After an uncharacteristically whisper-quiet February from Sony and a blitz of Microsoft pub news to fill the void, it didn’t take long for the crew to finally get to what I wanted somebody to ask. On a beautiful, trademark Throwdown tangent, Brett and Tony lead the charge in burying Sony for their absence from the media and for not taking the lead with PS5 news and marketing in the month that had been the beginning of their launch-year push in generations past.
It didn’t take long for a subdued panic to set in among the PlayStation faithful and gaming media alike. After all, this was the month in the previous launch year when we started to receive juicy PS4 details straight from the horse’s mouth. Sony dropped system specs, features, and video trailers like breadcrumbs starting in February 2013, leading to the delectable cake that was their E3 press conference in June. And the last-second price drop decision after letting Microsoft first set their price was the icing on said cake. They made a plan and executed it to perfection.
So it’s been concerning to many that Sony has been virtually silent since December of last year. We expected the beginning of a media blitz but have only received a logo as official PS5 news. And Microsoft has been in full go mode, dropping an official name and physical reveal at the Game Awards, detailed specs and features, and the beginnings of software plans for the Xbox Series X.
Before I start the breakdown of why this quiet February isn’t anything more than a blip on the radar in terms of the non-COVID19 ramifications, we must acknowledge (which the crew did) the obvious impact the virus is having on the entire planet right now, and especially on Asia. Before we knew coronavirus was as serious a threat as it’s turned out to be, we were hearing rumors of Sony having to make some tough PS5 hardware decisions due to component scarcity. To add to that complication, within 2 weeks of widespread COVID-19 transmission, work productivity basically shuts down in several markets that are powered by mainland China, including computer hard drives, graphics chips, and batteries.
Adding further to the slowdown is the cancellation of several gaming events where PS5 information would have certainly been possible, if not likely. And even though Sony hasn’t attributed the lack of PS5 news to the coronavirus or the resulting effect on industry and business worldwide, I’m just a little more willing than most people to give the fastest spreading virus in modern human history the respect it deserves and say that it may be throwing a wrench in Sony’s plans more than they’re willing to admit. After all, with the stock market collapsing right in front of our eyes, the last thing Sony needs to do as a company is jump out and admit “The coronavirus has threatened all of our next-generation plans for the PS5, including marketing and rollout. We’re in serious trouble here.” They need time to recover, and I’m willing to give them that. Asian countries including China, South Korea, and Japan have handled the pandemics much better than their Western counterparts, and it has put them on the back end of the contamination as far as experts are concerned. Sony may have wanted simply to wait out the storm and see how much the outbreak would stifle their path forward before they made any major decisions (delay, cancellation, etc). And that brings us to the heart of the argument:
The console war doesn’t start until both companies name their price. While PS4’s rollout began in February of 2013, their victory came at E3 2013 four months later when they undercut the Xbox One in price by $100. I honestly don’t remember the rollout of either console up to that point (mostly because I wasn’t nearly as hungry for industry news back then). But what I do remember is Sony announcing the price for the PS4 onstage during their E3 press conference and feeling the weight shift immediately and permanently. That’s the moment where both companies showed their hand, named their specs, gave us their pitch, and told us how big of a dent it would make in our savings.
While it’s true that the hype and anticipation of the gaming public is a critical and fickle essence to capture, it’s also true that anticipation usually gives way to reality once all the facts are in. As a guy who preordered No Man’s Sky for PS4 and Final Fantasy XV (don’t even get me started…), and watched with wonder as Anthem’s positive PR push materialized into nothingness, let me tell you that excitement does not a good game make. In fact, I’d argue that a lot of the exasperation toward Sony is only because people are starving for some PS5 news to get excited about. We all had a laugh because the PS5 logo has been the most tangible bit of next-gen news we’ve seen from Sony, but that logo reveal coverage was a higher viewed article on media outlets than the actual visual reveal of the Xbox Series X at The Gaming Awards. We’re mad because we care, not because Sony has lost our hearts. The radio silence wouldn’t sting if we weren’t desperate for some meaningful PlayStation content to capture our imaginations.
Now, don’t get me wrong…I do believe a small amount of damage has been done. Sony’s customer base wanted news and excitement to match what Microsoft has been giving their fans. I just don’t think the damage done has been irreparable or come at a critical enough time to put Sony behind permanently.
So why the doom and gloom in March? We’ve got 3 months before Sony has to have their plan together and show us what we’re supposed to be buying. They’ve got months more after that to lure us in with launch-window titles, software compatibility details, and a whole slew of sequel teases from their most heavy-handed generation of 1st party software titles ever. And with Sony officially ready to give us some news that was apparently slated for release at GDC, we’re going to see them jump into the fray fully-stocked, rested, and ready to make up ground. This is going to make for a wildly entertaining console launch year.