Often when your favorite tech site writers meet at events, they're focused on getting the news out and packaging multimedia stories in the best way possible. It's not always that large groups can convene and discuss openly and extensively their sentiments on the present situation. Luckily for yours truly, the opportunity presented itself when Sony Playstation held its media thanksgiving party last week.
By now you're probably aware that a few journalists and personalities have been given a chance to play games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Kingdom Hearts 3, and the games within the Playstation Classic. That was all during the party. And while everyone wanted to spend hours just exploring the upcoming games, the consoles were few and the personalities were plenty.
So what do we do? We lounge around with alcohol and sodas in hand and we discuss. What exactly is going to happen in 2019?
Well - more specifically we first talked about what was going to happen with Sony in 2019. But as with all discussions, we tend to go off tangent and go into different topics. And so from Sony, we expanded to its rivals Nintendo and Microsoft, and to its new competitor, mobile phones in general.
So - what do we think is going to happen in 2019? You could listen to the whole podcast, recorded impromptu at the parking lot of Uptown Arcade. Or you can read a "summary" of the almost thirty minute conversation below.
At this podcast and "guerilla roundtable," I am joined by Ungeek's Ralph Nicolo Manaloto, Chris Garcia, and Colin Chan, Too Much Gaming's Carlos Hernandez and Matthew Arcilla, Reimaru's Chad Ramos, and DAGeeks Gio Sarmiento.
Sony and the PS5
Don't celebrate yet, Microsoft fanboys. Sony's announced non-appearance at E3 doesn't automatically spell defeat but an opportunity to outsell and out-"hype" its rivals instead.
Much later during the recorded discussion we also talked about how Sony departing from E3 is actually an advantage as Sony will have all eyes on them when the time comes.
"What companies like Blizzard have learned very quickly, is that being able to have fans pay attention to you on your own conference is a benefit because you can customize the experience in a way that best suits your brand and when you're on E3 you're playing on the rules of the general software alliance. And I think that's what Sony really wants to do by withdrawing from E3," Matthew comments.
And of course, we're hoping that all of Sony's current moves is for its pending announcement and reveal of the PS5.
That being said, let's talk about the theories (which is the first topic we talked about during the podcast):
Theory #1: Holiday 2019 Announcement - Spring 2020 Release
Nico agrees with the theories spreading online that the much-awaited console will be released for Spring 2020 instead of a holiday release. He believes what could happen in 2019 is that Sony will have a grand celebration for its 25th anniversary through PSX - and at the end of it will be the announcement of the PS5.
(Fellow comrades in the media industry then do a driveby playfully teasing "Nerds!" to distract us from our thoughts.)
Nico says Sony could mirror Nintendo's strategy of doing a holiday announcement and then spring release for the Nintendo Switch. He adds that Sony can still rake in great holiday sales even with an earlier release if they can create great bundles.
Theory # 2 - Holiday 2019 Teaser - Mid-2020 Announcement - Holiday 2020 Release
However, while I do believe that Nico's theory is a solid one and is very plausible given Nintendo's success with the Nintendo Switch timeline, there are titles that Sony is yet to release for the PS4. The Last of Us 2, Death Stranding, and Ghost of Tsushima are much awaited Sony exclusives and I believe that Sony would rather wait it out and let these huge title releases happen before they bring out the PS5.
Theory # 3 - Same as Theory 2 but with Sony exclusives also appearing for the PS5
Carlos believes in the same theory but also thinks that Sony can push these exclusives for a PS5 release.
"If you think about it, they actually already push the PS4 already," he says about titles like Death Stranding, Ghost of Tsushima and the rest of the soon-to-be-released games for Sony.
Carlos takes his cue from the recent Red Dead Redemption 2 release from Rockstar where he believes Rockstar is attempting to repeat their success with GTA V. GTA V was first released for the PS3 and Xbox 360 in September 2013 and then was re-released for the PS4, Xbox One, and the PC in November 2014.
Carlos believes that Rockstar is aware of the PS4 - PS5 timeline and thus timed Red Dead Redemption 2 perfectly for a quick re-release of its PS5 version. He also theorizes that if this is possible for Rockstar, it is also possible for the rest of the Sony exclusives to be first released for the final cycle of PS4 and then again for the PS5.
The Dance of Microsoft and Sony and the threat of the Switch
Matthew also agrees with a later announcement and release because Sony also has to watch out for Microsoft's moves.
"Sales of the Playstation 4 aren't exactly slumping to the point where Sony is like 'oh we need a new generation to get people hyped again,'" he says.
With Microsoft making huge strides to make sure that their lack of exclusive titles is properly addressed, Sony might want to sit this one out and wait for Microsoft to make its move so they can counter - similar to how they've done during the past generations.
"It could be in Sony's best interest to wait until Microsoft says something so that they can adjust their plans accordingly, just as they did in 2013. Or they might want to beat the market first because maybe Microsoft might delay this whole thing until it's untenable."
Chris adds however that Microsoft has more to lose if they do delay.
"The One X is the most powerful console now, no question. But sales have not spiked up. And sure it plays better there, most multi-platform games play better there, but I mean I don't feel the need to buy that system if I had the two other systems."
Indeed, at the moment the Switch is still the more desirable console due to its titles, and even if people who owned the Xbox One X were happy with the performance, it isn't enough to influence a lot more people to pick up the Xbox One X as well.
"They need to show their cards first. Not by anything but just because they need to. They need to keep their momentum going with all the acquisitions they've done and I think it plays well to into Sony's hands because they've done so well with the PS4 that they can actually afford to wait it out a bit and see where that goes."
A few minutes later into the conversation, skipping the talk of Nintendo swiftly taking Micrsoft's one advantage, Chris stresses that Sony too, has to be cautious of the upcoming year.
"I still think that they (Sony) should really play it safe and smart come next gen because as we've mentioned, Microsoft has been really shaping up to be a good contender for next gen with all the stuff they've been doing for the past maybe year and a half, two years, and if Sony doesn't play their cards right? - Microsoft knows everything that they need to do and I think they're doing it well. Well enough that if Sony doesn't take care of their lead so to speak? They could just as easily be toppled come next year," Chris adds.
Expanding on that we briefly touched upon the issue of Microsoft's edge of allowing players to play on any platform being ended by Nintendo after their launch of the Switch - a device capable of allowing players to play anywhere.
Microsoft can't seem to catch a break as Nintendo's Switch and Sony's PS4 has proved to be more valuable in the current generation.
"They try to gain a small niche or edge by saying 'we are the place to play your games on any platform, whether that's on a Windows Machine, an Xbox device, or a streaming device', and they lost the headway they made when the Switch came out and the Switch said 'Yo dawg, you can play your games anywhere you want too, except you only have to buy one device,'" Matthew succinctly says.
But their problems go beyond Nintendo taking over the whole "play anywhere" idea. Midway through the console race, Microsoft forgot that the Xbox is supposed to be a gaming device first and foremost.
"The problem with Microsoft is that they want to focus more as an entertainment device. They forgot the aspects of being a gaming device, being a gaming console. They wanted to go broader. They wanted to be more dominant on streaming like for example they got Netflix, and Hulu, and that's the problem," Chad expands.
He also added later on that even as Microsoft attempted to be the device to use for streaming entertainment, that that realm has already been dominated by mobile devices like phones and tablets.
"And now what happened in this current generation? They missed a lot of exclusive games like Scalebound from Platinum which was one of the most hyped games for the Xbox," he adds.
It's an unfortunate situation especially considering that we considered that the strength of the first Xbox in the past was also in its exclusive games. We mention Halo and Crimson Skies as some of the titles that helped Xbox grow as a strong contender in the console race.
And while the acquisition of developers like Playground Games may be too late, we're hoping that this move will at least turn things around for the company in terms of console sales.
"Hopefully, we can see that for the next gen, but for this generation we can expect that it's over for Xbox One," Chad states.
The End of Times?
Ten minutes before the end of the recording, Carlos adds another competitor in the mix: mobile gaming - a behemoth that a lot of core gamers and gatekeepers want to ignore, but soon enough can't anymore.
With the modern mobile phone's hardware getting solid upgrades to handle heavier applications, the device is quickly becoming a serious contender against the platforms already present.
Carlos points out that with the strong possibility of mobile phones becoming a full fledged gaming platform in the coming years, Sony and Microsoft's next iteration of their consoles have to make a strong stand and prove that they can still keep up and become a common household choice for playing video games. Or else we may see the end of them.
Looking at it from a wider perspective two aspects that can threaten the lead of Sony and the momentum of Microsoft are cross-platform gaming and mobility. These two aspects are already being embraced by Nintendo through the Switch. And moving forward, we see a lot of success happening for companies who can create products that take cues from the mobile gaming scene while making it approachable for core gamer who use their PCs and consoles.
In the future we see developers and fans going against the idea of exclusivity, and forcing the console arena to be open to cross-platforming, and this could prove to be even more lucrative if their cross-platform games were open to mobile phones as well.
"A lot of companies want to get their hands on the mobile platform considering how big it is currently. It's bigger than console and PC combined. It's like a 50 - 70 billion dollar industry," Colin cites.
"It's money. Therefore I want to have a piece of that pie. So I think opening it up to cross-platforms specifically to mobile phones or mobile gaming is something they want to put in their pipeline," he adds.
Two things stand in the way of the full takeover of mobile gaming however. The first being the product itself. Core gamers aren't used to the controls of mobile phone games. For many, including myself, playing through our touch-screens do not feel natural. This is where console gaming definitely has the upper hand.
The second is that we don't want to spend money on mobile games and that's especially felt in the Philippines. "Nobody wants to spend money - especially in the Philippines. I've talked with a lot of developers in the mobile scene. They said that there are a lot of Filipino players that actually play their game but they have zero percent of purchase."
This is what developers and console companies are wary of. According to Chad people refusing to pay for mobile games can hurt revenue even when mobile phone games are becoming more and more popular. It'll be a challenge for Sony, Microsoft, and developers and publishers in general to think of ways to make money through mobile gaming without getting greedy.
Matthew suggests that instead of taking the micro-transaction route, they might do it Netflix-style.
"Netflix is not interested in how profitable each series is. Rather they are interested in having so many different things that people are like 'well I want to watch that, and suddenly I'm here trapped in a garden that's 15 dollars a month'."
Consoles taking a similar subscription model is already seeing some form of success. Chad agrees and sees this as a possibility for the next generation of consoles due to the general improvement of network infrastructure. The improvement of the Xbox Game Pass, the Playstation Now, and the arrival of the Nintendo Switch Online all suggests that the model can expand even to mobile phones and take over the gaming landscape.
Tying it all together
The conversation would have kept going if the rain didn't start pouring. Still, though it was only a half-hour conversation we definitely touched upon a number of topics. All in all, we feel that 2019 is the start of the transition to new platforms, Sony and Microsoft are definitely already gearing up for the next defining generation of consoles, Nintendo enjoys their steady growth with their innovative platform, while more and more gamers and developers are embracing mobile phones as a gaming platform.
We've got one month left 'til the start of a new year, and for many reasons including the ones mentioned in this article, I cannot wait for 2019 to come.