Not that you’d know it’s getting long in the tooth by the continuing sales success of the games themselves, but the current generation PlayStation 4 console has apparently entered its final turn, hitting the home stretch before Sony turns its attention toward marketing a replacement.
Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO John Kodera said this week that the PS4’s life cycle has hit its “final phase,” and that the company has begun focusing on making money off the console not from direct hardware sales, but through “recurring revenue via membership services,” according to Wall Street Journal reporter Takashi Mochizuki.
Kodera’s reported remarks came during Sony’s annual Investor Relations meeting, where he advised that sales of new PS4 consoles are forecast to drop off for the remainder of its product run — an all-but-inevitable effect of market saturation in light of the console’s overall shipment of close to 80 million units since hitting store shelves in November of 2013.
Now that the PS4 has been on the market for nearly five years, tempering expectations of future hardware sales doesn’t appear to represent a signal of rough financial times for Sony’s games division. Rather, it merely goes with the territory. Although it’s been available for less than half the production life of the PlayStation 3’s ten-year run, the PS4 already has managed to sell almost as many units as its predecessor’s 86.9 million worldwide total.
For additional perspective, the PlayStation 2 — the best-selling console in the history of video games — sold more than 157 million units over the course of its 13-year production. The PS4’s early sales numbers actually have outpaced the PS2’s over the same time span, but shifting gaming demographics — including the advent of mobile gaming and stiff competition from the introduction of Nintendo’s still relatively new Switch — make it unlikely that the PS4 can sustain a decade or more with that kind of momentum before giving way to a replacement.
Jim Ryan, Global Head of Marketing and Sales at PlayStation and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe, acknowledged the new reality of shorter console life spans late last year, telling Edge magazine (via WCCFTech) that “the days of a 13-year PlayStation 2 cycle will almost certainly never repeat themselves.”
Finally, it’s important to note that the beginning of the end of the PS4 doesn’t necessarily mean that a solid announcement of a PS5 (or whatever comes next for Sony) is on the immediate horizon. Sony will have a major platform to set the tone for the coming year when the 2018 E3 expo kicks off on June 12, alongside plenty of in-house and third-party developers who are prepping major announcements of their own for upcoming games on the current console generation.
Riding high from last year’s chart-topping success of Horizon: Zero Dawn, this year’s PS4 AAA games calendar includes the just-released God of War reboot, as well as upcoming releases for titles like Spider-Man, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.