Sony, like most other publishers, is not a massive fan of mid-year releases. The platform holder has had some success launching Sucker Punch’s two supercharged inFamous titles during the sunny window, but it typically reserves its heavy hitters for the start of the year or the festive period. It’s interesting, then, that the company has opted to lavish The Last of Us with a 7th May release date. Could it be an indication that the PlayStation 4’s coming next Christmas?

Recent rumours hinted that the Japanese giant is waiting until an event prior to E3 to divulge details about its inevitable next-generation console. With the North American tradeshow not set to open until 11th June, that gives the company ample opportunity to embellish Naughty Dog’s survival horror exclusive with the attention that it duly deserves.

Indeed, the platform holder will be eager to get the hotly anticipated adventure on store shelves before it discloses anything about the future. For starters, the swansong title is leveraging every last ounce of the PlayStation 3’s architecture in order to create a visually stunning experience – an asset that could be usurped by the announcement of fresh hardware. Furthermore, the sheer presence of a new system alone might take the spotlight off Joel and Ellie’s journey, potentially impacting the game’s performance at retail.

Launching in May allows the publisher to effectively clear house before it focuses on what’s next. There’s no doubt that The Last of Us would be a banner holiday blockbuster in any other year – which makes the title’s release date even more indicative of what’s to come over the next 12 months.

Analysts tend to agree too, with controversial forecaster Michael Pachter predicting an October or November arrival for the PS4. Granted, the company has serviced its aging platforms with big budget titles in the past – God of War II actually followed the PS3’s release in 2007 – but we suspect that the company will prescribe to a different strategy this time around. That’s evidenced by the scheduling of its remaining first-party titles, with Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, Puppeteer, Until Dawn, and God of War: Ascension are all due out prior to E3. The only anomaly is Beyond: Two Souls, which has just hit alpha according to creator David Cage.

Still, we suspect that Quantic Dream’s interactive adventure will join The Last of Us in the summer, leaving the platform holder free to focus on the PS4 throughout the second half of 2013. The question is: with so much life left in the company’s current console, are you even ready for the next-generation to arrive?

Do you think that it’s too early for the PlayStation 4? Which PlayStation 3 titles are you most looking forward to playing next year? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.