Daily Reaction: Checking Expectations – PS5 Was Never Going to Be Revealed at CES 2020

So that was some… logo… reveal the other day, yeah? If you’ve somehow missed the news or been off the internet for the last couple of days, 1) I envy you, and 2) Sony took some time from its CES 2020 press conference to reveal the PS5 logo, which looks exactly the same as the PS4 logo and rebranded PS3 logo—the same logo PlayStation has been rocking for more than a decade (after getting rid of the hideous yet hilarious Spider-Man font branding). It was underwhelming, to say the least, but did we really expect anything more?

If history shows us anything, it’s that CES is probably not the place that a new console is getting revealed. Yeah, yeah, Microsoft did it back in 2001 with the Xbox, but that was when the company was just entering the gaming space. It didn’t yet have a fanbase in gaming, so the Xbox had a good place to be announced alongside Microsoft’s other electronic innovations at that time. PlayStation, on the other hand, has a massive community. The largest of all current-gen consoles, in fact, with over 106 million sold. It’s the second bestselling console of all time, trailing only the PS2, and yet people honestly thought Sony was going to lump the PS5 reveal in with a press conference designed to show off new cameras, TVs, and smart car tech?

While Sony promoted its CES press conference with catchy taglines like “the future is coming” and “a unique vision of the future,” PlayStation didn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole. The PlayStation social media accounts didn’t hype up Sony’s presence at the show. There was no wink and nod at gamers, hinting that they should tune in for CES. And yet expectations rose that Sony would spend a ton of time on that small stage talking about PS5; wishful thinking at best. I’ll admit, part of me had my hopes up too, if even just a little. But realistically I knew it wasn’t going to be happening there. There was far too little fanfare for it to be the unveiling of the next ~7 years of the PlayStation brand.

PS5 Features

Ironically, I actually had people tell me that this radio silence was what caused hype for the show. “Not addressing the elephant in the room is what causes people to show up,” one person tweeted at me. Yes, a bunch of people actually blame Sony for *checks notes* not building any hype at all being the reason that they built up their own hype. I’d argue that Sony was incredibly careful not to mislead fans that there would in any way be anything shown at CES. Even Ryan on stage had a carefully worded script that did not hint or betray anything. Sony simply isn’t ready to reveal the PS5 fully yet. That wasn’t the time or place.

What Can We Learn From History?

Let’s once again look to history. The PS4 reveal in February 2013 was its own event, separate from Sony’s other electronics endeavors. Given the unique interests of the gaming audience, Sony can afford to (and should) treat this part of its business a little bit independently of everything else it does. This console cycle is a bit odd, given that we know more about the PS5 right now than we did the PS4 at this same period ahead of its launch. With the PS4, we knew virtually nothing official before February 2013 (around 10 months ahead of launch). For PS5, Sony started trickling out information as far back as April 2019, about 19 months before the PS5 is expected to be available. Still, even with this break from tradition, CES was never going to be the grand stage that Sony started really talking PS5.

Sony at least threw gamers a little bit of a bone, confirming that the PS5 logo is remaining the same as every PlayStation logo since the PS3 rebrand in 2009. They also got it out of the way early so expectant gamers didn’t have to wait through the whole conference just to be disappointed. But one thing in particular that Jim Ryan talked about near the end of that segment struck a chord with me as further evidence that the PS5 will have its own grand unveiling for the fans, away from the other parts of Sony’s business: Community.

PS5 Community

Ryan specifically brought up the passionate PlayStation community of fans, an enormous picture of people signing the PS wall at PSX displayed behind him. No, he didn’t officially announce a reveal event or the return of PSX (yet), but it was the capstone of the gaming segment, perhaps even more crucial to pay attention to than the PS5 logo. With that in mind, it became even more clear why CES was never the stage the PS5 was going to be shown on. That’s not the PlayStation community, at least not in full.

Look at the live reaction to the PS5 logo for evidence (I’m not talking about the Twitter memes here). Had you shown this at an E3 press conference or somewhere full of PlayStation fans, they would have gone nuts. Just look at how many “likes” the Instagram post of the logo has, which has now set a record for gaming Instagram posts. At the small CES conference, you had a bunch of tech geeks quietly stand up, reach their hands out with their phones, and awkwardly take pictures of Jim Ryan with the logo displayed behind him. It was humorous, really, and a vastly different atmosphere than the gaming events and conferences I’m used to.

When Will the PS5 be Revealed?

The unveiling of the PS5 is just as much about how that information is delivered as it is when. Sony’s been preparing for this for years, forgoing a couple years’ worth of PSX events and even skipping out on E3. Why reveal the PS5 for people who won’t care about it? Even Microsoft’s Xbox Series X reveal came in the midst of another show. Sony is going to make sure that the PlayStation community is part of the reveal. When it’s coming, we’ll know it. Sony will make sure of that. We knew about February 2013’s “PlayStation Event” well ahead of time and it generated a ton of buzz.

If I am disappointed with one thing, it’s that Jim Ryan took the opportunity to show the logo, but not to give us a path forward in the 11th hour. I had hoped we would get perhaps a window for the next major info drop or even a tease to keep us eagerly waiting. Keep in mind, that was my own hope. Not my expectation. But having known about the PS4 since April of last year, it’s easy to get impatient for what we inevitably know is coming.

PS5 Logo

If I had to guess, I can see one of two things happening. Sony could follow the PS4’s reveal path and do a big event early this year, showing more at E3, and then a launch event and maybe PSX at the end of the year. The other possibility is Sony doing a separate E3 reveal event open to fans (similar to EA Play and Microsoft), so they are “at E3” but have full control over their own brand and messaging away from the hustle and bustle of the show floor. The only reason I doubt this one is that Sony won’t want to jumble PS5 reveal messaging with E3’s announcements, and it will want the PS5 already revealed by the time third-parties start showing stuff off at E3.

Then again, who expected to wake up one morning in April 2019 and suddenly have a bunch of PS5 details thanks to a random Wired exclusive? Who knew that they would miss an entire E3? Will Sony even use E3 this year as a platform for the PS5? At this point, all bets are off the table, and looking at history can only tell us so much about Sony’s plans going forward. What’s certain is that the company will embrace the PlayStation community as part of the ongoing PS5 reveal and discussions coming up, but where and when that will happen is anyone’s guess.

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