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Is Sony’s big PS5 launch event in trouble?

Published Feb 10th, 2020 9:31AM EST
PS5 Release Date
Image: Jomic/Shutterstock

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Just as Nintendo confirmed that the coronavirus outbreak will slow Switch manufacturing last week, some analysts said that the infectious disease might delay the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X arrivals this fall. In fact, any highly anticipated electronics that are made in China might be affected by the virus outbreak. The Chinese government extended holiday leave and quarantined entire areas to reduce the risk of infections. Nonetheless, the number of patients is increasing at a steady rate — and with it, the number of fatalities.

The spread of the virus might not only affect production but actual product announcements in the coming months, PS5 included. Sony just announced that it’s pulling out of Mobile World Congress, the most important mobile trade show of the year, following the lead of other companies that withdrew from MWC in the past few days. Is the hotly anticipated PS5 launch the next big event that will be impacted?

Sony said it has been following the coronavirus outbreak closely and decided not to attend MWC this year:

Sony has been closely monitoring the evolving situation following the novel coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization on January 30th, 2020.

As we place the utmost importance on the safety and wellbeing of our customers, partners, media, and employees, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from exhibiting and participating at MWC 2020 in Barcelona, Spain.

Sony is one of the big names at the show, having hosted major press conferences on the floor of the show for a few years. Early on Monday, the first day of the congress, Sony would take the stage in Barcelona to unveil all of its new Xperia products, from smartphones to tablets, as well as new prototypes and technologies meant to improve the future of mobile devices. The company is still committed to delivering its press event on February 24th, at 8:30 AM CET, but the announcements will be delivered virtually via Sony’s Xperia YouTube channel.

Sony joins a growing list of traditional attendees that will not make the trip to Barcelona this year due to coronavirus fears. LG, ZTE, Ericsson, Nvidia, Amazon, and Sony all announced that they’re pulling out of the show. Of those, ZTE will have a more limited presence than initially expected.

Meanwhile, the GSMA, the organization that puts on the congress each year, has stated numerous times that the show will not be canceled in spite of these withdrawals. In its most recent announcement, the GSMA said it’ll take additional measures together with the Barcelona municipality to reduce the risk of coronavirus infections.

But it’s one thing for Sony to miss out on MWC, and quite another to have to delay a PlayStation event. Hard as it may try, Sony is unable to really compete against the best mobile players out there. While high-end Xperia phones usually look amazing and can match the performance of the best phones from rivals, Sony hasn’t been able to keep up with Samsung and all the other big names in Android. The Japanese giant has been late to adopt certain features, and its expensive flagships generally reach stores later than their biggest rivals each year.

With that in mind, Sony can afford not to be present at MWC and deliver an online press conference. When it comes to the PlayStation, Sony’s best product right now, it can’t afford to skip a traditional press conference that would actually allow the media to test out the highly anticipated PS5 console and DualShock 5 controllers.

Sony was rumored to host the PlayStation Meeting 2020 event in early February, but that’s clearly not happening. Considering Sony is yet to issue any press invites, it’s probably safe to assume the event will take place in March at the earliest. But each new day brings around 3,000 new coronavirus cases and dozens of additional deaths. Until the disease is under control, tech companies might have to rethink their product launch calendars, PlayStation included.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.