Sony Corp. unveiled two versions of its upcoming PlayStation 5 game console and an array of new games from the virtual stage Thursday, showcasing its next-generation lineup for the first time ahead of a holiday season showdown against Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox.
A new Spider-Man game will be ready for the holidays, alongside the release of the black-and-white home console. Sony will also have a new Gran Turismo racing game, as well as an enhanced version of Take-Two Interactive Software Inc.’s bestselling Grand Theft Auto V for the PlayStation 5 next year.
The second variant of the PS5, dubbed the Digital Edition, will eschew the Blu-ray disc drive and offer downloads as the only way to acquire new games. This move could hasten the transition to digital downloads and cut out retailers like Amazon.com Inc., GameStop Corp. and Walmart Inc. The PS5 Digital Edition has a sleeker design and is expected to be cheaper than the standard model, though Sony did not disclose pricing information.
Shares of the Japanese entertainment giant fell as much as 3.9% in early Tokyo trading Friday, its biggest intraday fall in more than two months.
“It looks like Sony is saying the PS5’s theme color is white,” said Hideki Yasuda, an analyst with Ace Research Institute. “I can’t think of many white, round-edged game consoles that have done well in the past, so I think Sony is taking on a challenge with that design direction.”
Sony showed an array of new games from various high-profile franchises, including Resident Evil 8, a remake of the action game Demon’s Souls and a sequel to the popular PlayStation 4 game Horizon Zero Dawn.
Expectations are high for the PlayStation 5. Sony’s current system has dominated the video game market for the last seven years, selling more than 110 million units and overshadowing Microsoft’s efforts with the Xbox. Both companies began talking publicly about their next generation of consoles last year. Sony has promised technical improvements that would enable sharper graphics, larger game worlds and reduced load times.
The coronavirus pandemic has complicated what is normally a carefully choreographed process for introducing a new game system. Sony had planned to deliver a lecture on the PlayStation 5’s technical capabilities during the Game Developers Conference in March. When that event was called off, the Japanese hardware maker instead streamed an hourlong video presentation hosted by the PlayStation’s lead architect, Mark Cerny.
The Electronic Entertainment Expo is typically the premier launch event for the biggest game releases. The conference, known as E3, had been set to take place this week in Los Angeles but was canceled due to the virus. Sony had not planned to participate at E3 but arranged a live streaming event on June 4. That was postponed by a week in the wake of global protests against racial injustice that started in the U.S.
On Thursday, Sony introduced several games from independent or smaller developers, in addition to big-budget titles. Highlights included Bugsnax, a cartoon game set on an island full of talking fruits and animals, and an adventure game called Kena: Bridge of Spirits. The new version of Grand Theft Auto Online will be free exclusively to PlayStation 5 owners for three months, said Take-Two, the game’s publisher. It debuts in the second half of 2021.
The wide variety of games on display could help broaden the PlayStation 5’s appeal and attract younger audiences like those typically captured by Nintendo Co. “Sony showed us a lot of cartoony games, a shift from the PS4 launch when the reveal was dominated by photorealistic games,” said Ace Research Institute’s Yasuda.
Sony will face off against Microsoft this holiday season when they each plan to release new consoles. Sony has been struggling to keep costs down for the PlayStation 5, but it hasn’t yet said what the new product will sell for. Partly due to a high initial price tag, Sony is limiting production of the console for the launch, people familiar with the matter have said.
Piers Harding-Rolls, an analyst at Ampere Analysis, anticipates the new consoles will sell for $450 to $499. “Higher pricing is actually predicted to have a minimal impact on adoption at launch,” he said. “Within a certain range — less than $500 — price is not a major factor.” Sony will likely be able to reduce the price of the model without the Blu-ray disc capability, said Serkan Toto, a games consultant who runs a company called Kantan Games Inc.
More must-read tech coverage from Fortune:
- Joe Biden makes Facebook’s lax moderation policy a campaign issue
- Microsoft follows IBM and Amazon in barring police from using its facial-recognition technology
- Buzzy research lab OpenAI debuts first product as it tries to live up to the hype
- 5G won’t be a financial cash cow for wireless carriers, report says
- WATCH: Ocado’s robots are out to change the grocery business