It's been over a year since Microsoft released the Xbox Series X|S and Sony released the PlayStation 5. In that time, we have seen a global pandemic that seems to be never-ending, as well as a chip shortage that has affected nearly every industry, whether or not you consider them high-tech focused. These gaming consoles have been uniquely affected, though, as many aspects of the production process have been affected and slowed down by lockdowns and manufacturing. Microsoft and Sony seem to have taken very different approaches to the problem, however.
The Microsoft approach
In the midst of global lockdowns and manufacturing stoppages, Microsoft made the decision to discontinue the Xbox One almost entirely before the Xbox Series X|S were released. In fact, other than the classic Xbox One S, all of the consoles were discontinued in July of 2020, well ahead of the November 2020 release of the new models. When the new units were released, production for the final model of Xbox One was also ended.
This was always suspected, as inventory dried up through Microsoft's official channels very quickly. The company confirmed this suspicion to The Verge, saying,
To focus on production of Xbox Series X|S, we stopped production for all Xbox One consoles by the end of 2020.
This is unusual behavior, as traditionally there is a good amount of overlap between an older console generation and a newer generation. This is partly because of price differences, as well as significant differences in performance and capabilities. In the case of the new Xbox consoles, however, it was a bit more like an internal upgrade to the existing ecosystem as opposed to a complete redesign from the ground up. As such, it made sense to put the company's manufacturing energy and resources behind the new products and not so much the old ones.
The Sony approach
While Microsoft may have moved on from its old hardware, Sony is clinging on tightly. In fact, the company seems to be committed to producing PlayStation 4 hardware throughout 2022. This move is being made, according to a report, because of the manufacturing problems that most companies have been experiencing.
The company is planning to produce a million units of the older console. The goal with this additional hardware is to try and address the lack of availability of PlayStation 5 hardware. This is because the PS4 uses older chips that are less advanced and, as such, are a bit easier to acquire. Of course, the problem with this idea is that gamers are not likely to be interested in purchasing retired hardware if they are trying to acquire modern consoles.
So, this new batch of PS4s would be targeted at casual gamers looking to get into the PlayStation ecosystem, not more focused gamers who likely already have a PS4 and are looking for an upgrade. The risk the company runs is in brand confusion and unhappy owners. While the PlayStation 5 has a long life ahead of it, the PlayStation 4 is likely to see new games dry up in the near term. While the PS3 lasted several years into the PS3's life, developers tend to start to focus on new hardware fairly quickly, as it is less expensive to produce less versions of a title. In the end, those who purchase a PS4 during 2022 are likely to get annoyed when games for their new hardware begin to disappear within a year or so of purchase.