With Sony’s recent announcement of the PlayStation 4 shipping 100 million units since its launch, the fastest console to do so according to CNET, citing a tweet by Daniel Ahmed, and with the PlayStation 5 on the horizon I thought it would be a good time to look at the PS4’s legacy and its possible future.
I can hardly believe we are already staring down the barrel of another new generation of video game hardware. It seems like yesterday I was deciding whether I wanted to pick up Battlefield 4 or Killzone: Shadow Fall with my launch day PlayStation 4 (spoilers: I got Battlefield 4 and regret it to this day). While Sony’s new console seemed sure to outsell Microsoft’s, at the time, controversial Xbox One, I never could have predicted how monolithic the system would become.
Now, almost six years later and a massive library of award winning exclusives along with new virtual reality hardware, what does the PS4 mean to us? What will it mean to us once its out of date? Does it even have a future passed the PlayStation 5? Current gamer trends suggest it will be tossed like yesterday’s paper. With PC gaming becoming popular again people seem more interested in the next, shiny new upgrade. Even the home console market is experiencing iterative releases and add-ons. Both Sony and Microsoft have released more powerful versions of their current hardware, and with Sony releasing its own virtual reality headset, which it has also iterated on, it all seems about buying the next big thing.
By The Numbers
In my opinion, I think the PlayStation 4 will not only last, it could be the next PlayStation 2. You see, despite all of the PS4’s accomplishments, it still lives in the shadow of its older sibling. According to Daniel Ahmed, again, over at ResetEra, the PS2 reached 155 million units sold as of March 2012. That’s right, Sony was still shipping new PlayStation 2s just over a year before the release of the PS4. But this didn’t happen for the PlayStation 3, we know it died a quick death within a year of the PS4’s launch and currently sits at about 80 million units sold over its lifetime.
So what was it about the PlayStation 2 that resonated so much with gamers? When it launched in 2000 its only competition was SEGA’s Dreamcast. SEGA was already on their back foot from the Saturn’s failure, and the Dreamcast was already suffering from a lack of availability and little software support. Sony, on the other hand, had a lot of goodwill following the success of the original PlayStation and hopes were high for their followup.
While there are a lot of games in the PS2’s first couple of years which were loved, I think you can point at two games in particular that gave the system early success and those are Grand Theft Auto III and Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Those games became immediate must-haves for gamers around the world and, at the time, could only be played on the PlayStation 2. Sony also had the support of Squaresoft and other JRPG developers, making the PlayStation 2 platform the place to play. All this explains why the PS2 had early success, but what made it last?
Part of this can be answered simply by a lack of competition. The Nintendo Gamecube and Microsoft’s original Xbox launched about a year later, the PS2 had a great head start. Both systems had beloved titles but neither took off worldwide. I knew plenty of people that owned Xbox’s and GameCubes, but everybody had a PlayStation 2. By the time the PlayStation 3 rolled around, gamers’ libraries were absolutely stacked. Many people moved on, most to the Xbox 360, but I believe there were two types of gamers that stayed on their trusty PS2s: The sports fans and the JRPG players.
These two groups, I believe, were truly the ones to keep the system alive for another 6 years. Both JRPG developers and sports game creators, mostly EA, continued to release either PlayStation 2 versions of their games or sometimes even complete exclusives. ATLUS famously released Persona 4 as a PS2 exclusive in 2008, a full two years after the launch of the PlayStation 3. The relative unpopularity of the PS3 seemed to turn off these niche groups and instead decided to continue support for their built-in, last generation audience. The final game release for the PlayStation 2 was Fifa 14: Legacy Edition on September 27th, 2013 in Europe. Though, I would be remiss to mention to Gamer Escape readers the second to last game was Final Fantasy XI: Seekers of Adoulin in Japan on March, 27th 2013.
Path To Victory
So, what does this all have to do with the PlayStation 4? Well, it appears to me it is following along a similar path. Having massive success right out of the gate, the PS4 has amassed a truly impressive player base. Modern JRPGs such as the Tales of series and Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn continue to prove most popular on Sony’s hardware, and with FFXIV being an MMO, its support on the PlayStation platform will likely continue well into the PlayStation 5s release. The PS4 is still bringing in new players, whether because they started off on another system or decided to dip their toes into video games, and they are unlikely to be early adopters of Sony’s next generation hardware.
Will the PlayStation 4 beat 155 million units sold? I don’t know for sure, but I believe it will get damn close and will keep a strong player base for longer than people might expect. I know some believe the record to be unbeatable, and I would very much like everyone to sound off in the comments or send me a tweet with their opinions.
All images captured from the official PlayStation website.