As August passes through September, Sony and Microsoft are continuing their marketing campaign for the new high-end gaming consoles promised by the end of the year. But just 90 days from Thanksgiving, the general public is still waiting for the two companies to reveal important details about the price and specific launch dates of the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
While this situation is not unprecedented in recent history, it is unusual. And if we don’t get the public price and launch date announcements by the end of September, we’d be in largely uncharted territory for modern console versions.
An above-average expectation
As the figures above and the graph below show, console makers have generally been warning the public about their launch plans more than they should this year. In the 12 console launches since 2000, the largest announcements regarding price and release date have occurred on average 128 days before the actual console launch, or a median of around 153 days (for the launch in America North).
Assuming launches in early November for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, that would mean we should have expected this information to be released in June or early July, on average.
This console cycle looks even stranger if you separate recent console launches by company. That’s because Nintendo is lowering the overall average by generally keeping its launch plans close to its chest for as long as possible. The Switch’s price and release date, for example, was revealed just 50 days before the system launched in March 2017, the shortest timeframe in two decades.
|Company||Console||Release date NA||Launch details announced||Difference (days)|
|Microsoft||Xbox one x||07/11/2017||6/11/2017||149|
(We’re not factoring in console launches from the ’90s and onwards, as the largely pre-internet media environment of the time was different enough to make modern comparisons a bit awkward. The prices announced at E3 1995 deserve at least a special mention.)
For Sony and Microsoft, however, keeping important launch details under wraps for less than three months is virtually unheard of. The only exception is the PS4 Pro, which was fully unveiled to the press and the public just 64 days before its launch in November 2016. If the PS5 is to launch before Black Friday, Sony is running out of time to avoid establishing. a new corporate record with this year’s announcement schedule.
What is the heist?
So why isn’t the 2020 console marketing calendar aligned with historical standards? The absence of a Physical Electronic Entertainment Expo this year may have something to do with it. Microsoft and Sony are making heavy use of E3 press conferences in May or June to fully unveil details of upcoming launches in October or November, to maximize public attention.
Without a centralized press rally this year, the two companies got by a bit with remote tech presentations and sizzling reel trailers instead. The coronavirus pandemic also means that neither company has been able to host demo events where the press can familiarize themselves with the new material ahead of its launch, further complicating marketing plans and timetables.
There may also be a bit of chicken play with prize announcements this year. Neither Sony nor Microsoft want to announce an introductory price for their console which will immediately be underestimated by the competition. The unveiling of a $ 400 PS4, which came just hours after the unveiling of a $ 500 Xbox One in June 2013, shows just how impactful this kind of price difference can be. And with reports suggesting the new consoles could cost $ 500 or more at launch this year, neither Sony nor Microsoft want to be seen as the most unaffordable choice during a pandemic-induced recession.
The other possibility, of course, is that Sony and Microsoft won’t actually meet their console launch goals in late 2020 after all. Both companies have been publicly confident that they will still be able to launch this year, despite disruptions to the global supply chain caused by a pandemic. Sony has even started to quickly register customer interest in PS5 pre-orders for the PS5, suggesting that its reveal of launch details is imminent.
Still, the delays in console launches are not without precedent; The Nintendo 64 bounced back from a planned Christmas 1995 launch to an April 1996 target before finally limping onto North American shelves in September 1996 in North America. And Sony is said to have already cut back on its PS5 production plans due to expected cuts in consumer spending this year.
With delays for top-tier next-gen console games like Infinite halo, Deathloop, and Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines 2, pushing new consoles next year might not be the worst idea.
While Sony and Microsoft are releasing new consoles this year, both companies are running out of time to tell consumers when they will be available and how much they will cost. If those announcements don’t come before the end of September, we’re really going to have to ask ourselves what is going on behind the scenes.
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