it’s more more than a year since PlayStation 5 came out, and it’s still one of the hardest gadgets to find. Sony plans to make up for the limited stock by continuing to produce the PlayStation 4although it originally planned to discontinue the console at the end of 2021, according to a recent report in Bloomberg. On the face of it, this amounts to compensating for a low supply of cars by building more bikes. Except… is it really that absurd?
Responses to the report were about what you expect— equal parts laughter and contempt. Meanwhile, in the same Bloomberg report, Sony claims that continuing production of the PS4 was the plan all along. Older consoles traditionally continue to sell out even after the new ones are released. (Although, for comparison, Microsoft has officially discontinued the Xbox One.)
But this situation is a little different. Between ongoing supply chain issues, the continuing series of game delays, and the already impressive state of the previous generation of consoles, there might be more reason than usual to buy an older console.
The chip shortage problem is still there
In the summer of 2021, which seems like a million years ago, I wrote about how a shortage of microchips made it difficult to find almost any type of gadget. Little has changed. The global supply chain is still feeling the residual effects of the initial crisis in 2020. When manufacturing plants shut down just as demand for new gadgets skyrocketed, it felt a bit like letting go a giant rock in a lake. Even after the initial splash subsides, the ripple effects will continue for a while.
That’s a big part of why it’s been so hard to find PS5s over the past few holidays. Yes, scalpers are also a problem, but these problems are getting worse. Fewer consoles on the shelves means more competition to buy them, increasing the demand for automatic shopping bots, making it harder for the average person to get their hands on a console.
PS4s, on the other hand, are cheaper to manufacture than PS5s and are therefore cheaper to buy. Also, because they use older chip designs, their components are more readily available, meaning they can be produced at scale quickly. Having more PS4s on the shelves could relieve some of the pressure on PS5 sales, which could benefit everyone. Of course, people who dabble in Sony want a PS5, and giving them a PS4 instead doesn’t really solve their problem. But there are still amazing games for the PS4, and a playful dad who just needs any PlayStation, or the parent buying a console for their 8-year-old might not care as much.
If everyone who wants a PlayStation at buy a PS5, it compounds the demand problem. But if the part of the market that doesn’t care what model they get can buy a cheaper or more available console, then there’s more room for people to commit to the PS5, bots notwithstanding. That’s reason enough to keep making and selling PS4s right now. But it’s not just the hardware that’s being delayed.
There aren’t many games made for the PS5 yet
It’s not uncommon for there to be only a handful of games exclusive to a new console when it first comes out. When the Switch came out, for example, it was little more than a breath of the wild machine. It’s okay, to some extent, if games that take advantage of the new hardware take a while to arrive.
However, game delays plagued the entire industry. There are only a handful of titles that really use the power of the PS5. There are some real exclusives, like Return and Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, which are not available on the PS4. And then there are only a few soft-exclusives, like Death Loop (also available on PC) and the Demon’s Souls remake (technically exclusive to PS5, but the original was released on PS3).
Several PS5 titles are remastered or re-released versions of PS4 games. Spider-Man: Miles Morales Ultimate Edition, Final Fantasy 7 Remake: Intergradeand Death Stranding: Director’s Cut are all PS4 game variants that have been given modest upgrades and unnecessarily long names to make them stand out as PS5 versions.