This year is all about the PlayStation 5 in enthusiast circles, but Sony’s real Top Trump could yet prove the existing PlayStation 4. Despite comments to the contrary from the manufacturer, rumours are rife that Microsoft is on the cusp of discontinuing both the Xbox One S and Xbox One X, as it places its focus on the Xbox Series X and its as yet unannounced Lockhart companion.
For those of you who haven't been following the latest rumours regarding the Team in Green, there’s increasingly strong evidence to suggest it plans to introduce a cheaper, weaker next-gen console, which will share many features and components with its flagship – but will target a lower resolution. It sounds like it's planning a pincer attack on PlayStation, with a more powerful high-end model and a more affordable alternative.
But if news of the Xbox One’s discontinuation is true, Sony may yet have the upper-hand. While we still don’t know the PS5’s price, we do know that the manufacturer has pledged its future to the existing PS4. And if the company can get the price of the current-gen console down – the standard model still carries an MSRP of $299.99 in the United States – it may be able to dominate the entry-level market unobstructed for the foreseeable future. Exactly where the more powerful PS4 Pro would fit into this spectrum is somewhat unclear, but it seems likely that it would be discontinued as well.
Much will depend on the pricing of the PS5 and Xbox Series X, as well as the aforementioned Lockhart, but it’s not hard to imagine there being a significant market for a $199.99 standard PS4 even after the new consoles release. With the PS5 being backwards compatible, and ongoing revenue from subscriptions like PS Plus and PS Now, there’s real incentive for Sony to keep its existing console around as well.
Microsoft is not stupid, and it will clearly have a plan for Lockhart. But with early adopters tending to be enthusiasts, and many multiformat titles being cross-gen, it’s not immediately obvious what audience its entry-level next-gen console would serve sandwiched between a cheap PS4 and a premium PS5. There’s an opportunity emerging here, but we’ll need to wait and see if, and indeed how, Sony takes advantage of it.