Most Influential Projects 2021

35 PlayStation 5

Playstation 5

For literally changing the game

Expectations for PlayStation 5 (PS5) were ridiculously high—and few would have blamed Sony if it stuck with its winning formula. Instead, the Japanese company rewrote the gaming playbook with a radical departure from its previous console iterations. The PS5 was bigger, more powerful and way more immersive.

But it was also being released within days of Microsoft’s Xbox Series X—prompting what the gaming biz gurus quickly dubbed the "console war." The definitive winner of that contest is still hotly debated. But within five months of PS5’s November 2020 debut in North America and Europe, Sony had sold 7.8 million of the machines—which PlayStation’s president declared the biggest console launch in history. That record is even more impressive in the context of a global chip shortage and aggressive secondhand scalper market that created inventory headaches in the first half of the year. And they’re still a hot commodity.

Gamers who managed to get their hands on the PS5 are playing—a lot. Sure, many of them are just spending more time in front of the console because of COVID, but this is no small blip. According to Sony, users logged 81 percent more time on the console in early 2021 than they did during a similar post-launch period for the PS4. Of course, at the beginning of the project, no one knew how the public would respond to such a radical rethink of the mega-popular console.

"It was kind of a tough decision in the beginning," Yujin Morisawa, senior art director, told The Washington Post. "Should it look like the PlayStation 4’s successor or should we go beyond whatever we designed before? We decided to go beyond, because everybody’s trying to achieve something beyond what we had." Here’s a look at a few ways the team made PS5 stand apart.

Remote Control
An innovative DualSense controller features adaptive triggers and advanced haptic feedback that mimic physical resistance, vibrations and subtle tension—allowing users to "feel" in-game experiences like walking on sand, diving into water or pulling on a rope.

Music to Your Ears
Immersive, lifelike sound is nothing new to PlayStation, but the team rolled out Tempest 3D AudioTech, which simulates sounds from all directions to give users better situational awareness.

Lighter Load
A lightning-fast 825-gigabyte hard drive means minute-long load times have been slashed to seconds.

Hot Air
Sony began shipping a lightly revised PS5 in August, featuring a smaller, lighter heat sink that more efficiently removes heat from the console.

Down and Dirty
Cleaning the ducts and vents of a console can help extend its life—but doing so can be a time-consuming drag. The PS5 team made it a little easier, with two dust-catching holes that can be easily reached with a vacuum.