In an earnings call, the firm said that any new console will not launch in the financial year of 2019. This means that the earliest gamers can expect the PS5 will be May 2020 but, as previous PlayStation launches suggest, will likely be scheduled for Autumn 2020. This dashes hopes that the PS5 may have been scheduled for a Spring 2020 release.
The news comes as Sony reported on profits of £2.1bn for its gaming division, as the PlayStation 4 approaches a staggering 100m consoles sold. Though Sony did warn investors that it forecasts its game segment profits to fall to £1.9bn over 2019 as it invests in the production of the PS5, the first details of which emerged earlier this month.
It was the most low-key of reveals for the next-generation PlayStation console. In an interview with Wired magazine, PlayStation’s chief system architect Mark Cerny unveiled the first details and specs of the PS5.
Not that Sony have officially committed to the name, of course, nor what the box will look like. Instead the news was heavily technology-focussed, diving into the nitty-gritty of the PS5’s inner workings.
It was a rather unusual way to reveal a console. It was both far from the glitz of the PS4’s New York event reveal or the amplification of the E3 trade show; the setting where Microsoft are expected to reveal the next generation Xbox in June. But whether it was to combat a leak or just PlayStation taking a different tack, the details gave a fascinating glimpse into the future of home consoles.
While Google and Microsoft are looking to server-based cloud gaming with its Stadia and XCloud projects respectively --and Sony likely to have plans for its own expansion of its PlayStation Now service-- PlayStation and Xbox are also preparing to provide the premium technological performance that only a native console can. This seems to be reflected in the specs that Cerny revealed.
PS5 specs: SSD, 8k and ray-tracing
The PS5’s main processing power will be provided by an eight-core CPU based on the third-generation of AMD’s Ryzen microprocessors. As you might expect, this is a significant generational leap over the PS4’s AMD Jaguar chip-set which should lead to more stable framerates and higher detail.
Perhaps more intriguingly is the introduction of a customised variant of AMD’s upcoming ‘Navi’ line of GPUs. This will support ray-tracing, an emerging technology within video game graphics that, at its core, better renders shadows, reflections and light in real-time.
That might not sound like such a big deal on paper, but as Nvidia’s demonstrations of its new RTX graphic cards has shown, ray-tracing is a considerable leap for visuals in practice. It is a technique used by Hollywood for blockbuster computer-generated-imagery (CGI), but is only now beginning to be possible in video games.
The PS5 will support 8k displays, even if that TV technology is some time away from being mainstream, and offers 3D audio for richer soundscapes no matter your setup.
Generally speaking, nicer graphics and better sound is about the base level you would expect from a next-generation console. Cerny is much more excited about the solid-state-drive (SSD) that is replacing the traditional hard drive within the PS5.
SSDs are flash-based and have no mechanical moving parts. The drives are featured in many laptops now and can, generally speaking, retrieve information much faster than traditional hard drives. The PS5’s SSD is customised for video games and Cerny hails it a ‘game-changer’. While it all sounds rather nitty-gritty, the potential advantages are clear: faster downloads, shorter loading times within games and quicker rendering of digital worlds while in play.
To demonstrate Cerny showed Wired the PS4 game Spider-Man running on the next-generation PlayStation dev kit. According to the report when Cerny initiated fast-travel around Manhattan, Spider-Man teleported to his new location in 0.8 seconds compared to waiting 15 seconds on PS4. Spider-Man could also move through the world at a much faster rate as the environment was drawn much quicker.
The latter suggests that the SSD could have greater ramifications than just the welcome reduction of loading screens, so long as developers can utilise the technology. And while the SSD is one of the main features, Cerny also confirmed that the PS5 will have a disk drive for physical media. While Microsoft has announced it will be releasing a discless version of the Xbox One; Sony are not quite ready to go for digital only console despite the considerable increase in downloaded games. Of the £3.86bn video game sales in the UK in 2018, 80pc was digital.
PS5 features: PS4 backwards compatibility and VR to feature
This initial reveal was largely technology based, though Cerny did briefly speak to broader features. The most significant of which is likely to be backwards compatibility. Due to the PS5’s architectural similarities to its 90m selling predecessor, it will be able to run PS4 games natively.
Backwards compatibility has become something of a hot topic in the games industry over the past few years, with players initially disappointed that neither the PS4 or Xbox One allowed you to play older games. Sony dismissed the feature almost entirely, but Microsoft earned back some lost kudos by implementing a robust backwards-compatibility catalogue for certain Xbox and Xbox 360 games. With the PS5, backwards-compatibility is back on the table; probably a smart move given the PS4’s roaring success.
Elsewhere Cerny would not be drawn on Sony’s virtual reality strategy for PS5, but did say that “VR is very important to us”. The current PSVR headset, which has sold 4m units, will also be compatible with the new console.
Nor would Cerny talk about Sony’s surely in-progress plan to take on cloud-gaming, other than to say: “we are cloud-gaming pioneers, and our vision should become clear as we head toward launch”.
Nonetheless, despite the industry seeming to be looking beyond fixed-platforms, Sony are certainly putting faith that the traditional console will remain the primary way to play for at least the next few years.
PS5 release date and cost
The Wired article said that the next-generation PlayStation will not be coming any time in 2019. That is the closest we have got to either of the big platform holders showing their hand in terms of release date. Sony then confirmed in its latest earnings call that we will not be seeing the PS5 until May 2020 at the very earliest.
This means that an Autumn 2020 release date is most likely. The last two PlayStations have released in November in time for the Christmas rush.
In terms of pricing, and with the components already listed, it would likely take some technical and financial wizardry for the PS5 to cost less than the £450 RRP of Microsoft’s premium Xbox One X. Though Sony managed an impressive pricing strategy with the £349 PS4 which afforded Sony considerable goodwill at the start of the last generation. Achieving that balance again will be key to both Microsoft and Sony as they position their technologically advanced next-generation consoles.
Naturally Sony aren’t talking about any specific games for the PS5 yet, particularly from its own first-party studios (although a ‘smile and pregnant pause’ when asked about Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding suggested the game might be a cross-release on both PS4 and PS5).
Bethesda however, have already announced they are working on two games for ‘next-gen’ in the form of sci-fi RPG Starfield and fantasy epic The Elder Scrolls VI. Rumours abound that CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 may also be looking at next-gen, or at least cross-generation, when the game finally arrives.
PS5: What’s next?
The unusual nature of the small-scale reveal means that it’s hard to guess when we may hear more about the PS5. We know that Sony will not have a press conference or major presence at E3 this year so that is likely to rule out much news in June.
The most likely scenario seems to be a full scale reveal later this year, particularly if Microsoft do as they promise and ‘go big’ at E3 with their own next-gen console. Sony will not want its big rival to dominate the conversation for too long. Unless, of course, the Japanese company pull a fast one and unveil more PS5 details next month as an E3 spoiler. That seems unlikely, but who knows? One thing is for sure, the first shots of the next-gen console war have been fired.
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