Sony’s PS5 Slim shows there’s still life in physical media

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OPINION: Unlike my esteemed colleague and his opinion about the new PS5 Slim, I’m not at all certain that this new design heralds the end of game discs.

In fact, if anything, it seems to suggest that there is plenty of life left in the old shiny disc. The fact that there are two options, one that carries a physical UHD disc and one that doesn’t, is the same configuration as when the original PS5 launched. That Sony’s engineers and designers felt inclined to offer a modular design whereby that physical UHD drive could be attached at a later date is very interesting.

After all, they didn’t need to do this – they didn’t offer that option with the original digital edition, and they could have kept things the same, so why now? The gaming marketplace is moving towards digital/streaming and all the issues that come with that, but discs must still be relatively popular if Sony is making this move.

I’m not as interested in the game perspective as I am in the 4K UHD viewpoint. 4K physical media will never be as mainstream as VHS and DVD once were. The PS5 was never going to have the same impact as the PS2 did with DVD and over the years discs have become increasingly more niche – reflected in the rise in RRP of Blu-ray discs and 4K players, with some movie studios starting to sell just the 4K disc rather than packaging the HD Blu-ray alongside it.

But Sony has skin in this side of the game considering they were involved in the development of DVD, and they created Blu-ray and the subsequent 4K Blu-ray format. It’s still a revenue stream with films, TV series, and games distributed in the format so it wouldn’t – at least in the near future – make sense for Sony to deliberately diminish that revenue stream. The best move would be to give consumers the option of continuing with it.

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And add to that that discs remain the best form of distribution at this moment. Not everyone has the bandwidth for 4K streaming, not everyone has the speeds to download a massive file, and streaming services offer highly efficient but still compressed streams that some TVs can struggle to make the most of.

What I would like for Sony to do is improve the quality of the 4K UHD player, which isn’t as good as a standalone 4K player from the likes of Panasonic (or even Sony’s own models).

I also have a growing feeling that Dolby Vision will be added to the spec as well – I simply can’t see why the Sony A95L QD-OLED would add support for Dolby Vision Gaming and the PS5 was still without it. Given the synergy Sony is pushing with its Perfect for PS5 messaging and that Sony has been including Dolby Vision on its 4K titles like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse when previously they were being presented in HDR10.

Perhaps I’m reading the tea leaves wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time), but it would be very odd if a Sony game console couldn’t play Sony game/film titles in Dolby Vision on a Sony flagship OLED that supports the format.

Really, the addition of the drive is a win for consumers as they get to decide what they want from their gaming (and other viewing) experiences. It’s not like Microsoft, who despite their denials seemed to be advocating a digital-only future. Sony has made a few faux pas with regards to the PS5 that always seems to come with being the dominant force in the market, but this decision is not one of them. It’s actually a rather smart one.

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