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Sony keeps PS4 factories churning to relieve pressure from PS5 demand

Bloomberg sources say Sony was planning to end PS4 manufacture in 2021

close-up of ‘PS4’ engraving on PlayStation 4 Pro
The PlayStation 4 Pro, launched in 2016 and revised in 2018.
Photo: James Bareham/Polygon

Bloomberg reports that Sony has told its manufacturing partners to keep assembling PlayStation 4 consoles, as a response to the ongoing scarcity of the newer PlayStation 5, which launched in November 2020.

Citing unnamed sources familiar with Sony’s plans, Bloomberg said the company had planned to stop making the PlayStation 4 at the end of 2021. Instead, it will continue producing about a million units in 2022, to alleviate the strain coming from manufacturing and shipping the PS5.

Continued PS4 manufacture also appears to be a quid pro quo assisting the company’s relationship with production partners. Bloomberg’s sources said that doing more business with a cheaper-to-produce console would give Sony a little more room to negotiate deals with these partners.

The PlayStation 5 launched Nov. 12, 2020, and supply has been extremely tight since pre-orders were taken two months before that. Some of this can be attributed to component shortages and global supply chain problems related to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Sony has also told investors that it’d be unable to meet demand even if it could produce and ship a lot more units. In Sony’s last quarterly report to investors, the company said it had sold 13.4 million P5s worldwide.

The PlayStation 4 launched Nov. 15, 2013, and to date has sold more than 116 million units. Since the fiscal quarter in which the PS5 launched, Sony has sold 3.1 million PS4s worldwide. A console revision launched in 2016, with Sony offering the standard PlayStation 4 Slim and the more powerful PS4 Pro that November.

The suggestion that the PS4 would have been discontinued in 2021 is somewhat intriguing, as its predecessor, the PlayStation 3, was in production for 11 years, from 2006 to 2017. But the PS4 was not backward compatible with the PS3, as the PS5 is with the PS4, which makes the step up in the product cycle easier on customers and developers.

The PS4 remains a fully supported console; the company counts 104 million monthly active users, and sales figures alone would suggest only a fraction of them are PlayStation 5 owners. Its PlayStation Plus premium subscription, required for online multiplayer access since the PS4, had more than 46 million members at last count. Subscribers continue to get at least two PlayStation 4 games each month.

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