In an exclusive conversation with Wired
, Lead Architect of the upcoming PlayStation, Mark Cerny talks about some of the capabilities of Sony’s next console. Sony has been tight-lipped about the upcoming console, but it looks like the gaming giant is ready to shed some light on the upcoming PlayStation. It is logical that the next generation PlayStation be called the PS5, however, throughout the conversation with Wired, Cerny referred to it as the next generation PlayStation. Unlike the PS4 Pro which was a mid-generation refresh, the PS5 is expected to be a generational leap. Mark told Wired, “The key question 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.” Mark also confirmed that the PS5 won't be launching in 2019. We can, however, presume that Sony will show off the capabilities of the console at an event in 2019. For the first time in the history of E3, Sony will not be presenting at the world's largest gaming expo so it is safe to presume that Sony has a grand reveal planned for late 2019.
When it comes to the hardware powering the consoles, it is confirmed that the system will have third generation eight-core AMD Ryzen CPU coupled a custom variant of the Radeon Navi family GPU. The console will also support Ray Tracing, a feature currently available on PC gaming only. Ray Tracing as a technology has been a part of Hollywood films for a while now but with the new lineup of NVIDIA RTX cards, the technology made its debut into PC gaming. The upcoming next-generation Xbox is also expected to support Ray Tracing.
According to Mark Cerny however, the application for Ray Tracing can go beyond visuals. He tells Wired, “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. It's all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment.” The AMD chip on the PS5 will house a custom unit for 3D audio. Mark thinks this will redefine the audio in gaming. He says, “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.”
The new immersive audio tech will work through your normal TV speakers so you don't need to invest in new hardware to make the most of it. However, spatial audio in gaming isn’t anything new. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was best played with headphones as it gave players an immersive 360-degree audio experience. If you have a PlayStation Platinum headset, you can exploit the 3D audio feature in games like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Horizon Zero Dawn and more.
One more thing about the PS5 which Cerny calls a game changer is the SSD in the console. To show how the SSD changes the way games load, Cerny loaded up Marvel’s Spider-Man on the PS4 Pro and used the fast travel feature. It took about 15 seconds for it to happen. Then he loaded up the same on a PS5 dev-kit which Cerny says is a “low-speed” version and the fast travel loaded in 0.8 seconds.
The application benefits of an SSD are quite a few. The Wired article says, “That’s just one consequence of an SSD. 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. (While the next-gen console will support 8K graphics, TVs that deliver it are few and far between, so we’re using a 4K TV.)” It isn’t clear whether the PS5 will use the new PCIe 4.0 standard. However, Cerny claims that the console’s SSD will have raw bandwidth higher than the SSDs available for PCs today.
Cerny also said that the VR is important to Sony and that the current headset will work with the new console. However, he didn't talk about the next iteration of Sony’s VR headset.
Sony has sold more than 90 million PlayStation 4 consoles and the good news for PS4 gamers is that the PS5 will be backwards compatible with the PS4. Whether PS4 games will be able to exploit the hardware of the PS5 out of the box remains to be seen. The PS4 Pro has a boost mode which lets games that are not optimized for the Pro make use of the extra power under the hood.
When it comes to the next generation consoles, Sony has been tight-lipped about a number of features such as cloud gaming, PS Now streaming service being available in more regions, and of course the release date for Death Stranding, The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima. It is possible that some if not all the three games will be cross-gen titles.
Microsoft on the other hand just announced a disc-less Xbox One S consoles. With the new console, it looks like Microsoft is testing the waters for an all-digital gaming console. Sony, on the other hand, has said that the PS5 will have a disc drive. You can read more about the All Digital Xbox One S here