PS5 first details: ray-tracing, solid-state drive, backwards compatible with PS4, more

Next-generation PlayStation not due out in 2019.


Wired has published an article providing first details on the “as-yet-unnamed console that will replace PS4,” which has been in development for four years. The media outlet visited Sony Interactive Entertainment headquarters in Foster City, California, where it spoke to lead architect Mark Cerny.

“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,” Cerny said.

According to Cerny, the “next-gen console” will not launch in 2019, but a number of studios have been working with it, and Sony recently accelerated its deployment of development kits for the hardware.

The next-generation PlayStation will feature an AMD chip with a custom unit for 3D audio at its core, a CPU based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line, eight cores of the company’s new 7nm Zen 2 micro-architecture, a specialized solid-state drive with a raw bandwidth higher than any solid-state drive available for PC, backwards compatibility with PlayStation 4 titles (previous generations were not confirmed), and support for 8K graphics and physical media. The GPU is a custom variant of Radeon’s Navi family, which will support ray tracing.

“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,” Cerny said. “It’s all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment.”

Regarding 3D audio unit, Cerny said, “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 next-generation PlayStation’s solid-state drive will drastically decrease load speeds. To demonstrate this, Cerny showcased a fast-travel sequence in Marvel’s Spider-Man that took 15 seconds on PlayStation 4, versus 0.8 seconds in an early “low-speed” version of the next-generation PlayStation’s development kit.

The solid-state drive has additional benefits, according to Cerny, such as being able to render the world at a faster speed, thus increasing the speed the character can move throughout that world. For example, on the original PlayStation 4, the camera in Marvel’s Spider-Man moves at about the speed Spider-Man hits while web-slinging, while on the next-generation PlayStation, the camera “speeds uptown like it’s mounted to a fighter jet,” according to Wired. Cerny paused during this demonstration to prove that the surrounding environment remains “perfectly crisp.” As for what else can be done, Cerny could not answer that question as it is still something developers are figuring out.

“We’re very used to flying logos at the start of the game and graphic-heavy selection screens, even things like multiplayer lobbies and intentionally detailed loadout processes, because you don’t want players just to be waiting,” Cerny said.

Asked if there were next-generation plans for PlayStation VR, Cerny said, “I won’t go into the details of our VR strategy today, beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PlayStation VR headset is compatible with the new console.”

Beyond hardware, Cerny did not discuss services, features, or games for the device. Sony Interactive Entertainment will not attend E3 2019 in June to discuss that either. Asked if Kojima Productions’ Death Stranding would be released for the next-generation PlayStation in addition to PlayStation 4, a spokesperson in the room only reiterated that it will be released for PlayStation 4, but Wired noted a “smile and pregnant pause” from Cerny suggesting a dual-platform release. The lead architect also teased Sony’s cloud gaming plans, stating, “We are cloud-gaming pioneers, and our vision should become clear as we head toward launch.”

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