Sony Randomly Dropped Info on the Next PlayStation Today
Out of nowhere, Wired published an exclusive report this morning covering a meeting with Mark Cerny about the next PlayStation console. For those unfamiliar with his name, Cerny was one of the lead engineers on the PS4 and he has a history of development experience on some of the the biggest games in PlayStation’s history, including last year’s Spider-Man. Why Sony would drop so much information on their next machine in the middle of April is still a question on my mind, but let’s get into the news.
For starters, they haven’t officially named it the PlayStation 5… yet. Throughout the piece, it’s referred to as “the next PlayStation” and “the new console”. Cerny confirmed that it won’t hit the market in 2019, and the article suggests we won’t see it at this year’s E3 (which makes sense given that Sony won’t be attending the event). However, the piece mentions that production on development kits has recently accelerated, meaning Sony is trying to get the hardware into the hands of development studios to get games ready for launch. It’s probably safe to assume, based on this and some other information we’ll get into later, that the next PlayStation will likely hit stores in 2020.
Cerny was also forthcoming about what’s under the hood. The CPU will be based on AMD’s third-generation Ryzen tech, and the GPU is a customized Radeon card, with support for ray tracing. For context, graphics cards that support ray tracing are the newest, most expensive cards on the market, and even as recently as last year, a PC that could properly process the tech would cost about $10,000 to build. Consider that today, the Xbox One X, the most expensive and powerful game console on the market, is incapable of supporting ray tracing. We don’t even have context for that Ryzen CPU’s power right now, because it’s not even on the market yet. Compare that to the PS4 and Xbox One’s initial specs. The moment they were announced, they were running on parts that had already been available on PCs for years. With the highest-end GPU available, a CPU that still hasn’t even hit the market, and the architectural optimization that comes with console design, it’s clear the new PlayStation will be a major tech upgrade. The article also mentions this machine will support 8K visuals, even if commercially available TVs won’t.
As games become more visually complex, their file sizes increase as well. Addressing storage, Mark Cerny confirmed that the next PlayStation will have a solid slate drive. Current SSDs provide dramatically faster loading speeds compared to HDDs (which are what we currently have in our consoles), to such a degree that installing a cheap one in a PS4 is a huge improvement. They demonstrated this by showing Marvel’s Spider-Man running on a PS4 Pro, and then the same game running on a dev-kit set to the “PS5” specifications. They show that fast travel on the Pro took about 15 seconds and on the new hardware, that wait time is reduced to 0.8 seconds.
Here’s another anecdote that illustrates the difference between an SSD and a standard hard drive:
There’s also the speed with which a world can be rendered, and thus the speed with which a character can move through that world. Cerny runs a similar two-console demonstration, this time with the camera moving up one of Midtown’s avenues. On the original PS4, the camera moves at about the speed Spidey hits while web-slinging. “No matter how powered up you get as Spider-Man, you can never go any faster than this,” Cerny says, “because that's simply how fast we can get the data off the hard drive.” On the next-gen console, the camera speeds uptown like it’s mounted to a fighter jet. Periodically, Cerny pauses the action to prove that the surrounding environment remains perfectly crisp.
Considering that Sony’s first-party PS4 titles are arguably the best-looking games in the industry today, it’s certainly impressive to think of a console running those games “19 times faster”, with shorter load times, and at double the resolution. Personally, I appreciate video game hardware upgrades the most when I’m using a new machine to do something I used to do on the old machine, and seeing how much better the new tech handles it. Hearing that this thing manhandles PS4 games has me very optimistic.
Speaking of PS4 games, because the new system is still built on the same architecture, PS4 games will run on the next PlayStation. Cerny stated that they’re committed to VR as well, and announced that current PSVR headsets will work on the new system, even though they may also have a successor to that device in the works. They’re expecting another slow generation transition like the PS3 > PS4 jump, where we’ll see versions of games coming out on both platforms for the first year. Think back to games like Destiny having a PS3 and a PS4 version, and it should be a similar idea. This adds even more credibility to the theory that this new console will launch in 2020, considering how many major, upcoming PS4 games still don’t have 2019 release dates. Maybe we’ll see a version of The Last of Us Part 2 as a launch game for the next PlayStation.
Finally, addressing the future of game streaming, Cerny confirmed that the “PS5” will have games on discs, downloadable games, and still support game streaming. He didn’t specify if streaming is a priority for Sony at the moment, but mentioned, “we are cloud-gaming pioneers, and our vision should become clear as we head toward launch.”
In a recent podcast, we discussed whether streaming-focused devices like the upcoming Google Stadia could be rendered obsolete if traditional gaming hardware became more powerful than the machines these services used for streaming. The hardware information we’ve learned today says the next PlayStation will be dramatically more powerful than any gaming PC that can be built today, so considering that Stadia is launching this year, it too will have to see an upgrade within its first year to compete. The next generation of this industry looks incredibly promising.
You can check out the full Wired piece here.
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