The biggest event in the PlayStation world in 2020 was the long-awaited arrival of the PS5. Trying to find stock of the thing is still proving to be an exercise in frustration for many, but those lucky few with Sony’s latest console are already enjoying the spoils of next-gen gaming.
It wasn’t just shiny new hardware though. PlayStation fans enjoyed a fairly stacked year with tons of well-received games. Even discounting PS5-only exclusives like the phenomenal Demon’s Souls remake, PS4 players got to enjoy titles like The Last of Us Part 2, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, Persona 5 Royal, and Ghost of Tsushima.
Yet the biggest highlight was undoubtedly the debut of the PlayStation 5, with its innovative DualSense controller, blazing-fast load times, and impressive raw power. It’s far from a job done for Sony, however. There’s plenty of room for improvement for the PlayStation brand.
Here’s what we want to see from PlayStation in 2021. And before we start, yes, the actual biggest wish is more stock. Sort it out, Sony!
Our verdict: Sony PlayStation 5 review
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on January 16, 2021. It has been updated to include the video embedded at the top of the page.
1. A true Xbox Game Pass rival
The PlayStation vs Xbox debate will rage forever. For the ninth-generation of consoles, one of the core things that separates one brand from the other is their respective subscription ecosystems — and it’s Microsoft that’s blazing a trail here, with Sony limping behind.
There is no competition when comparing Xbox Game Pass to what is for all intents and purposes Sony’s rival service — PlayStation Now. The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier, in particular, is the best deal in gaming right now.
For just shy of $15 you get instant access to a Netflix-style library of hundreds of games. That includes first-party exclusives on day one, an additional library to play on Windows PCs, Xbox Live Gold (usually $9.99 a month), cloud streaming to Android devices, access to EA Play games at no extra cost, and other perks too.
Compare this to the $9.99 PS Now. It offers a decent library of games from across the PS2, PS3, and PS4 eras which can be streamed to your console or a Windows PC via the cloud. You can also download PS4 and PS2 games directly to your PS4 or PS5. While that sounds great on paper, the variety of games on offer pales in comparison to Game Pass, and you have to wait months if not years for newly released titles to hit the service. You’ll also still need to buy PS Plus separately to play online.
The PS5-only PS Plus Collection paid lip service to the chasmic divide between Sony’s subscriptions and those found on Xbox platforms, but it’s PS Now that is in dire need of an overhaul. New PS5 exclusive releases on PS Now would be a perfect starting point. But whatever the first step, Sony needs to do something in 2021 if it wants to compete in the rapidly expanding game subscription market.
2. Fresh exclusive franchises
The game release calendar for the PS5 (and in some cases the PS4 too) is already looking stacked for 2021. This includes console exclusives like Horizon Forbidden West, Gran Turismo 7, Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, and potentially a sequel to 2018’s God of War.
Those are all highly anticipated games, but they’ve all got one thing in common: they’re sequels. A new generation is a great time for fresh ideas and new franchises. As a great example, the PS4 era saw Guerrilla Games pivot from churning out endless mediocre Killzone titles to the open-world smash hit, Horizon Zero Dawn.
New console generations are the perfect time for new franchises to be born.
So far, the biggest exclusive new IP is Returnal from the stupidly talented folks at Housemarque, but we’re hoping to see more. One of the biggest jewels in Sony’s collection of first-party studios is Naughty Dog. However, the Uncharted creator hasn’t introduced a brand new IP since The Last of Us on the PS3 back in 2013.
Even if we don’t actually hear about new series this year, we’ve got our fingers crossed that the next generation of blockbusters get the greenlight behind the scenes in 2021.
3. A big studio buy
Microsoft rocked the game industry with last year’s shock announcement that it was buying Bethesda Softworks and with it the entirety of the ZeniMax family. The Xbox brand had already started putting together an all-star roster of studios for the ninth generation, but the addition of the Fallout and Elder Scrolls team (as well as Arkane Studios and id Software) cemented Xbox Game Studios as an incredibly formidable publishing division.
Sony’s own collection of first-party developers has proven pedigree, but adding another to the mix would act as a strong statement of intent.
Of course, we’re not comparing apples with apples here. Microsoft’s financial clout far outweighs Sony’s, so expecting it to, I don’t know… buy Activision Blizzard? Not going to happen.
Instead, we’d like to see Sony lean into its strengths and acquire indie talent that could thrive under its watch with a larger budget and less financial pressure. Alternatively, it could instead look to its other big advantage over Xbox and invest in the Japanese development scene. Maybe FromSoftware is open to offers?
4. PS5 storage solution
This is a really simple one. The PS5 is an impressively specced machine, but if it has one major sore point, it’s the storage capacity.
The PS5’s SSD is a crucial part of the PlayStation 5 experience, as it enables lightning-fast load times. However, SSDs are also expensive. To keep the price down, Sony restricted the size of its custom SSD to just 825GB with only 667GB actually usable after setup.
With some games ballooning to well over 100GB, that 667GB won’t last long for players who like to keep a few titles on constant rotation. While a new model with larger storage capacity would be great, that’s something for a long-term wishlist. Instead, we really want to see Sony roll out some compatible storage expansion options.
The PS5 technically supports M.2 sticks to add additional SSD storage, but this isn’t currently supported. You can use an external SSD or HDD to store PS5 games or to play and store PS4 games, but any PS5-only titles have to eat up that 667GB to be playable. We’re hoping this whole situation changes very soon in 2021.
5. PSVR 2
This is a long shot, but we can dream.
Virtual reality has niche appeal, but it’s also one area where Sony has a big lead over Microsoft almost by default. That’s not to say the original PlayStation VR wasn’t great, it was. However, even though the PSVR is technically compatible with the PS5, the support is far from elegant.
To play VR games on the PS5, you not only need the headset, but also the PS4 Camera (the PS5 camera isn’t compatible), and a free adaptor which Sony can provide on request.
The PSVR is technically compatible with PS5, but it's crying out for new hardware.
That’s far from ideal. The deeper problem, however, is that the PSVR tech is just plain outdated. The HMD itself is getting long in the tooth as far as VR specs go, especially the display resolution. The similarly-priced Oculus Quest 2 offers 1,920 x 1,832 pixels per eye, while the PSVR sits at just 1,080 x 960.
Worse still is the tracking with motion controllers. The PSVR is compatible with the PS Move controllers. It’s staggering to say it, but these are based on tech that is now over a decade old, having originally released as peripherals for the PS3 to combat the Nintendo Wii way back in 2010.
Put simply, if Sony wants to keep up with VR, it needs new hardware. Imagine what an improved HMD with DualSense-powered motion controls could be like. Here’s hoping for an announcement or even a tease in 2021.
You tell us: What do you want to see from PlayStation in 2021?
Do you agree with our list? Which entry in our wishlist would you most like to see come true? Cast your vote in the poll below, or let us know about your hopes in the comments.