Sony’s PlayStation 5 went on sale onThursday, just two days after Microsoft released its latest Xbox, with the next-generation consoles vying for holiday season dominance. The ongoing pandemic has pushed sales for gaming consoles and rivals Sony and Microsoft are hoping for record sales this year.
Sony, the market leader, is counting on its big-ticket exclusive games to keep the edge over Microsoft, its US Challenger. Pre-orders are pointing to a record launch for the new Playstation. While many countries have reinstated lockdowns, launch events will not take place as crowds of excited customers are out of the question.
While the new Xbox hit shelves across the globe on Tuesday, the PS5 is available from Thursday in Australia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, North America and South Korea, but gamers elsewhere will have to wait a bit longer, until 19 November. In Sydney, Australia, only a few customers were collecting their pre-ordered consoles on Thursday morning. “It’s Covid, so I guess not many people want to rush to a launch,” said Theo Pasialis as he picked up his PlayStation.
Jonathan De Botton, another customer, said the atmosphere was a world away from the PS4 launch, when long queues of eager customers stretched into a shopping mall food court. “Today was completely different. It was a midnight launch… It was a good time. Today, by comparison, it was a bit of a ghost town.”
The pandemic brought with it a massive spike in demand as people were looking for pastimes while stuck at home in lockdown. Whether that will last is unclear as news of a virus vaccine heralds a return to normal life in the near future.
The Japanese firm Sony generates the lion’s share of its income from gaming with the Playstation console and games making up nearly a 3rd of its sales. By comparison, gaming only accounts for 10% of Microsoft’s sales. Sony expects to sell 7.6 million PS5 consoles by the end of March 2021, beating the performance of the PS4. Sony will also be heavily reliant on the US market to achieve that, with Japan’s video game market more focused on mobile and still dominated by Nintendo.
“You’re talking about a relatively small market in Japan… driving Sony to centralise the PlayStation business in one area, and that area is the United States,” said Toto Serkan, an analyst for Kantan games. Tot expects the PS5 to completely outperform the PS4. “I think that the PlayStation 4 was so successful that Sony has cultivated a much bigger fan base for PlayStation content,” he said.
The PS5 is priced at $500 (R7800), like the Xbox Series X, while a version without a disk reader costs $400. That is more than the $300 (R4700) price tag for Microsoft’s less powerful Xbox Series S, which also has no disk reader.