The internet spends a lot of time on what “could” be coming in future consoles, movie franchises, and mobile tech. Much of this is fan-fiction based on shreds of rumor from internet blogs. Actually, it’s more like slash-fiction rather than fan-fiction. However, when news comes from Sony itself, you can take that with more validity. Wired published an interview with Mark Cerny, who served as the lead system architect for the PS4, at Sony’s Foster City headquarters. Cerny gave us some details on the upcoming “PlayStation 5”.
“The key question,” Cerny says in the interview, “is whether the console adds another layer to the sorts of experiences you already have access to, or if it allows for fundamental changes in what a game can be.” The quote prefaces the idea that it will be a fundamental change to what we know with the current-gen PlayStation 4.
According to Cerny, the new console isn’t just a spec-boosted upgrade of the PS4, like the PS4 Pro was. To be completely honest, as was the Xbox One X. There’s entirely new hardware inside the PlayStation 5, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Each iteration of the console is a hardware upgrade from the previous. However, we are getting some major equipment improvements.
Which includes an eight-core CPU based on AMD’s third-gen Ryzen line built on the chip company’s latest 7nm Zen 2 process and a custom GPU based on AMD’s Radeon Navi hardware, which will bring ray-tracing graphics to a game console for the first time. The end result of all those hardware improvements: the PS5 will support 8K graphics, assuming you’ve got a TV that supports that kind of resolution.
The support of 8K graphics is an early adopter, much like their decision early on with Blu-ray discs for the PlayStation 3. Better visual and audio quality, and holds twice as much information than a traditional DVD disc like the then-Xbox 360. 8K televisions are making their way to the market now, but there is not content for the upgrade. However, for gamers, this support will definitely encourage people to purchase the new televisions.
Sony is also putting particular emphasis on 3D audio for the PlayStation 5. The new AMD chip apparently includes a custom unit just for that, which Sony hopes will lead to more immersive gaming both on TV speakers and headphones. With that tidbit of info, you can be certain that Sony will release 3D audio headphones to support the console, which will be great.
Other details that Sony revealed about the PS5 include the fact that it’ll be backwards compatible with existing PlayStation 4 games. Unlike the PS3 to PS4 transition, the PS4 and PS5 share similar architectures, making cross-generational support much easier. However, this will be a touchy subject for many long-time Sony fans. The original “fat” PlayStation 3 was backwards compatible with the prior generation consoles. Later on, Sony removed the option and forced everyone to by newer versions. It remains to be seen how long that will remain intact.
The other big change coming to the PlayStation 5 is the replacement of the hard drive with an SSD, which Sony promises will improve load time and gameplay beyond anything possible with a hard drive. (In a demo described by Wired, fast-traveling in Spider-Man for the PS4 took only 0.8 seconds on an early devkit for the PS5, compared to 15 seconds on a PS4.) That would definitely enhance gameplay for games like Red Dead Redemption 2 which could take minutes to load.
There will still be physical copies of games to buy, not just downloads (although Sony has yet to reveal if these will be Blu-ray discs or something more exotic). The company is also promising that when the PS5 does roll around, it’ll be a slower transition, with multiple new games releasing for both the PS4 and PS5 — at least at the start. This isn’t a complete surprise, we have seen that with previous generations, when they killed the PS3 after launch of the PS4. Or, the PS4 may be their more inexpensive option because we have no idea how much this will cost.
“I won’t go into the details of our VR strategy today,” Cerny says about their VR plans, “beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console.” He does confirm that existing PSVY headsets will work on the PlayStation 5.
As far as a release window, we know for certain that it will not be this year. Developers have gained access to devkits to develop games for the new console. So, many people are projecting a 2020 launch. I’m not as optimistic. Remember, Sony is taking this year’s E3 off, which sparked rumors that they have nothing to announce. It is possible that they will reveal this at 2020’s event and release it near the holidays of 2020 or early spring of 2021. My bet is on the latter.