The recent news surrounding Sony and its intention to shutter the PS3, PS Vita and PSP stores got me wondering about the PS4. We’re approaching six months since the PS5 released, and while there are plenty of game’s still planned to release on the console, it does feel like we’re approaching the end of its life.
Launched November 2014, the PlayStation 4 was Sony’s attempt at making up for the shortcomings of the PlayStation3. The new console was easier to develop for, had several great exclusives lined up from the get go, and thanks to some terrible marketing from the team at Microsoft, Sony was able to launch the console with an immediate head start in sales.
It took less than three years for PS4 to outsell the PS3, a console with a 10-year life-cycle. In 2020, the PS4 and PS4 Pro was estimated to have sold a combined 120 million units, making it the fourth most sold console of all time behind the Game Boy and Game Boy Colour. The PS4 and PS4 Pro are both fantastic consoles, hosting some of my favourite gaming experiences of all time.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and while we aren’t quite there yet, it feels like the writing is on the wall.
The turning point for me was watching the Digital Foundry footage of Cyberpunk 2077 running on the base PS4. Granted the game was poorly optimised and rushed out of the door, but it was clear that the PS4 just didn’t have the power needed to run next-gen games at an acceptable frame-rate and resolution.
On the base PS4, Cyberpunk 2077 regularly dips below 20fps with added loading issues and asset streaming problems. It’s clearly a game built for PC, which is why the console struggles so much. Sony had such little confidence in the game that it offered customers a refund and removed it from the digital store. That was almost four months ago now and there has been no update on when it might return.
Cyberpunk 2077 highlighted what many of us are already aware of. The next generation of video games are pushing current and next-gen hardware pretty hard, with technology like ray-tracing testing the limits of even the most powerful hardware on the market in some titles.
The PS4 and PS4 Pro should still last another year or two, as we’re still in the transitional phase between the two console generations. As it stands, there are a number of titles scheduled to release on both consoles, including the likes of Resident Evil: Village, Outriders, and Far Cry 6. Sony was keen to emphasise that it wouldn’t simply stop supporting the PS4 and PS4 Pro consoles overnight, so we can likely expect new releases for a little while longer.
Having said this, Sony’s primary focus is still going to be on producing first-part experiences for the PS5. So while there may be a number of cross-gen titles, the real big hitters like God of War Ragnarok and Final Fantasy XIV will release exclusively on PS5. Meaning the PS4 and PS4 Pro are going to miss out on some pretty pivotal gaming experiences over the next few years.
In the run up to the PS5’s release, Senior Vice President, Hideaki Nishino discussed how long the transitional period would take. In the interview with Japanese website, AV Club, Nishino commented: “The current assumption is that the transition from PS4 to PS5 will take about three years”
Three years sounds like a long time, but in terms of game development it isn’t long at all. While the transition may last three years, it’s likely that those three years will involve gradually winding PS4 development down, while focusing more on those exclusive PS5 titles.
Truthfully, 2021 is likely the last full year where we will see the PS4 and PS4 Pro supported by Sony and third-party developers. The PS5 is already pushing the limits of gaming, so developers can only continue to develop for both for a limited time.
It isn’t all doom and gloom
Watching the PS4 fade into obscurity over the next two years is a little sad, but honestly, the PS4 and PS4 Pro will never truly die. You only need to look at consoles like the Sega Megadrive and PS Vita, to realise that there are still independent developers out there passionate about developing on those platforms.
The PS4 has arguably been one of Sony’s most successful consoles, and while it may be on a downward slope, it's still got a few years left in it yet. It doesn’t have much choice at the moment, as the PS5 is still incredibly difficult to get hold of.
Read More: How to hack a PS Vita.