The current generation of consoles is about to pass the torch. Sony has already revealed a great deal about the war horse it will ride into battle against the Xbox Scarlett consoles. The PlayStation 5 will tout PC-caliber graphics capabilities, and possibly come with a wireless virtual reality headset to take console gaming to new heights. But many crucial details about the PS5 remain unclear.
Sony notably chose to skip on the Los Angeles E3 2019 gaming expo in June, opting instead to announce the latest console details in an exclusive interview. Mark Cerny, the lead system architect for the PS4, revealed a treasure trove of tantalizing tidbits that gamers should expect to see featured with the PS5. But the release date, price, and other details have been contained, leaving us only with leaks, rumors, and patents to determine the rest of Sony’s plans.
The PS4 has effectively won the current console war. The company announced it has sold 96.8 million units during a April 26 earnings report, and it accounts for nearly half of all consoles in use, according to a November 2018 Strategy Analytics report.
When it comes to gamer preferences, then, Sony likely has inertia on its side. But there are also industry forces at play that arguably cut against Sony’s strengths.
Cloud gaming is a big strength for Xbox, which is backed my Microsoft and its army of data centers. The importance of cloud gaming is also giving rise to new players like Google Stadia. Sony hasn’t completely ignored cloud innovation, but it doesn’t have the anywhere near the cloud muscle as Google, Amazon, or Microsoft. That’s why it’s looking to partnerships to fill the gap.
Sony is expected to bring everything it’s got to the table. But will it be enough? Here’s everything we know about the PS5:
PS5: Release Date
The PS5 is going to be released next year, according to Cerny’s report and a subsequent statement.
After the company’s earnings report, Sony Interactive Entertainment told Wall Street Journal reporter Takashi Mochizuki that there won’t be any next-gen console launches until May 2020 at the earliest. It’s far more likely that Sony will reveal the console during the summer, either at E3 2020 in June or at its own event.
The time of year, however, doesn’t quite make sense. After all, the past three PlayStation releases were all held in early-to-mid November to capitalize on the holiday shopping season. That could very much be the case this year. The holiday sales boost is on the upswing, and last year it crossed the 1 trillion dollar mark, according to market research firm eMarketer.
Dr. Lisa Su, CEO of semiconductor company AMD, presented even more evidence for a late 2020 release date. The chipmaker has already announced its partnership with Sony to develop the next-gen console’s semi-customized chipset.
“As we see, the semi-custom business at this point, we still believe that it’s going to be down substantially in 2019,” she said in AMD’s April 30 earnings report. “And then, as we go into 2020, without talking about any specific customer, we believe that semi-custom will return to a growth business for us in 2020 and beyond.”
All of these statements about the release date are also similar to the predictions made in a massive list of leaks posted on Pastebin in December. In the leak, someone claiming to be a game developer working on titles for the console said the PS5 would either drop in March 2020 or November 2020. The latter prediction was bolstered further in claims by Japanese analyst Hideki Yasuda of Ace Research Institute, who recently released his quarterly report about Sony forecasting that it would hit shelves in November 2020.
Based on all the statements and Sony’s launch history, it seems more than reasonable to predict that the PS5 will launch in Nov. 2020.
Sony won’t reveal the PS5’s cost until its launch date. But Peter Rubin, the senior correspondent for Wired who spoke to Cerny, extracted one juicy detail about the price in his piece.
Rubin tweeted a snippet from this transcript of Cerny saying that the future console won’t carry an astronomical price tag.
Cerny: I believe that we will be able to release it at an SRP [suggested retail price] that will be appealing to gamers in light of its advanced feature set.
Rubin: Meaning that it may cost a bit more but what you’re getting is well worth it?
Cerny: That’s about all I can say about it.
While the PS5 will definitely far exceed the capabilities of its predecessor, expect a price range between $399 and $499 assuming Sony continues to follow their previous pricing strategy. They have good reason to stay the course, as the pricing strategy around the PS4 remains wildly successful.
Sony announced that it has sold more than 96.8 million PS4 units worldwide since launch during its most recent earnings call.
That said, the new devices may still cost a bit more. The Pastebin leaks suggests the PS5 will cost $499 at launch, $100 pricier than its predecessor. This pricing isn’t completely unprecedented; the 2006 PS3 came in two variants, 20GB and 60GB models, which retailed at $499 and $599 each.
A PS5 that pricy could still be a mistake. When Sony released the PS3 in 2006, it retailed at $499, substantially more than the Xbox 360, which also launched that year. The PS3’s price tag led to a lag in initial sales that even Jack Tretton, former console chief for the company, admitted were due to “missteps” regarding its price. Sony will be wary not to repeat the same mistake again, especially since both Microsoft and Nintendo are expected to launch budget consoles in the near future.
PS5: New Features
Three major features have emerged from the rumor mill so far: The PS5 will run vintage games, it will double down on virtual reality, and it could eliminate load screens.
Intel about the PS5’s retro features come to us thanks to a widely reported Japanese patent spotted by the tech blog Gear Nuke. It suggested that Sony’s upcoming console will be backwards compatible, allowing it to run games dating all the way back to the original PlayStation. This means users who have a stack of retro games could just pop in their old discs and bring back the nostalgia.
Sony might also use the PS5’s launch to accelerate its VR efforts, according to subscription news outlet SemiAccurate. The article states that the console will come with a VR-focused chipset, making it a powerhouse for immersive gaming.
A Sony continuation patent granted by the USPTO on June 18 suggested that the future console could eliminate game loading screens entirely. The system would split games up into a kind of jigsaw puzzle or mosaic. Whenever a player steps into one of the pieces, or areas, the adjacent pieces are loaded in the background incase the player chooses to travel to them.
PS5: Wireless VR Headset
In addition to a couple under-the-hood changes, the PS5 may also launch with a secret weapon: a wireless VR headset. One of its defining features is expected to be an optimized virtual reality experience thanks to the aforementioned chipset. Sony could leverage that to update its PSVR line for the first time since 2016.
A lot of the details about this rumored VR headset come from the Pastebin leaker, whose initial leak was largely accurate. The leaker said it will cost an extra $250, support 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, 120Hz, provide a 220-degree field of view, eye-tracking, come with up to five hours of battery life, and include integrated headphones. But analysts suggest these kinds of specs might make the headset too pricey, which leads them to believe some of the upgrades will be scaled back.
Still, multiple patents back up this description of the potential hardware. Most recently, an April 18 patent application from the United States Patent and Trademark Office explained how Sony’s second VR headset could wirelessly receive video data using high frequency radio waves.
The patent describes how a PlayStation console could be used to encode VR video data into a 60 GHz frequency, which would then be beamed to the headset and decoded. To pull this off, users would need to stay in the same room as the console to avoid any signal interruptions. The USPTO documents also described how a console could be made to precisely aim the wave to the headset to improve signal quality.
The Japan Patent Office recently published a patenton March 14 that depicted a headset that players can use without having to attach it to their console. Instead, an attachment transfers data between the console and a TV-mounted PS Camera using high-frequency waves.
The current PSVR was released in October 2016, only a month before the PS4 Pro. That means the PS5’s eventual showcase could very well feature the wireless headset shown in that Japanese patent.
The PSVR headset might also be the first VR headset designed to specifically fit prescription glasses and make use of a new graphical rendering technique known as “foveated rendering.”
The United States Patent and Trademark Office published a Sony application patent on April 4 that seems to describe the method without actually mentioning it. The patent says the system will use eye-trackers to detect where a user is looking and only render what’s at the center of their vision. This could improve the VR experience for all users by making it less intensive for consoles and computers to generate massive 3D worlds.
“Gaze tracking system of the glasses may be configured to transmit the signal representing the gaze tracking results to other computing devices (e.g., laptop computer, desktop computer, tablet computer, cellular phone device, etc.) instead of or in addition to the sensor of the HMD, using wireless communication,” states that patent.
This patent also mentions that all of that data could be transferred wirelessly from the console to the headset, which lines up with the Pastepin leak.
PS5: Reverse Compatibility With 2016 PSVR Hardware
Cerny didn’t confirm or deny the possibility of a new headset, but he did affirm that the current PSVR hardware will be compatible with the PS5.
“I won’t go into the details of our VR strategy today,” he said, “beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console.”
Reverse compatibility will make it so current PSVR owners won’t have to spend more money to enjoy the refined VR capabilities of the PS5. While Sony won’t offer anywhere near the hardware sophistication as the the rumored wireless, the old headset will still let gamers enjoy new VR games on the console without extra costs.
PS5: Upgraded Streaming Service
Sony already offers its own cloud gaming service, PS Now, but users can only access it with PS hardware. This may be about to change thanks to the company’s unexpected partnership with Microsoft and a big patent hint.
In a shocking twist given the two companies’ longstanding rivalry, Sony recently announced a cloud gaming partnership with Microsoft on May 16. The joint venture will help Sony improve its PS Now cloud streaming service and also bring PlayStation exclusives to Xbox fans for a small fee.
While a May 15 Sony patent details plans for a game streaming system that’s strikingly similar to descriptions of Google’s Stadia and Microsoft’s xCloud services. The proposed system would run a game on a hosting service which could be accessed over the internet on PCs or using mobile devices like tablets and smartphones.
That aligns with a May 11 patent that proposed using a smartphone or tablet instead of the iconic DualShock controller.
PS5: Improved Audio Quality
Graphics will, of course, be the PS5’s biggest priority, but Cerny also noted that the company wants to give gamers an audio experience like no other console.
“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,” he said. “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.”
A feature like this could take the form of extremely immersive VR experiences, where users can hear the rustling of trees or footsteps in the distance. The Pastebin leaks alleged that the rumored, wireless PSVR headset will come with integrated headphones, a leak which seems to align with Cerny’s statements about supporting better audio.
PS5: New DualShock 5 Controller
Just like every other PlayStation release, the PS5 will likely come with a new controller, which, based on its predecessors’ numerically ordered names, will be called the DualShock 5.
The leaks state it will come with “some sort of camera inside for VR.” It’s unclear what that means, but it could be used for motion tracking while users have the new PSVR headset on.
PS5: Confirmed Specs
Cerny dropped some other juicy details about what the PS5 will pack under the hood. For the most part, he confirmed many of the Pastebin leaks. But he also revealed that the console will come with one long-awaited improvement: a solid-state drive (SSD) along with an undisclosed “system memory increase.”
Changing to SSD means fewer loading screens and more play time. Vast, explorable worlds like the ones in Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2 can be rendered in a fraction of the time. The only drawback is that SSDs are notably more expensive that HDDs, which could raise the overall cost of the console.
Cerny also confirmed both the graphical processing unit (GPU) and central processing unit (CPU) will be made by semiconductor giant AMD, like the Pastebin leaks asserted. Most notably, Cerny also said the GPU will support “ray tracing,” an emerging graphical rendering technique that will make standard and VR games look more lifelike than ever.
He also revealed that the PS5 will support 8K resolution. Since 8K TVs are still eye-wateringly expensive, this might not be a hit feature right off the bat. But seeing as the console life cycle lasts five to six years, this is likely a way for Sony to future-proof the PS5.
Finally, the upcoming console will get the usual CPU upgrade. Cerny confirmed that it will be based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line, which contains eight cores running the company’s new 7-nanometer Zen 2 microarchitecture.
PS5: Unconfirmed Specs
Some leaked PS5 details remain unconfirmed, but based on how closely the Pastebin document mirrored Cerny’s statements, they could still hold weight.
The anonymous leaker stated that the PS5 will more than double the PS4 Pro’s graphical capacity to 14 teraflops, meaning it can complete 14 trillion operations per second. Currently, the PS4 Pro’s graphical processing unit (GPU) is capable of 4.2 teraflops. This massive upgrade was backed up by one industry expert.
“Word on the street is that Sony and Microsoft are aiming to be more powerful than Stadia,” Kotaku news editor Jason Schreier tells Inverse. Schreier advises gamers to take this prediction with a grain of salt, since the companies have likely not finalized their upcoming consoles’ specs. He also commented that both companies “are aiming higher than that 10.7 teraflops” in a forum thread in March.
Schreier is a trusted source for industry information and correctly leaked the Fallout 4 setting and game dialogue before the title was released. Only two other details from the Pastebin leaks remain unconfirmed:
- 24 GB GDDR6 RAM and 4 GB DDR4 for the operating system.
- 2TB of hard drive storage.
PS5: New Games
Finally, the anonymous developer rattles off a list of upcoming games that will follow the release of the PS5. Sony offered a ton of exclusive games this year, like Spider-Man, God of War, and Detroit: Become Human. And it might just one-up itself with the PS5.
The most notable title mentioned was the 2020 release of Grand Theft Auto VI. The leak states that Sony is trying to bankroll Rockstar Games to make the game exclusive to the PS5 for the first month of its release. The timing makes sense. Rockstar hasn’t released a new installment to GTA in six years. But the game has never been a console exclusive; securing that deal with such a popular game franchise would be a colossal first step toward console dominance for Sony.
The leaks listed the following games as exclusive titles:
- Gran Turismo 7 in VR
- Players Unknown Battleground in 4K with PlayStation+
- Last of Us 2 remastered
- Ghost of Tsushima remaster
- Two or three other AAA Titles plus more PSVR games.
These are the other third-party games allegedly on the docket:
- Battlefield: Bad Company 3
- A Harry Potter game
- An Assassin’s Creed game
- Horizon 2 with a 2021 release date.
Other titles that will likely be released include:
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Call of Duty PS5
- FIFA PS5
- PES PS5
- Final Fantasy VII remake
This could all be subject to change once the PS5 actually launches, but many of the specs listed corroborate other forecasts and predictions. It seems that Sony has quite the gaming arsenal planned for the next few years.