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Sony leads gamers to the PS5 future by leaning on the past

Sony knows that as much as gamers love the next big thing, they still cling tightly to the past. And it made terrific use of that knowledge during Thursday’s PlayStation 5 reveal.

Yes, the company showed a ridiculous amount of games. And it learned from Microsoft’s missteps last month during the Xbox Series X “Gameplay” demonstration. But the smartest thing it did was demonstrate the PS5’s strengths and innovations under the comforting guise of franchises that fans already adore.

The dimension jumping in Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart? That was a clever way to show off instantaneous level switching. The real-time rearview camera in Gran Turismo 7? That was a showcase of the computational power of the system’s hardware.

The PS5 launch event was the powerful statement we’ve come to expect from Sony at system launches (and, basically, every year around this time). Make no mistake, even though Sony had already said it wasn’t going to E3, this is the exact sizzle reel we would have seen had it participated in the trade show.

Overall, Sony had a couple of big wins in its first PS5 event– and one thing that could cause a little concern.

The PlayStation 5 game lineup

The launch of a new console cycle is always an interesting game of chicken. Do you reveal details about your system first — and lead the conversation? Or do you wait until your competitor has shown their hand and hope that yours can beat it? Sony, as it has dripped out information about the PS5, has shown that it’s possible to play on both sides of the fence.

It leaked technical specs of the system long before Microsoft showed off the Xbox Series X at the Game Awards in December, but held back showing the actual PlayStation 5 until today. And it kept a tight lid on the games that would run on the system, ultimately opting to reveal them all at once.

Horizon: Forbidden West
Horizon: Forbidden West Image used with permission by copyright holder

It played to its base, showing off Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Horizon: Forbidden West, and Sackboy A Big Adventure. It incorporated third-party partners with titles like Resident Evil VIII: Village and NBA 2K21. And it showcased intriguing indie games such as Little Devil Inside and Goodbye Volcano High.

That certainly stopped the fan base from complaining, as gamers did after Microsoft’s event. But Microsoft has saved virtually all of its big games for its July event. If it has a lineup that’s as strong as what Sony showed off (and remember, Microsoft has been buying developers for a couple of years), that could make things interesting.

Lots of titles, but few release dates

There were lots of “wow” moments during Sony’s PS5 event, but if you go back and watch many of the biggest trailers, you’ll note that several have no release date attached to them. And many that did were focused on 2021. (One – Pragmata – announced itself as a 2022 release.)

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. You want a steady flow of big games for the first year of a console’s life cycle, but at this point, the launch lineup is uncertain (though Spider-Man: Miles Morales certainly seems like it will be leading the charge).

Spider-Man: Miles Morales
Spider-Man: Miles Morales Image used with permission by copyright holder

We won’t know the price of the PS5 (or the PS5 Digital Edition) for another month or three. And as impressive as the technology might be, it still needs to have a compelling lineup at launch to lure people to open their wallets – especially in an economy that has been battered by a pandemic.

The PS5’s design

This is likely to be the most polarizing part of Sony’s PS5 presentation. Some people will love the bold new look for the console (which seems to have drawn some inspiration, at least, from Alienware PCs). Others will grumble that it’s harder to put in their home entertainment systems and has the same problematic curve that the PS3 did.

PS5 Console and Remote
Sony

While prices remain a mystery, Sony was wise to show both editions of the console immediately, letting fans focus on the system itself, rather than speculating about what an unannounced second one would contain. Similarly, the showcasing of the media remote, headphones, HR camera, and controller charging station will whet people’s appetites, though don’t expect any of those accessories to be included in the base price of the system.

Let’s be clear: Sony had a lot less to prove to the gaming masses with its presentation than Microsoft. This was the gaming equivalent of a minister preaching to the choir. With 45 minutes remaining before the event started, over 110,000 people were waiting in the company’s YouTube channel. At its peak, more than 1.9 million were watching.

But the company still managed to put on a terrific presentation that reminded both gamers —  and the competition  — that even though the “console wars” are an outdated notion in this day and age, the PS5 is still playing to win.

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Chris Morris
Chris Morris has covered consumer technology and the video game industry since 1996, offering analysis of news and trends and…
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