Five Years with the PS4: The System’s History So Far, and Where It’s Headed Next
With the PS4 now having five years under its belt, here is a look at the major milestones and events that have charted across the console's history.
Five years to the day, the PS4 was officially released worldwide and brought gamers everywhere into the next generation of Sony hardware. In that time, the system has grown exponentially with an install-base well over 80 million consoles, and a bevy of some of the greatest games that have released in this generation (so far), and while the PS4 is now five years old, 2018 especially has shown that the system has already provided some remarkable experiences for gamers everywhere to enjoy.
To celebrate the occasion of the fifth anniversary since the PS4’s release, we went back through the system’s history to highlight some of the major milestones and events in the system’s life (so far), and what to expect from the PS4 as we (presumably) enter the system’s twilight years and begin to wonder about what’s to come from the next PlayStation console.
The Beginning of The PS4
As the PS3 neared its final years, naturally speculation as to the next major piece of hardware from Sony started building among many in the gaming industry. While the PS3 had a bit of a rough start during its console cycle — namely from its high launch price and the difficulties that its Cell processor presented to many third-party developers — Sony sought to correct that in the next generation by making its successor more developer-friendly. As detailed by lead architect Mark Cerny at the time, the aim for the PS4 was to utilize hardware components that were closer to a traditional PC with components from AMD.
In 2012, reports of development kits for Sony’s next console successor had begun getting into the hands of developers to give them a headstart on what to expect from what would be known as the PS4, which was initially being referred to under the codename “Orbis.”
2013 – Notable Exclusives
- Killzone: Shadow Fall
The PS4 Makes Its Debut
Following the cycle of rumors and speculation, Sony had officially announced that it would reveal the key details about the PlayStation 4 at a special reveal in New York City in early 2013, with a teaser in February confirming the event.
On February 20th, 2013, Sony pulled back the curtain on the PS4 to attending members of the press and media, and while the company didn’t showcase the actual design of the console itself, Sony did reveal many notable details about the PS4 and what to expect from its next home console, which would debut in late 2013.
Specifically, that included the first official look at the DualShock 4, which would drastically change design of the past generations of the controller after Sony worked with Bungie to incorporate feedback on a more ergonomic and responsive controller design. Notably, the DualShock 4 would also incorporate some unique features of its own, such as a touchpad, built-in speaker, gyroscopic motion, and tracking with the PlayStation Eye camera.
Alongside the controller reveal, Sony also revealed several of the titles that would be coming to the PS4 down the line, such as Knack, Driveclub, Killzone: Shadow Fall, The Witness, and inFamous: Second Son. Other key features of the PS4 were also highlighted by Sony during the presentation, such as its various social features and capabilities to capture in-game screenshots and video for users to share, along with the ability to stream gameplay.
After the PS4’s big reveal event back in February, E3 2013 was where the world got its first glimpse at the PS4, for real this time. The system’s design was officially shown at Sony’s E3 2013 press conference, along with the confirmation of its pricing at $399.
Notably, the PS4 would not require a constant internet connection and and wouldn’t impose restrictions on playing used games or sharing games with friends, which were major blows to the Xbox One’s $499 launch price and when it came to their (initial) online focus for the system, which drew critical backlash when the system was revealed, and stung even more when Sony revealed these crucial details just hours after Microsoft’s conference.
Along with the first reveal of the system itself, Sony also gave attendees at the press conference a look at some of the first next-gen titles to be hitting the PS4, including inFamous: Second Son, The Order: 1886, and the long-awaited next title from Bungie, Destiny.
Aside from hardware and games, Sony also detailed more on its “Gaikai” game streaming service (which would eventually become PlayStation Now), allowing users the ability to stream games to their consoles, and that it would debut in 2014.
Following the system’s big debut in February and our first look at E3 2013, the following August at Gamescom 2013 would give those looking forward to Sony’s next system the information they had been waiting for: the release date. As confirmed by Sony during a press event at Gamescom 2013, the PS4 would launch on November 15th, 2013 in North America, followed by a release in other territories on November 29th, 2013.
The PS4 Launches Worldwide
On November 15th, 2013, the PS4 was officially released in North America and Canada, and soon followed in other territories on November 29th, 2013 across South America, Europe, and Asia.
Demand for the PS4 was already off to a strong start in North America alone as the PS4 sold over one million consoles in its first 24 hours, while by the end of 2013 the system would reach sales of over 4.2 million. The system’s launch would also set several other records in other territories such as the UK, which would reach over 250,000 sales in its first two days on market.
2014 – Notable Exclusives
- inFamous: First Light
- inFamous: Second Son
- LittleBigPlanet 3
- The Last of Us Remastered
- MLB 14: The Show
Project Morpheus Brings VR to PlayStation
At GDC 2014, the first inklings of Sony’s experimentation with virtual reality would be revealed to the public with the introduction of “Project Morpheus,” a new hardware platform/peripheral that would be “the next innovation from PlayStation,” according to Sony Interactive Entertainment’s Shuhei Yoshida, that would end up shaping the future of not just the system, but for games on a wider level.
As the early prototype for what would become PlayStation VR, Project Morpheus would utilize a VR display headset, a tracking camera, and the PlayStation Move controllers to fully immerse users in virtual reality games and experiences, with GDC attendees getting the chance to try out the hardware first-hand on the show floor.
As the first E3 for the PS4 since its release, Sony didn’t disappoint when it came to bringing out the big guns for what it had on the horizon for its new system with our first tease for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the reveal of FromSoftware’s gothic masterpiece Bloodborne, and additional looks at major titles such as Destiny, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, No Man’s Sky, Far Cry 4, Batman: Arkham Knight, and many more.
PlayStation Now Brings PlayStation to a Wider Audience
Known for some time as “Gaikai,” at CES 2014 earlier in the year Sony had officially revealed its game streaming service as “PlayStation Now” and would allow users to play a wide variety of games through the power of cloud streaming.
Showcasing titles like The Last of Us and God of War: Ascension being played on devices such as PS Vita and Sony Bravia TVs, PlayStation Now began a beta period in early 2014 before eventually receiving its full release in early 2015, with the service in that time having expanded to include hundreds of titles for users to play, with more being added monthly to this day.
PlayStation Experience 2014
Marking the 20th anniversary of the PlayStation brand, Sony held the inaugural, modern run of its PlayStation Experience event in Las Vegas, bringing PlayStation fans from around the world together for new game announcements and other surprises.
Notable announcements and reveals from the event included the first in-game look at Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the reveal of Street Fighter V, the reveal of David Jaffe’s Drawn to Death, and confirmation that both Yakuza 5 and Persona 5 would be coming to the West.
2015 – Notable Exclusives
- Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
- God of War III Remastered
- MLB 15: The Show
- The Order: 1886
- Tearaway Unfolded
- Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection
- Until Dawn
Often called “the Year of Dreams” for Sony fans, E3 2015 proved to be a memorable one for PlayStation announcements, as Sony’s conference saw the return of The Last Guardian (which would now be coming to PS4 after years of delays as a PS3-exclusive), the announcement of Shenmue III, and the official confirmation of Final Fantasy VII Remake, which was met with cheers (and tears) by long-time fans waiting for its debut.
Aside from those reveals, E3 2015 also gave us our first look at Horizon Zero Dawn, the long-awaited new IP from Killzone developer Guerrilla Games, a new look at No Man’s Sky, and other glimpses of major titles such as Destiny: The Taken King, Batman: Arkham Knight, Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, and Star Wars: Battlefront.
Project Morpheus Becomes PlayStation VR
After the world was introduced to Project Morpheus at GDC 2014, in the following year Sony would announce that its VR platform would be officially known as “PlayStation VR” and would aim for a release in early 2016 (which would eventually become fall 2016).
PlayStation Experience 2015
As the follow-up to the previous year’s debut event, Sony made a notable change with PlayStation Experience in 2015 by moving the event over to San Francisco’s Moscone Center, though it was no less eventful inside a new venue.
PSX 2015 brought several big reveals and surprises, with the event showing some of the first gameplay footage of Final Fantasy VII Remake in action, a bigger look at Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, the latest showcase for Koei Tecmo’s samurai action title Nioh, a gameplay demo for Insomniac Games’ reimagining of Ratchet & Clank, and several titles being shown from Double Fine Productions, including Day of the Tentacle Remastered, Full Throttle Remastered, and Psychonauts: In the Rhombus of Ruin.
Hideo Kojima and PlayStation Come Together
2015 proved to be a tumultuous year for those following the drama that unfolded between the renowned Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima and his former publisher Konami in the wake of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain‘s release.
While Kojima would leave Konami that year, it wasn’t too long after the Kojima was in the spotlight in a different way, as by the year’s end, PlayStation’s Andrew House had announced that they would be partnering with Hideo Kojima — as part of the newly-reformed Kojima Productions — to create a new title on PS4, which would later be known as Death Stranding.
2016 – Notable Exclusives
- Gravity Rush Remastered
- The Last Guardian
- Let It Die
- MLB 16: The Show
- No Man’s Sky
- Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
- Ratchet & Clank
- Shadow of the Beast
- Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness
- Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
This time around at E3 2016, Sony turned its attention to PlayStation VR as it revealed that the PS4’s virtual reality peripheral would launch in October 2016 and would launch at a pricetag of $399. Along with the details around PlayStation VR, many of the games that would eventually make their way to the platform were also shown or announced, such as Batman: Arkham VR and Farpoint.
Outside of PlayStation VR, E3 2016 was the year that we saw many of the PS4’s most notable titles introduced for the first time, such as God of War (which would completely re-imagine the long-running PlayStation franchise), Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man title (which would later be known as Marvel’s Spider-Man), Bend Studio’s new IP Days Gone, Resident Evil VII: biohazard, and the long-requested return of Crash Bandicoot in the form of remastered versions of the first three games, which would arrive first on PS4 before heading to other systems down the line.
The biggest announcement of them all though would come from the reveal of Hideo Kojima’s new game called Death Stranding, which was revealed as a PS4 exclusive and that it would feature The Walking Dead‘s Norman Reedus and Hannibal‘s Mads Mikkelsen as two of its key stars.
The PS4 Pro and PS4 Slim Brings Us to Mid-Gen
Following numerous rumors and reports that began cropping up in the earlier parts of the year (with new PS4 hardware under the codename “Neo”), Sony had officially confirmed in fall 2016 that it would be debuting two new models of the PS4 nearly three years after the system’s release with the PS4 Slim and PS4 Pro.
In September 2016, Sony would once again take to New York City to reveal the next iterations of the PS4 hardware at this point in the system’s life, with that fall’s meeting highlighting the numerous technical capabilities of the PS4 Pro.
Like other variants of the PlayStation consoles before it, the PS4 Slim would act as the new “baseline” PS4 model by bringing a sleeker design to the system, and would replace the original design of the PS4 when it released in September 2016 for $299.
Alongside the PS4 Slim, Sony also introduced the world to the PS4 Pro, which would offer a higher-end, premium version of the console with advanced graphical capabilities. Mainly, the system’s key features included the ability to render and play games in 4K (primarily through the process of “checkerboard rendering”) and utilize HDR-compliant displays, thanks to its enhanced hardware capabilities and features over the original PS4 models. The PS4 Pro would debut in November 2016 at $399.
PlayStation VR and a New (Virtual) Reality
2016 not only saw the introduction of new PlayStation console hardware, but also introduced the PS4 audience to virtual reality in fall 2016 with the release of PlayStation VR.
In just a few years after we were introduced to the platform as Project Morpheus, PlayStation VR was released on October 13th, 2016, and would feature a number of launch titles from the get-go to bring players into virtual reality. Notable titles for the launch included gamers that were developed exclusively with VR in mind such as Batman: Arkham VR, Job Simulator, and RIGS: Mechanized Combat League, while an even greater variety of non-VR exclusive games like Bound, Rez Infinite, and Thumper would give PlayStation VR users an even more immersive experience.
PlayStation Experience 2016
For the third iteration of PlayStation Experience, Sony once again moved the event into a new part of California at Anaheim, and as the saying goes, the third time was the charm for PSX as one of the most memorable events Sony has held yet for PlayStation fans.
The biggest announcement of the event came with the reveal that Ellie and Joel’s journey would continue with The Last of Us Part II, while Naughty Dog showed they were also at work on Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, a new spin-off in the Uncharted series starring fan favorites Chloe and Nadine.
Alongside those major first-party reveals, PlayStation Experience 2016 also gave viewers a first look at Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, new footage for the highly anticipated Horizon Zero Dawn, the reveals of Knack 2 and Housemarque’s Nex Machina, and a trio of remasters for cult classics PaRappa the Rapper, Patapon, and LocoRoco.
2017 – Notable Exclusives
- Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony
- Digimon World: Next Order
- Drawn to Death
- Everybody’s Golf
- Gran Turismo Sport
- Gravity Rush 2
- Hidden Agenda
- Horizon Zero Dawn
- Kingdom Hearts HD 2.8 Final Chapter Prologue
- Knack 2
- LocoRoco Remastered
- LocoRoco 2 Remastered
- MLB The Show 17
- PaRappa the Rapper Remastered
- Patapon Remastered
- Persona 5
- Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
- Yakuza 0
- Yakuza Kiwami
With little in the way of hardware announcements left to reveal, Sony turned its attention at E3 2017 to games, and gave the spotlight to a number of anticipated titles and new surprises. Marvel’s Spider-Man stole the show with a stunning gameplay demo, and a new look at Days Gone highlighted its intense post-apocalyptic world.
Alongside those titles, the conference also saw new looks at PS4 titles that were on the horizon, such as Uncharted: Lost Legacy and Detroit: Become Human, while also revealing that Horizon Zero Dawn would get a new expansion in the fall in the form of The Frozen Wilds. Among the bigger announcements at the show was the reveal that the 2005 classic Shadow of the Colossus would be getting a PS4 remake in early 2018, while also giving the stage to major third-party titles such as Monster Hunter: World, Destiny 2, Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite, and Call of Duty: WWII.
PlayStation Experience 2017
In a change of pace from years’ past, PlayStation Experience in 2017 adopted a bit of a different approach for fans that attended the event at its return in Anaheim, CA.
Compared to the past few years that saw surprises and announcements on par with E3-level reveals, PlayStation Experience 2017 was far lighter on major announcements and reveals and instead opted for conversations and behind-the-scenes looks at some recently-released titles and upcoming titles like God of War and Detroit: Become Human.
While the show was seen as a bit underwhelming by some fans, PSX 2017 wasn’t without some notable announcements, which included the reveal that the PS1 cult classic MediEvil would be remastered on PS4, a closer look at Media Molecule’s Dreams, several indie game reveals and trailers, and several PlayStation VR titles having been announced, including a VR demonstration for The Last Guardian and Wipeout: Omega Collection.
2018 – Notable Exclusives:
- Bravo Team
- Detroit: Become Human
- Firewall: Zero Hour
- God of War
- The Inpatient
- Marvel’s Spider-Man
- Shadow of the Colossus
- Tetris Effect
- Yakuza 6: The Song of Life
- Yakuza Kiwami 2
The PS4 and Its (Possible) Twilight Years
In May 2018, the first signs that the PS4 may be entering the end of its life cycle began with comments from Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO John Kodera that suggested the system was potentially heading towards its final years.
However, that isn’t to say that we should expect the PS5 (or whatever name Sony ends up naming its next potential piece of hardware) to come any time soon, as any potential new PlayStation console from Sony would still likely be at least a few years away.
With several major first-party titles for the system still remaining in the pipeline, as we saw at this year’s E3, it’s clear that the PS4 still has plenty of life left in it at this point in its cycle, and there is still plenty to look forward to from the system.
Coming off the release of God of War in April, a major commercial and critical success, Sony showed that it still has plenty more coming for those with a PS4, though its presentation this year marked a noticeable difference than in E3s past.
At this year’s conference, Sony decided to focus its E3 presentation on a few of its core upcoming titles — Marvel’s Spider-Man, The Last of Us Part II, Ghost of Tsushima, and Death Stranding — and giving viewers a bit more of a deep dive into each of these upcoming titles, in lieu of a barrage of game reveals and announcements like what we saw from Microsoft’s E3 2018 conference.
While the presentation of the event came to mixed results from viewers, what Sony had on display was still jaw-dropping, especially when it came to a staggering presentation for Ghost of Tsushima, an exciting, action-packed demo for Spider-Man, our first gameplay look at Death Stranding, and a deeper (and heartfelt) new gameplay demo for The Last of Us Part II.
Outside of those core first-party titles, E3 2018 also gave us the reveals of some other notable third-party titles, such as the long-awaited remake of Resident Evil 2 from Capcom, the surprise sequel Nioh 2, Remedy Entertainment’s new third-person shooter Control, and a new look at Kingdom Hearts III.
PlayStation, Fortnite, and The Great Crossplay Debate
Following the release of Fortnite on Nintendo Switch, Sony soon found itself in the middle of an unexpected bit of controversy with a wide number of players having discovered that Epic Games accounts that were previously tied to a PS4 system while playing Fortnite would make those accounts unable to support crossplay on other platforms.
This led to a major turning point in the debate for crossplay among other consoles, which Sony had notoriously been shying away from to maintain its lead among competitors, despite some of the criticism from fans compared to the support for crossplay that Microsoft and Nintendo have provided in titles such as Fortnite and Minecraft.
In a surprise turn of events, Sony conceded to opening the doors to full crossplay between other consoles and platforms this past September with Fortnite, and hopefully opening the doors to support for other titles down the line.
At Long Last, PSN Name Changes Have Arrived…Soon.
For years upon years, PlayStation fans that were looking to replace their embarrassing PlayStation Network IDs were waiting on bated breath for the day that they would be able to change their PSN names for something a bit more savory (or perhaps appropriate).
After several years of teases and hopes, and reports even coming in recently, Sony finally confirmed just last month that PS4 console owners will finally be able to change their PSN names starting next year, with select members of the service trying out the feature now in a preview program.
PlayStation in 2019 & Beyond
So far heading into 2019, the two major first-party titles that we can expect to see for PS4 are Bend Studio’s Days Gone, which is currently scheduled to release in April 2019 following a recent delay, and Media Molecule’s Dreams, which is planned to release next year following a beta that is supposed to come in 2018, though no recent news has debuted as to when that will happen just yet. Likewise, Concrete Genie, a delightful-looking platformer from PixelOpus, is also aiming for a release sometime in spring 2019.
Outside of those few titles, what seems to be among the PS4’s last remaining exclusives are surely among its biggest titles, but have no confirmed release dates or windows just yet. Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II has gotten the spotlight several times over the years as the gritty and emotional follow-up to the studio’s 2013 masterpiece, while Ghost of Tsushima from Sucker Punch Productions showcased a stunning and striking new direction for the inFamous studio. Finally, Death Stranding will have fans of Hideo Kojima eagerly awaiting its next ominous and ambiguous teaser, though it’s not clear for how much longer when it comes to its actual release date.
In the past five years, it’s clear to see that Sony and the PS4 have come an incredibly long well. While the system wasn’t without some growing pains in its early days, to see where the PS4 is now compared to where it has come from is striking at this point in its life, from the incredible games that have released for the system, to the new iterations and surprises that have arrived for the system each month. While the thought of the next console from Sony may be coming sooner rather than later, Sony has made the case that with the past five years now behind us, it seems like the best of the PS4 is still yet to come.