While the PlayStation 5 is Sony’s latest console, the PlayStation 4 is still on the market, at least as a pre-owned system. The question is: should you buy a PS4 in late 2021?
Let’s look at some of the reasons why buying a PS4 still might be worthwhile for you, along with some cautions about buying the console so late into its life.
PS4 and PS5 Pricing in 2021
It isn’t easy to give an exact price for the PS4 at this time since the console is mostly being sold pre-owned and through bundles. However, in general, the manufacturer’s set price of the PS4 Slim is $300, while the PS4 Pro is $400.
The significant difference between these is that the PS4 Pro can play games at 4K resolution due to its more powerful hardware. Unfortunately, Sony hasn’t dropped the suggested price of either system after the launch of the PS5.
In contrast, the PS5 Digital Edition (which lacks a disc drive) is $400, while the standard PS5 is $500. Pricing aside, there are still reasons to consider a PS4 if you can’t find a PS5 (or don’t want to go next-gen yet).
The PS4 Has an Excellent Library of Games…
It’s no secret that is owning a PS4 grant you access to a vast catalog of games. This includes the best PS4 exclusives like God of War and Ratchet & Clank, third-party titans like Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed, indie games, and remasters of classic PlayStation games.
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If you don’t already have another console or a gaming PC, the PS4 provides a great way to play many games. However, if you’re primarily looking for its exclusives, the PS4 is a harder sell in 2021.
…But Many PS4 Games Are Playable Elsewhere
Thankfully, the PS5 is backward-compatible and thus able to play almost every PS4 title. This means if you own a digital game on PS4 (or a PS4 disc and the standard PS5), you can play it on your PS5 while taking advantage of the more powerful hardware.
If you missed out on the PS4, the PlayStation Plus Collection is an even more attractive perk. This benefit, available to all PS Plus subscribers who have a PS5, gives access to several top PS4 games like Persona 5, Resident Evil 7, and Bloodborne at no additional charge.
PlayStation Plus costs $60 per year, making it an additional cost to consider. But if you want to play a lot of these titles, waiting for a PS5 and subscribing to Plus is more cost-effective than getting a PS4 and buying them individually.
PS4 games run faster on PS5, thanks to its built-in SSD. Just keep in mind that the PS5 comes with a limited 825GB of storage so that those PS4 games will add up quickly. If you need more space on your PS5, you can run PS4 games via an external USB drive or an M.2 SSD, but both incur additional costs.
As it turns out, PlayStation consoles aren’t the only place to play PlayStation titles. A few games that were once exclusive to the PS4, such as Horizon Zero Dawn and God of War, are now available on PC via Steam. Additionally, PlayStation Now is available on PC, allowing you to stream many top PS4 (and earlier) titles to your computer, as long as you have a decent PC and internet connection.
So if you already have a PC and want to try a few exclusive games, a PS4 might not be worth it for you. And if you’re primarily interested in multiplatform games, a PS4 doesn’t offer the best value (more on this below).
How Long Will the PS4 Receive Support?
In January 2021, Sony Japan confirmed that almost all PS4 models were ceasing production. This was unexpected since the company had claimed it would support the PS4 for several more years.
This means that if you want to buy a new PS4, you should do so quickly. Once the existing supply dries up, it won’t be easy to find one, and you’ll likely have to pay more for it.
Sony dropping support for the console is a sign that you probably shouldn’t buy it. A discontinued console will soon stop receiving games, and Sony likely won’t offer hardware support for it much longer either.
But if you do get a PS4 in 2021, how long should you expect game support to last? To estimate, we can look back at the last console generation.
The PS4’s Expected Game Lifetime
The PlayStation 3 was released in 2006 and discontinued in 2016 in North America. It received cross-generation titles until the end of its life. For example, 2015’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III was the last Call of Duty title released for the system, though it was a watered-down version with no campaign mode.
This was similar for exclusive games. MLB The Show 16 was the final PS3 version of the yearly series published by Sony. Before this, 2014’s LittleBigPlanet 3 was the last major Sony-published title on the system.
The PS4 arrived in 2013 when the PS3 was seven years old. Since the PS5 launched in 2020, this puts the PS4 on the same timeline as the last generation—though the existence of the PS4 Pro (established in 2016) complicates this a bit.
Horizon Forbidden West will release on both PS5 and PS4 in February 2022 (after being delayed from its planned 2021 release date). In contrast, a major PlayStation exclusive, 2021’s Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, is PS5-only.
March 2022’s Gran Turismo 5 will be available on PS4 and PS5, while God of War Ragnarök will also be on both systems. Whether you’ll need a PS5 to play the next big game is thus uncertain.
From these trends, we would expect the PS4 to receive cross-platform titles into 2023, at the latest. The PS4 Pro may receive a different treatment, but Sony hasn’t distinguished between PS4 models for any releases since the PS5 came out.
Should You Buy a PS4 in 2021?
Looking at all these considerations, is the PS4 worth buying in late 2021? Probably not, but it depends on your situation.
If you want to play a lot of titles that are only available on PS4 and you don’t have another game console, then the PS4 is still a decent buy. The PS4 Pro is more future-proofed, but since its price is close to a PS5, we’d recommend sticking to a PS4 Slim if you do buy a PS4. Consider buying a second-hand model from a reputable seller to lower the cost (which will soon be your only option anyway).
With a PS4, you can still enjoy cross-play with PS5 players in many games. Plus, you can take most of your games with you when you upgrade to a PS5 (either through backward compatibility or free upgrade offers). But you’re mostly buying access to older titles with the PS4, and a few new games will launch over the next year or two.
If you see yourself buying a PS5 in the next year, we’d recommend waiting for that instead. It doesn’t make much sense to spend $300 on a PS4 now, only $500 on a PS5 shortly after. In the meantime, you might consider trying a few games using PS Now on your PC.
We’ve compared the PS4 and PS5 in more detail if you need help making that decision.
If you’re not interested in PlayStation exclusives, consider a Nintendo Switch instead. That console launched in 2017 but offered a lot for the price. You get a system that you can play at home or on the go with a wide variety of first-party Nintendo titles, plus third-party ports and indie games.
The Switch will likely receive support for longer than the PS4; keep in mind that it’s not as powerful. As a result, cross-platform games like Doom Eternal and Overwatch are not as smooth on Switch.
Another great option is the Xbox Series S, which sold well during Black Friday 2021 for a reason. That console is also $300, and while it has a small 512GB of space and isn’t as powerful as the PS5, it’s ultra-fast and has a vast library of Xbox games across generations. For a casual player, it’s a much better investment than the aging PS4.
You won’t get PlayStation exclusives, but the Series S can play multiplatform games like Battlefield and Madden.
The PS4’s Legacy Lives On
As we’ve seen, there are some situations where it could make sense to buy a PS4 right now. But if you don’t fall into them, it’s wiser to wait for a PS5, get PlayStation exclusives on a PC, or get another console instead of paying for an old system.
Buying a modern console, especially once more games arrive for it, is a better investment of your money. It just requires a little patience for now.