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Sony aims to sell 18 million PlayStation 5 consoles in its financial year ending in March 2023.

Thiago Prudencio | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Sony is likely to release a refreshed version of the PlayStation 5 this year, analysts told CNBC, after the company cut its forecast for sales of its flagship console.

The move would be designed to boost interest in the PlayStation 5 and offer a souped-up piece of hardware ready for release of Grand Theft Auto VI in 2025, one of this decade’s most hotly anticipated games, the analysts said.

Sony was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC.

First released in November 2020, Sony’s PlayStation 5 is now more than 3 years old. The Japanese gaming giant cut its forecast last week for PS5 sales for the fiscal year ending in March from 25 million units to 21 million units. An executive said last week during the company’s earnings call that Sony is expecting a “gradual decline” in unit sales from the next fiscal year.

When this has happened in past console cycles, gaming firms have looked to bring out a refreshed piece of hardware to reinviograte sales. For example, Sony launched a “Pro” version of the PlayStation 4, the previous generation console, around three years after the PS4 was initially launched.

Analysts are now expecting a PlayStation 5 Pro from Sony.

“There seems to be a broad consensus in the game industry that Sony is indeed preparing a launch of a PS5 Pro in the second half of 2024,” Serkan Toto, CEO of Tokyo-based games consultancy Kantan Games, told CNBC.

“And Sony will want to make sure to have a great piece of hardware ready when GTA VI hits in 2025, a launch that will be a shot in the arm for the entire gaming industry.”

Sony cuts forecast for PlayStation 5 sales

So far, Sony launched a slightly upgraded PS5 last year as well as a handheld console called the PlayStation Portal. But the PS5 Pro would likely be a much bigger upgrade.

Even as expectations of a new console rise, Sony is grappling with a big issue — that profit margins at its key gaming business are sitting near decade lows.

On the earnings call, Sony management said the aim for its gaming business is to “optimize sales with a greater emphasis on the balance with profits.”

George Jijiashvili, senior principal analyst at Omdia, said this could mean that even when the PS5 Pro comes out, Sony may not cut the price of the current PS5, as has been the trend in the past.

“Therefore, a scenario where Sony launches as PS5 Pro, but still experiences a declining year-on-year hardware sales is very much within the realms of possibility,” Jijiashvili said.

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