In November 2018, Sony revealed that it wouldn’t be making an appearance at E3 2019, which came as a surprise to an industry that considers Sony one of the “Big 3” attendants and has expected its presence for around 20 years. The surprising news has lead to speculation. Is this a good idea? Is Sony underprepared? Is the company going to follow a model similar to Nintendo and host its own, private video events? Of all the speculation, though, perhaps the most prominent is that Sony is holding off in order to reveal something big, without the distraction of the rest of the event. This reveal would likely be the PlayStation 5, which many have already been waiting for. But even if Sony does announce a PS5, will gamers still get what they want? What is it that we even want in a next generation system?
Right now, a lot of talk is centered around this idea of game streaming. Google has been testing a system to stream games from the cloud, and early looks reveal that the service is looking pretty good for those with compatible internet. Some industry experts have also made the claim that cloud-based gaming could be the way of the future. There has also been an element of this in Japan on the Nintendo Switch, where gamers have been able to stream Resident Evil 7 and Assassin's Creed: Odyssey. It could be a welcome addition. But, at least in the United States, a lot of internet connections aren’t capable of fully utilizing such a service.
What else could we want? Bigger and better graphics would be nice, sure. That’s a given and expected. It also becomes less exciting with each subsequent generation, and gamers are getting used to playing games with suboptimal graphics. We’ve been seeing remasters for a while now, and those rarely look all that impressive, although they continue to be fun. Perhaps that hints at a different gamer desire: backwards compatibility.
Backwards compatibility isn’t a given and is often left up to emulation. The PlayStation 4 is basically without backwards compatibility, and gamers have to rely on Sony making old games available to them through streaming or updated downloads. Even then, there are slim pickings and the games mostly only extend back one generation. But with the popularity of all these “classic” systems, it seems like this could be a big want for gamers, even if it’s a tricky feat for Sony to pull off.
The Vita was also a system that was almost a big success, but was largely mismanaged in the United States by Sony. It did, however, offer a glimpse at what quality portable gaming could look like. With the success of the Nintendo Switch, it wouldn’t be unusual for Sony to consider a handheld option for its next generation console. At the very least, some compelling use of remote play, vastly improved over what was available on the PS Vita, could be an exciting announcement.
Sony also managed to bring virtual reality to a much larger audience with the PSVR. With the improved power of a new generation, it would be great if it could use that technology it's already sold to a greater effect. If it could somehow pull off roomscale VR, that would be amazing, and it’s an investment I’d be willing to make. Ideally, the old headset and move controllers would work with the new generation if it goes this route, but the possibility to upgrade to something better is also welcome. It’s a big investment though, so hopefully Sony would be accommodating. This seems to be one of the technologies that it hasn't given up on and has supported it since launch.
I’m guessing most fans will be happy enough with just improvements to the system's specs. Microsoft will probably try something novel when it moves into the next generation, and Nintendo, well, it always does. But Sony is a reliably sturdy and beautiful company, and that is what a lot of people like about its systems. Still, I’m hoping to see some clever new additions, some quality of life benefits like backwards compatibility, and a more engaging UI. Also, if Sony can, I’d like a faster PS Store experience! But, judging by the current state of the store, that might be asking too much.