t be blamed on anything but the company itself.

This should have been a great year for Sony. In 2023, the PS5 got a handful of much-hyped exclusives in Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Final Fantasy XVI, Horizon Forbidden West: Burning Shores, and Forspoken. And while some of those weren’t as well received as anyone had hoped, Spider-Man 2 sold 2.5 million copies in one day.

Even huge exclusives likes Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 haven’t convinced players to pick up the PS5.

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Sony also launched its Access controller and the PSVR 2 in 2023, which may not have appealed to as many players as Spider-Man 2 but could have given some a solid reason to pick up the console. Last year was also the first full year of the new PS Plus. While it’s a vast improvement over its original form, the service has never been able to keep up with the Xbox Game Pass library, and a price hike in September further eroded its value.

One of Sony’s problems may be that it’s playing a game that’s no longer relevant. Exclusives used to sell consoles since it was impossible to play them anywhere else. If you wanted to play The Last of Us, you needed a PS3. But now, exclusives aren’t so exclusive. Even massive first-party games like God of War and Spider-Man are available on PC, and the emergence of the Steam Deck and other handheld PCs make them more accessible than ever. If you have to choose between locking yourself into the PS5’s catalog or getting access to Steam and Sony’s best games, why choose the former?

Sony hasn’t done particularly well at its own game this generation, either. Compared to previous PlayStation consoles, PS5 has far fewer exclusives, and the ones it does have don’t feel much different from games you could find on PC or other consoles. Maybe it’s just because I’m an old fogey who misses the PS2, but games like Shadow of the Colossus and Metal Gear Solid 3 feel like unique experiences that it was worth buying a console for. No matter how good God of War Ragnarok is, there are plenty of other third-person action games to play without dropping $500 on a PS5 in the process.

The PS5’s new accessories failed to boost sales in 2023.

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Sony said in a financial call that it won’t be releasing any games in its major series before April 2025, IGN reports. It’s also unlikely it will cut the console’s price as it moves into the end of its lifecycle since there’s not much room to make manufacturing it any cheaper. That makes the PS5 extremely unattractive for new buyers, who might as well just wait for the next console generation.

Meanwhile, Sony’s biggest competitor seems to have gotten the message that consoles need to move beyond exclusives. The Xbox Series X/S does have exclusives of its own — though they’re nothing on the level of Spider-Man 2 — but Microsoft isn’t banking on that to move units alone. Instead, Xbox is angling to be available to as many people as possible, offering a lower-cost version of its console and putting its Game Pass library on PC. Xbox is also taking the admittedly kind of strange step of releasing a podcast to outline its upcoming plans this week, which are likely to include a move away from exclusives to get its games on more platforms.

At this point, it’s hard to see any reason to pick up a PS5. Despite the hype around the launch of the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, this generation may be remembered as the one that showed consoles don’t mean much anymore. The days of console exclusivity may be nearing their end, and that’s a good thing for players, no matter which platform you prefer. But for Sony, which hasn’t shown a clear plan for how it fits into gaming’s future, PS5’s failure to launch may just be the first step of a rocky transition.

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