We're nearly five years into this console generation and people are itching to know what's coming next from Sony and Microsoft, but when will we see our first glimpse of next-gen hardware?
Next-gen console reveals are far too big to be relegated to trade shows and expos. If Sony and Microsoft are going to reveal new consoles, it's going to be on their own terms. Don't expect gamescom, E3, or any other big gaming shows to host the reveal of next gen.
With the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X, Sony and Microsoft changed how console generations work. We can't expect the next full console iteration to follow any expected patterns because they've already changed the game.
At the absolute earliest, the next generation of consoles won't be here until 2019, but the PlayStation 4 is really hitting its stride and Microsoft seems to have some tricks up their sleeve for the Xbox One (and One X). Why would they abandon the hardware and move on right now? We've got until at least 2020, if not further out before we see the transition.
Sony controls a dominant portion of the home console market share, beating the Xbox by nearly 2:1. If they don't carefully control the conversation around the generational shift, it's a long way to fall from the top. Sony won't want to move too soon, especially when the very successful PS4 is still selling well and seeing amazing game releases.
Bringing up the rear end of the market share means Microsoft has more reason to reveal and release first. If we're to see either console earlier, it would be Microsoft revealing it's unique plans for how it plans to change the video game console landscape going forward.
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two generation is set to change what we think of as traditional consoles moving forward. These two will be less competitors, and more each serving to fill a particular role. We'll see more iterative hardware rather than cut-and-dry new standalone consoles, and that's going to impact reveals and releases moving forward.
If the Xbox One X taught us anything, it's that sheer power isn't enough to sell a console. Sony has the games, and even on less powerful hardware, fans are flocking to great exclusives. There's no reason to move into a new generation of hardware until that hardware has some distinct selling points over the current PS4s that fans are happy with. That's why we're unlikely to see a new generation of hardware until it can do something notably more than just higher resolutions and better frame rates.
I'd be legitimately surprised if we saw any full next generation reveals before 2020. There's still a lot that Sony and Microsoft can squeeze out of their current consoles before revealing what the future of video games looks like. That's a conversation we won't be having for another two years at least.