With the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One inhabiting the market for the past five years, it seemed inevitable that we’d be getting our first glimpses at the next generation of home consoles in the not-so-distant future. In a recent exclusive article with WIRED, Sony’s Mark Cerny has been the first to break the silence and divulge juicy new pieces of information that gives us an indication of the future of home console gaming.
While Cerny clarifies that the new system won’t be hitting retailers in 2019, the numerous studios already working on games for the new hardware seems to indicate that a 2020 release could be likely.
As with previous generational improvements, the next-generation Sony machine (which hasn’t been dubbed the PlayStation 5, yet) will feature a large leap in power, with cutting edge technology making up the backbone. The CPU is based on AMD’s Ryzen Line, and contains eight cores of their new 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture. The GPU is a custom variant of Radeon’s Navi Family that supports ray tracing (a technique that models the travel of light), while an AMD chip sits at the system’s core.
While ray tracing’s benefits are most noticeable from a visual standpoint, Cerny claims that the benefits are larger; “If you wanted to run tests to see if the player can hear certain audio sources or if the enemies can hear the players’ footsteps, ray tracing is useful for that”. There will also be audio improvements due to the AMD chip, with Cerny stating “As a gamer, it's been a little bit of a frustration that audio did not change too much between PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4. With the next console the dream is to show how dramatically different the audio experience can be when we apply significant amounts of hardware horsepower to it.”
Fans of Sony’s brand of VR will also be pleased to know that an upgrade in headset might not be necessary, as Cerny promises that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new system. Due to being built on PlayStation 4 architecture, Sony will also be returning to backwards compatibility in the next generation, meaning that PlayStation 4 owners don’t need to keep their old systems plugged in if they ever get the itch to replay some of their favourite titles from this generation. This also means that physical media is here to stay for another generation, at least on Sony’s machine.
Much like with the Xbox One X, current generation games will see an improvement in performance when played on the next generation hardware. This is due to the special SSD (solid-state drive) incorporated into the hardware. As an example, Cerny showcased Marvel’s Spider-Man running on the PlayStation 4 Pro, and compared it to the game running on next generation hardware. On the PlayStation 4 Pro, fast travel in the game took 15 seconds, where as it took an exact 0.8 seconds on the new generation hardware.
While we probably won’t be getting any information about new games, the exact release date, or what the system even looks like in the coming months, this first peek at the new generation gives an indication of an exciting future for console gaming.