Out of nowhere this morning, Sony announced the first details of its next-generation gaming hardware through an article in Wired. The piece is light on specifics, but it lays out some important details about what will likely be called the PlayStation 5, whenever it’s formally announced.
Importantly, the machines features a custom, lightning-fast SSD to significantly cut down on load times, games can still be played on physical discs, there’s a “custom unit for 3D audio” that won’t require fancy hardware, backwards compatibility with PlayStation 4 games, and unsurprisingly, far more advanced computer and graphics hardware to power its new games.
The Wired article does include has a bunch of technical specifications, but remember, they weren't able to actually play with the hardware, so we're left taking what's essentially Sony's word for what's happening inside the box. It's not shocking Sony would try to portray that to sound super impressive, and it very well may be; the PS4 was a solid machine. But, you know, be cautious until we've seen more.
So, what are those new games? No clue. The pieces includes quotes from lead system architect Marc Cerny, who also headed development on PS4, and the only tease Cerny gives for what anyone will eventually be playing is a knowing wink about designer Hideo Kojima’s next game, Death Stranding, possibly being released on both PS4 and PS5. (It’s become common for games to be released on both old and new hardware in recent generations.)
There are some interesting specifics, however. The machine’s GPU will support real-time ray tracing, a way of incorporating highly realistic lighting usually reserved for CGI-laden movies from Hollywood. What exactly to make of Cerny’s promises on “3D audio,” however, are less clear. Other forms of advanced audio, like Dolby Atmos, require specific and often expensive hardware to take advantage of, but Cerny is saying it’ll work through your average TV speakers, even if the “gold standard” for experiencing it will come through your headphones.
The SSD might be, at least right now, the most exciting part. Loading times have, ever since the transition to discs, been a deeply annoying part of playing games, and they seem to have gotten worse, not better. To demonstrate the work Sony’s done to improve life on PS5, Wired was shown a version of Insomniac’s Spider-Man running on both an existing PS4 Pro and a development kit PS5. Fast travelling from one part of the city on a PS4 Pro? 15 seconds. Fast travelling from one part of the city on the still-in-development PS5? 0.8 seconds. Damn.
Sony also confirmed PS5 supports resolutions up to 8K, but given how few people have yet to transition to 4K, let alone hardware at double the resolution, file that under “neat, I guess?”
As for cloud gaming, the new This Will Definitely Change Everything Unless It Doesn’t trend (see: VR), Sony was quiet on its approach, only saying they’ve been “pioneers.” (Its current cloud gaming service, PlayStation Now, isn't very good.) Coming out of the gate with a conservative focus on physical media and emphasizing a hard drive that will make games you've downloaded or bought run faster is in stark contrast to the rest of the industry, which is quickly pushing towards a world where what's in the box you own doesn't matter, only that you have a fast Internet connection. Is Sony's pitch for PS5 going to be the exact opposite?
The other big takeaway: Don’t expect the PS5 anytime soon. At least, not until 2020. Though Microsoft is rumored to be talking more granularly about their next-generation hardware at E3 this year, Sony has already announced it won’t be holding a fancy press conference. We’ll probably get some updates on the games it still has coming out, like Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us 2, but the real future is some ways off, sometime next year.
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