As Ryan told Japanese outlet AV Watch (translated by VGC), "If you look at the history of the game business, creating a special low priced, reduced spec console is something that has not had great results in the past. We’ve considered that option and seen other executives who have attempted this discover how problematic it is."
Ryan didn't single out any alternative consoles in "the history of the game business," and the contemporary example, the Xbox Series S, is still unavailable and therefore impossible to properly evaluate. Speaking of which, Ryan maintained that "I respect every competitor’s decision and their philosophies" in a tacit nod to Microsoft's approach to the new generation.
"Based on our research, it’s clear that people who buy a game console want to continue using it for four, five, six or even seven years," he continues. "They want to believe they have bought something that is future-proofed and not going to be outdated in two-to-three years. They want to have faith that if they end up buying a new TV that their current console will be able to support that new 4K TV they are considering on buying."
Ryan seems to be leaning on current market research as much as sales and opinions related to previous consoles, but whatever his reasoning, it's clear that he and Sony believe that the benefits of a single unified console outweigh the benefits of a cheaper next-gen entry point. This is reflected in the PS5 Digital Edition, which is the exact same PS5 console under the hood with the exception of a missing disc drive.
While it's not interested in a weaker PS5, Ryan says Sony will continue to support the PS4 for years to come, and games like Horizon Forbidden West and Marvel's Spider-Man: Miles Morales have now been confirmed for PS4.