Sony has revealed some information about its highly anticipated next-generation PlayStation. In an interview with Wired, Mark Cerny, who was lead system architect for the PlayStation 4 and is currently working on its successor, divulged details on the components that will power the next-gen system and teased some of the breakthroughs it is making.
In the interview, Cerny didn't name the console, though conventional thinking states it will probably be PlayStation 5. The next-gen PlayStation is partially based on PS4 architecture, which means that it is backwards compatible. Cerny also revealed that it is not an all-digital device, and will accept physical discs. Wired's article describes the transition from PS4 to PS5, as indicated by Cerny, as a "gentle one," adding that numerous games will be released for both PS4 and the next-gen console.
Housed in the console will be an AMD chip that has a CPU based on the third-generation Ryzen. It'll have eight cores of the seven-nanometer Zen 2 microchip. Although the console will support 8K, displaying at this resolution will be dependant on TVs catching up.
The graphics, meanwhile, will be driven by a custom version of Radeon's Navi line. This graphics chip will support ray tracing, something which is starting to become popular in movies and video games. Although it is traditionally thought of as a lighting technique, Cerny says that there are implications beyond creating realistic environments.
"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," he explained. "It's all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment."
In fact, audio is one the main improvements Cerny is keen to talk about. The AMD chip will enable 3D audio, and this, according to Cerny, is key to immersing players deeper. This naturally led to discussions of PlayStation VR, and while Cerny didn't confirm whether a new version of Sony's headset will be released, the existing one will be supported.
"I won't go into the details of our VR strategy … beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console," he confirmed.
Another key leap the next PlayStation will make comes through its hard drive. According to Cerny, developers let Sony know that what they want solid-state drives in the new hardware, as opposed to the slower equivalents used in current consoles. These SSDs are relatively prevalent now in laptops, and what Sony is bringing to the next PlayStation is described as being specialized for the hardware.
Cerny demonstrated the change an SSD introduces to gaming by comparing a load sequence from Insomniac's Spider-Man on a standard PS4 Pro and a dev kit of the next-gen PlayStation. On the former, it was around 15 seconds, while on the latter it was 0.8 seconds. This, Cerny added, has implications on how the world can be rendered too, which in turn impacts how quickly Spidey can move through the world. On the new hardware, the camera moves through the city much quicker, as the hardware is capable of keeping up with rendering requirements.
Discussing the SSD, Cerny said "the raw read speed is important, but so are the details of the I/O [input-output] mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them. I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and then I put in a SSD that cost as much as the PlayStation 4 Pro—it might be one-third faster."
Cerny didn't provide any details on any of the services or a broader overview of PlayStation's vision for the next-generation of gaming, instead focusing on the nitty-gritty of its hardware. It is currently unclear when the console will be fully unveiled. Traditionally, Sony would has debuted its new PlayStations at E3, but the company will not have its usual press conference this year. This leaves PlayStation Experience, one of its new Nintendo Direct-like State of Play streams, or a standalone PS5 announcement event as possibilities–that is assuming it plans to reveal the PlayStation 5 this year.
It is also unclear when Sony plans to launch the PS5. In May 2018, Sony's head of PlayStation, John Kodera, said the new PlayStation was three years off. "We will use the next three years to prepare the next step," he said, "to crouch down so that we can jump higher in the future."
While Sony's plans are still largely unclear, Microsoft's are starting to come into focus. The company is set to have an E3 press conference this year, and head of Xbox Phil Spencer said it is going to go "as big at E3 as we've ever been." In 2018, Microsoft confirmed that a new Xbox was in development, and it is expected that we'll see this next-generation console at E3 2019. More immediately, it has been suggested that an all-digital Xbox One S will be announced soon. As the name indicates, this new console would not accept physical discs and designed around downloading and streaming.
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