Credit: Chesnot/Getty ImagesSony revealed the PlayStation 5 to Wired earlier this month. The company offered details about the console's hardware, which is based around a Ryzen processor and Navi graphics from AMD, as well as its software. But it didn't offer any information about how much the PS5 would cost, which means we'll probably hear different rumors about the console's price tag until the official announcement. The latest puts the PS5 at $399.
That figure arrives partly from Pelham Smithers of the appropriately named Pelham Smithers Associates research firm. The firm focuses on Japan's stock market, and because gaming is such a big part of the country's economy, that means Smithers is interested in the sector as well. Wired said in a separate report that Smithers believes the AMD processor at the heart of the PS5 will cost between $180 and $220 later this year.
Wired then makes a few assumptions about the PS5: that Smithers correctly identified the AMD Ryzen 3600G as the processor used by the console, that Smithers' prediction that the Ryzen 3600G will fall to those prices by the second half of 2019 is accurate, and that the rest of the PS5's components would allow it to reach the $399 price. Sony would presumably want to at least break even at that price, let alone make some profit, but game consoles can be loss-leaders that allow their manufacturers to recoup their investments via profits from game sales and other services.
We are a bit confused by the first assumption. Wired said the Ryzen 3600G was revealed at CES 2019, but it wasn't, at least to our knowledge. While it's possible that AMD only revealed the processor to a select few, the casual revelation in a report about the PS5's rumored price seems odd. The only mention we've seen of a possible Ryzen 3600G model came from a leak by tech-tuber AdoredTV, but AMD hasn't publicly mentioned the processor or its price range. So far Sony has only said the console features a third-gen Ryzen processor featuring eight cores built on AMD's 7nm Zen 2 architecture.
The other assumptions could follow market trends: the cost of many components is falling as companies deal with CPU shortages, an oversupply of memory, and other problems. But with the PS5's improved performance over its predecessor--the console is said to support 8K resolutions, ray tracing, and feature an SSD even with the base model--it still seems odd for it to launch at the same $399 price as the PlayStation 4.
Tweets from Wired senior correspondent Peter Rubin offer slightly more information about Sony's pricing plans. Rubin asked Sony lead system architect Mark Cerny if the PS5's pricing would fall within the usual console price range (presumably between $299 and $399). Cerny said: "I believe that we will be able to release it at an SRP [suggested retail price] that will be appealing to gamers in light of its advanced feature set."
Cerny didn't offer any more information when Rubin pressed him about whether or not that means the PS5 will cost more because it offers such improved performance. It could honestly go either way. If Sony's primary concern is maintaining its lead on the console market--at least over Microsoft--a $399 price for a high-performing machine could help it do that. But the console market has also proven receptive to higher prices.
Just look at the PlayStation 4 Pro: it started at the same $399 as the base PlayStation 4 even though the base model was three years old and cost $299 at the time. The revised console was built around the idea that people would pay an extra $100 for improved performance. Microsoft took the same tack with the Xbox One X, which started at $499 when it debuted in 2017, four years after the Xbox One's release at that price.
All of which means that it wouldn't surprise us if the PS5 actually started at $399, regardless of how much the yet-unidentified processor it's built around costs, but we also wouldn't be shocked if Sony asked for even more money. There's precedent for both approaches, and we suspect that even Sony hasn't decided how much the console will cost. We're at least a year away from its release--there's plenty of time for it to work it out.