No PlayStation 5? Don't be surprised if so

Analysis: Sony is laying the groundwork for a new PlayStation -- but it might not be what you expect.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
2 min read
Sean Hollister/CNET

John Kodera, the man in charge of Sony's PlayStation business, just dropped two cryptic hints about the PlayStation 5, as recorded by WSJ reporter Takashi Mochizuki

He said that today's PlayStation 4 is entering the final phase of its life cycle -- but also that it will be three more years before the company takes its next step. See for yourself:

In the Wall Street Journal's full report, Kodera hinted once more that the next PlayStation might not look like a traditional game console. "We need to depart from the traditional way of looking at the console life cycle," he told reporters. "We're no longer in a time when you can think just about the console or just about the network like they're two different things." 

It's easy enough to connect the dots. If March 2021 is when Sony expects the PlayStation business to start growing again, and the existing PlayStation 4 is on the way out... we should see the PlayStation 5 in March 2021, right? 

That's one way to interpret it, sure -- and it lines up with previous industry speculation that a PlayStation 5 wouldn't arrive until 2020 at the earliest. (The PS4 was introduced in Nov. 2013, so it'd be pretty old by console standards in 2021.) 

But there's another possibility: Sony might take this opportunity to wean us off traditional game consoles entirely. Bloomberg reports that Sony's new direction is less about gadgets and more about subscription services. And Sony just so happens to have a subscription service that can stream PlayStation games to people who don't have a console at all. It's called PlayStation Now.

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While game streaming generally requires users to have a pretty solid internet connection, the bar isn't nearly as high today as it was when PlayStation Now was first introduced in 2014, and it might seem very low indeed compared to the internet connections available in 2021. 

Sure, Sony could still release a traditional PlayStation 5 console. But don't be surprised if they don't -- or if the PS5 is simply a tiny box that streams games from the cloud.

Sony didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Originally published May 22 at 9:37 a.m. PT.
Update, May 23, 8:55 a.m. PT: Added Kodera quote from the WSJ's full report.