Mid-cycle console revisions aren’t anything new, although they’ve become strange over the past couple generations. Usually, at least as far as Sony are concerned, the standard has always been to introduce a “slim” model of their console a couple years into its life. A console that trimmed off much of the fat from its original design, while possibly bringing in some new features, and sticking to a price tag that had already seen cuts previously with its launch version.
So when leaks began making their way across the web of a possible PlayStation 5 Slim that would be releasing this year, people — especially those like myself who’ve yet to jump into the new generation of PlayStation — were rightfully excited to see Sony trim down its existing behemoth of a console, maybe with a slight price cut to boot. Instead, what we got is a console that is neither that much smaller, has essentially nothing new on offer, and is actually more expensive than its original from launch. Couple that with some incredibly odd design decisions and you have a redesign that is confusing at best, or more truthfully, one of Sony’s worst console redesigns we’ve ever seen from the company. So let’s take a walk through memory lane and see the PlayStation redesigns of yore and compare it to the console we’re stuck with now to see if things are really that bad (spoiler, they are).
The Cute OG
It’s the summer of 2000, fears of Y2K have finally subsided and Sony’s first home console is nearing 75 million units sold globally. To keep its momentum chugging, the company releases a redesigned console with the hopes to entice those that may still be on the fence to purchase their hot new commodity. Stylized as the “PS One,” this redesign was more than half the size from the original. Although it took away some I/O, and some users at the time spoke of heating issues due to its reduced size, this was and continues to be what many — myself included — think of when they think of the original PlayStation. Not to mention it released at the same price-tag of $99 USD, which was later discounted to only $50 a couple years later, though at that point Sony were already into their second generation of consoles. Speaking of which!
The Slender Wunderkind
In 2004, Sony caught lightning in a bottle again with their PlayStation 2, and decided to repeat their tactics from the previous generation and release a redesigned console as the launch PlayStation 2 neared 80 million units sold globally. The redesign, much like the original PlayStation, saw its body slimmed down to more than half of its original; which now is cheekily referred to as the “phat” model. Known as the “70000” series, the “slim” line saw a few variants over the years, though none of them aesthetically looked any different from one another (aside from the very last, which was even smaller than the original slim); instead focusing on internal revisions, some of which came with criticism as Sony axed things like HDD support. Overall though, it’s not an overstatement to say that this was the console that cemented Sony as the home-console juggernaut they’re known as today.
The Awkward Middle Child
The PlayStation 3, otherwise (incorrectly) known as the console that lost to its prime competitor, Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Though, if we’re honest, even though Sony did well to catch up to (and eventually surpass) Microsoft by the time the early 2010s rolled around as far as sales go, this was the generation in which the Japanese company came third in the home-console race. Much of this, however, was not due to their console itself. Its obscene price-tag of $499 USD ($733 USD after 2023 inflation) aside, the console was quite feature packed. However, all those features came by the way of a console that was anything but slender.
At twelve inches wide, twelve inches long, and weighing in at nearly twelve pounds, Sony’s third home-console was quite the large lad. Thankfully, the summer of 2009 saw Sony introduce the PS3 Slim. Though its dimensions weren’t the drastic changes we’d seen in the generations prior, it was still a much welcomed release. The console came in at 30% lighter while shaving off a couple inches throughout its body. It also came with a more than acceptable 120GB of storage, and at a reduced price of $299
Sony could have called it a day with the the PS3 Slim, but in the fall of 2012 they decided to add a third revision to the lineup. Known as the “Super Slim,” this console introduced increased storage options at 250GB and 500GB, a slightly smaller chassis, and most notably — albeit contentious — a sliding disc cover, getting rid of the slot-loading disc drive from previous models. Consumers have since labeled this an unnecessary revision for the PlayStation 3 lineup, especially when considering Sony axed all of its backwards compatibility with the PS2 (something introduced with the original PS3 Slim). though the bundle of the 250GB model with Uncharted 3 was a fairly good deal back in the day, and a great way for Sony to get those late to the party into their ecosystem.
The (Not So) Pro & (Not So) Slim
In 2016, three years into its life and already on pace to far surpass its predecessor in terms of global sales, Sony unveiled its redesigns for their PlayStation 4, though something was distinctively different this time around. Alongside a console that was a smidge smaller than its original, another console that was rumoured to hold the code name “Neo” was also released with the official name of PlayStation 4 Pro. Where the “Slim” was your standard console revision, albeit with an even less of an aesthetic change than we’d seen in the past, alongside only a slight $50 USD price drop (even less in other countries like Canada), the “Pro” was touted to have more power and introduce proper 4K gaming. According to former SIE Chairman Shawn Layden, the PlayStation 4 Pro would “have the same experience [as the Slim], but one will be delivered at a higher resolution, with an enhanced graphical experience…”— something that we all too well know now was far from the case.
This would be the first generation where Sony would not introduce a revision of their console that was drastically more portable than its original. It would also be the first where we’d only see one significant price drop of a Sony-made console. Where we went form $299 USD all the way down to $99 USD for the PS2 from its launch in 2000 to 2009, the PS4 only saw a reduction from $399 USD to $299 USD throughout its time since 2013. That, alongside the inconspicuousness of the Slim’s design and the false promises of the Pro, make this an underwhelming generation of redesigns to say the least.
And so, here we are, a new generation with another mid-cycle console revision; though something definitely seems different this time around. Or, maybe it was to be expected seeing how things went with the PlayStation 4. From the non-consequential aesthetic change — which though admittedly smaller is still too modest an update — to the $30 vertical stand that you need to purchase separately if you want to have your PS5 stand upright, to the increased price of the all-digital version; it all seems a little backwards.
The “slim’ model, historically speaking, has always been about providing the same console experience in a far more compact body, at a far more consumer-friendly price. Neither of these things are present with Sony’s current revision of the PlayStation 5; a shame for a company who have historically done console revisions right when compared to their contemporaries.