It was already all but confirmed that Sony's PlayStation 5 – tag line: 'Let's Play!' – would have a 'Holiday 2020' launch, and Sony has now confirmed it again. At its recent Q3 earnings call, as well as questions about Sony's imaging, TV and cinema divisions, there were naturally questions from investors – Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse; those kinds of investors – about PS5.
Mikio Hirakawa, an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch noted that 'the PS5 is to be launched in the selling season toward the end of the year,' and inquired about the price of the new console.
It was quite a vague question, as they often are at this sort of thing, and Sony CFO Hiroki Totoki gave an extremely vague answer: 'It's very difficult to really discuss this timing-wise, but as of today, we will provide the guidance at a time period, which is comparable to the past. So we will not change the time schedule.' Got that?
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Sony would need to decide on and announce the price of the PlayStation 5 in order to offer any useful 'guidance', and it habitually offers guidance for the coming financial year in April.
In the case of the PS4, the process involved a first public outing in February, price reveal and game demos at E3 and concrete release date information in August.
A Twitter leaker recently claimed that pre-orders for the PS5 will begin in March, and a March reveal event now seems more likely. It could also be in April, if Sony is to tell its investors what the PS5 is to cost by the end of April – 'a time period, which is comparable to the past.'
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Totoki repeatedly said that it was very difficult to say anything at this point – and proved it by barely saying anything – but he acknowledged that Sony must 'absolutely control the labor cost, the personnel cost'. Recent rumours have suggested that the cost of the console is skyrocketing.
The way the console market has tended to work is that new consoles are sold at a higher price but still at a loss in the early years of their existence. Then, economies of scale, falling component prices and rising sales allow for price cuts and the recouping of start-up costs.
Totoki touched on this when asked to elaborate on what he meant when saying he wanted to see a "smooth transition" to the new console generation: 'We will definitely choose the optimal approach and that we would try to have the best balance so that will be profitable in the life – during the life – of this product.'
So, in short, Sony intends, as usual, to eventually make a profit from the PS5 but it will absorb some of the costs at launch so that the PS5's price isn't entirely eye-watering. And it intends to reveal the price before April.
Of course, the elephant in the room here is coronavirus – that's got to be one of the things that makes it 'very difficult to discuss anything about the price at this point of time', as well as making it hard to set up an event that all interested parties can travel to, to hear the news. If the virus gets worse, all bets are off. If, as is more likely, the situation steadily improves, Sony will need to show its hand soon.