Happy second birthday to the PlayStation 5, which launched on November 12th, 2020. As we reach its second birthday, having spent its life to date awash in Interesting Times, it’s worth taking a look back to gauge just how far the hardware has come since then.
At this point in a gaming console’s life, one would assume that hardware would be coming into its own by now. That it would have built a solid library of games and a healthy, growing user base. Is that the reality for PlayStation’s now current-generation console? The answer is a bit of a mixed bag, really.
Join me as we have a look at how the console was when it launched, and then how it’s all going now.
Availability is improving
I remember working at JB Hi-Fi when the PlayStation 5 was released. What a stinker of a time to be working in retail when a hotly-anticipated console was only available in teeny-tiny batches. I think we can all agree that trying to buy a PlayStation 5 the year that it came out was not only a pain in the ass, but could also lead you to spend a hell of a lot more than you planned because some chump decided to turn its scarcity into a quick buck. It was shit, and it sucked, but it’s gotten a little bit better.
We’ve seen this year is that both online and brick-and-mortar stockists have slowly begun receiving more and more shipments of PlayStation 5 hardware, which is great news. That said, while the likelihood of being able to walk into an EB Games or a JB Hi-Fi and buy a PlayStation 45 outright is much higher now than it was at launch, it far from a certainty. Most retailers are still only serving the consoles up in the form of preorders, but those windows for preordering seem to be lasting a lot longer than they used to. Rather than the entire year’s worth of PlayStation 5 stock for Australia selling out in a day, we’re seeing more regular preorder drops lasting a day or two before selling out.
It’s easier to get a PS5 than it’s ever been, but we’re not completely out of the woods yet. Production issues are still very much a thing and that may mean securing a PlayStation 5 to shove into a Christmas stocking may still take a bit of early planning.
The price has gone up
Considering the scarcity of consoles at launch, it was still great to see retailers putting safeguards in place to ensure more people could get their hands on a PS5 console for recommended retail price rather than the bloated scalper rates. However, availability doesn’t necessarily equal accessibility when we’re talking about price. Earlier this year, PlayStation was forced to raise the price of PlayStation 5 consoles in most markets (including Australia). While previously $599 for the digital console and $749 for the disc console locally, the new prices sit at $649 for the digital and $799 for the disc version. Inflation is ugly as hell, isn’t it?
The funny thing is, when you consider how hard it was to get a PS5 initially, this situation is still better than it was before, which is cooked. Inflation sucks and it’s really stinky seeing things get more expensive, but it’s also hard to deny that the average person would prefer to pay $799 for a guaranteed console rather than $1000 to $2000. Surely there’s something wrong with the way of the world where we’re thankful that a console that’s had a price hike still isn’t as expensive as immoral opportunists are selling it for, right? Conversely, the scalpers seem to have been winding their prices back a bit as availability increases. Irrespective of what the scalpers are doing, to call the PlayStation 5 ‘financially accessible’ in any way, shape, or form would be a massive stretch.
As it became more abundantly clear to retailers that scalpers were some of their most frequent customers, a good amount of them started putting moves into play to combat the buying and inflated reselling of PlayStation 5 consoles. Notably, EB Games has been at the forefront of trying to stop scalpers in their tracks by requiring preorders to be done in-store with a $200 deposit and a one-console-per-customer rule, and then there was the Gamewoori tactic of simply cancelling preorders if they saw them being put up at a higher price online.
At least the PS5 has games
I think PlayStation learned its lesson after the ‘PS3 Has No Games‘ era in terms of launch titles for a new console. The launch of the PlayStation 5 saw a reasonable amount of launch titles both old and new, including some great brand-new first-party titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Astro’s Playroom (free on every console). While the release of console-exclusive titles went at a pretty standard pace, backwards compatibility with PlayStation 4 titles meant that there was still a reasonable back catalogue as well as older games getting PlayStation 5 upgrades.
If we look at the PlayStation 5 library now, the worry about a lack of games for the console is pretty much gone. There are too many fantastic indie titles available to count, plenty of great first-time releases from studios that have been boosted by PlayStation such as Stray and Kena: Bridge of Spirits, as well as some humongous first-party titles that fully take advantage of the console’s hardware, such as Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart and more recently God of War: Ragnarok. While buying first-party games on the PlayStation Store might see you spending about $125 on a single game, it’s not too hard to find a copy of the same game for about $79. You’ve just got to be a bargain queen.
And then there was the new PlayStation Plus tiers system, which opened the floodgates for more access to more games for three different monthly prices. This was great! The only downside was that not all tiers are created equal. Regions where PlayStation Now was not available (like Australia) were given a revised Deluxe tier, a downgraded version of the US’ Premium tier, which locked them out of a whole range of games available to countries that do have access to cloud streaming on their PlayStation. Who knows? Maybe if our internet speeds get better, we will be ushered into that rarified Premium air. But for now, we are merely Deluxe.
So what’s the conclusion here? In my eyes, yes, things have gotten a great deal better for the PlayStation 5. It’s a great console that packs a punch, and it’s been getting a lot easier to find one. Still not easy, but definitely easier. As well, the library of games available for the PlayStation 5 continues to grow and shoot out some absolute bangers.
Once it hits the point where walking into a games store and buying a PlayStation 5 console at its regular price isn’t a game of luck, it’ll be a good day. For now, it’s better than it was but there’s always room for improvement.
Happy 2nd birthday, PlayStation 5!
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