With the first next-gen price point announced in the form of Microsoft's Xbox Series S, all eyes are on Sony to deliver the good (or bad) news about the PS5 price, not to mention the PS5 release date, launch day slate of upcoming PS5 games, and more. We're around two months away from the system's Holiday 2020 launch, and Sony has been painfully quiet about any release news ever since it revealed the PS5 design back in May of this year.
There is, of course, a number of reasons why the company is holding its price back this late into the PS5's promotional campaign. There's a global pandemic going on, for one thing, which brings an element of unpredictability to the industry's typical rhythms, as both Sony and Microsoft continue to take temperature checks on a volatile marketplace before committing to a price point for their flagship products. There's also something of a standoff at play here; it's easy to imagine that PlayStation wants to see how Xbox handles its pricing strategy before assessing how it can offer a more competitive alternative.
Even so, the clock is ticking, and many are wondering whether this timeframe feels a little bit off and, if so, whether we should be worried about it. As always, history is a reliable teacher, and looking back to Sony's previous rollouts for each PlayStation generation provides some insight into how the company operates, and why. Starting with the first PS console to hit store shelves 25 years ago...
The games industry was a very different place back in 1995. The market was smaller, Asia-centric, and operating in a world where only a small minority of people had internet access. With that in mind, the PS1's rollout is unlikely to offer much relevance as a guide for estimating the price announcement of its fourth successor.
That said, there are some identifiable holdovers from the PS1 era that have remained influential on Sony's approach to its next-gen communication strategy. For one thing, PlayStation announced its $299 price point for the PS1 at its E3 1995 press conference; a tradition which (as we'll see) continues throughout two subsequent generations.
The PlayStation launched in North America four months later, on September 9, 1995, though it's worth remembering that it had already been released in Japan the year before for 39,800 yen, so western customers already had a fairly reliable estimate of the system's price well in advance of the official reveal.
PlayStation 2 (2000)
Five years later, and E3 was once again the platform Sony used to unveil its launch details for the next generation of gaming, this time in the form of the PS2. Both the price and release date of the console were announced at a pre-E3 press conference in May, ahead of the system launching in North America on October 26 and in Europe on November 24.
The PS2's price was thus revealed slightly earlier to launch compared to its predecessor, with a roughly five month gap between the announcement and the release. Again, however, by the time Sony had revealed its PS2 launch plans for Western territories, the console had already started breaking sales records in Japan, having launched March 2000, leaving less room for speculation amongst fans who were patiently awaiting its worldwide rollout.
PlayStation 3 (2006)
The PS3's reveal marks the earliest moment that Sony was willing to share a console's price details with the public ahead of release, announcing that infamous $499 sales tag in May 2006. That announcement gave prospective buyers six months to save up for the system, ahead of its release in Japan and North America in November.
This was also the first time that a all-new PlayStation console hit both Asian and Western markets at the same time (give or take a week), which may have influenced the company's decision to inform its consumers about the upfront investment so far ahead of time. Given the negative reaction to that price tag, and months of damage control that had to be done by Sony in the interim, the PS3 era also perhaps explains why Sony has decided never to reveal a price tag that far in advance ever since.
PS4 (2013) and PS4 Pro (2016)
Fast forward seven years, and PlayStation unveils a much more competitive and attractive price point for the PS3's successor at E3 2013, during its PS4 focused press conference on June 11 of that year. The console then launched on November 15 in America (four months ahead of its Japan release, in a telling indicator of how far the markets had shifted since the PS1 days), making for a five month window between the price reveal and the product's release.
That period is roughly the same as the PS2's, and once again reflects PlayStation's historic affection for E3 as a healthy platform at which it can announce key details for its hardware. We can thus perhaps see Sony's slow divorce away from E3 (and the diminishing status of the expo itself), as one factor contributing to the lack of information surrounding the PS5, with the company no longer bound by fan expectations to reveal such details in June.
As for the PS4 Pro, both the console, its price, and release date were announced all at the same event on September 7, 2016, just three months before it launched in November that same year. This marks the shortest time so far between informing the public of what they'll have to pay for the new system, and the launch of the system itself, but with the PS5 scheduled to land this Holiday, and still no price details in sight, it looks like Sony's about to beat its own record.
PlayStation 5 (2020)
Ever since withdrawing from E3, PlayStation's communications around new hardware has become increasingly obscure, but – even considering the patterns identified over the course of its history – official information about what to expect from the PS5 on day one is anomalously scarce. PlayStation Senior Vice President Marketing has promised that pre-order information won't come out of nowhere, but it's a somewhat meagre reassurance from a spokesperson at a company who is holding too many of its cards too late into the game.
Is the lack of new information a sign of an incoming PS5 delay announcement? It's unlikely, but not impossible given the current state of affairs across the world. Instead, it's worth remembering that the price point is one of the few remaining factors that Sony has control over right up until the last minute and, in an economic climate of wild unpredictability, maintaining that control is arguably more critical than ever. If anything, it'll make the final leg to the PS5 launch all the more exciting, with new info likely landing every week. In short, prepare for one of the most unprecedented next-gen launches of all time.