Sony has dropped the first concrete details about its impending PlayStation 5, and it sounds like an absolute unit. The company recently confirmed a shockingly large portion of an epic list of leaks that surfaced online in April. Sony’s confirmation cements a great deal of what we know about the PS5’s plan for reinventing its signature console.
For months, patents, analyst predictions, rumors, and online job listings have hinted at the gaming system’s plans for unmatched graphical capabilities and a focus on virtual reality. On Tuesday, Mark Cerny, the lead system architect for the PS4, gave Wired a treasure trove of new specifics about the upcoming launch.
Cerny promised, among other things, unprecedented game resolution support, a long-awaited hard drive upgrade, custom-made hardware, and improvements to the PS system’s VR capabilities. But eager gamers still have some time to wait before the next chapter for Sony unravels.
PS5 Details: Release Date
Cerny was clear that the PS5 won’t make it to stores in 2019. This lines up with the various analysts’ predictions that have coalesced around a mid-to-late 2020 launch ahead of the holiday season.
The recent batch of Pastebin leaks stated that Sony had yet to finalize its launch date, but that it could drop the PS5 as early as March 2020. Sony announced that it will skip the annual E3 gaming expo this June, where many big gaming companies typically announce new hardware and titles.
Skipping E3 could set a precedent that Sony releases products on its own schedule instead of following industry standards. Plus, the fact that Cerny is already publicly talking about the PS5’s specs and hardware means the PS5 should be close to its final form.
PS5 Details: Massive Hard Drive Upgrade
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 a that the console will come with one long-awaited improvement: a solid-state drive (SSD) along with an undisclosed “system memory increase.”
Currently, all consoles use hard disk drives (HDDs), which are the traditional spinning hard drives that serve as the non-volatile, or permanent, storage on the system. SDDs serve the same purpose but don’t include any moving parts, can be plugged into the system like flash drive, and have been found to be much faster at fetching stored data than HDDs in tests.
Changing to SSD meals 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.
PS5 Details: A Custom-Made GPU and CPU
Cerny went on to confirm other details in the Pastebin leak, including the fact that both the graphical processing unit (GPU) and central processing unit (CPU) for the PS5 will be custom made by semiconductor giant AMD. 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.
In a nutshell, the method generates images by tracing the path of light as pixels and then simulates how they would interact with objects like water, glass, or plants. This results in crisp natural effects, like the glistening of digital, running water and the slivers of light created by the trees in a virtual forrest.
To complement its new graphical capability, Cerny revealed that the PS5 will also support 8K resolution. Since 8K TVs are still eye-wateringly expensive, this might not be a hit feature 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 on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line which contains eight cores of the company’s new 7-nanometer Zen 2 microarchitecture.
PS5 Details: VR Reverse Compatibility
Two recent patents and the Pastebin leaks all suggest that Sony will cook up a new PSVR headset that will be completely wireless. Cerny didn’t confirm or deny the possibility of a new headset, but he did confirm 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 even more money to enjoy the refined VR capabilities of the PS5. Its custom-made GPU and CPU will likely make for an unmatched VR experience, plus Cerny revealed Sony will also use its improved hardware to focus on more subtle, immersive details.
PS5 Details: A Focus on Audio
Graphics will of course be the PS5’s biggest priority, but Cerny 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 Details: What Does This All Mean for Price
Cerny didn’t offer any details about what all of this might cost, but these sizable hardware updates will be priced accordingly. Currently, a top-of-the-line PS4 Pro retails for $399; the PS5 will likely blow that figure out of the water.
The priciest PlayStation at launch was a $599, 60GB variant of the PS3 that was released in 2006. But during the ensuing year, Sony reported slow sales for the console, and made its subsequent release roughly $100 cheaper. Based on all the planned upgrades, it sounds like 2020 could be the year Sony tries this higher pricing strategy a second time.
The Pastebin leaks predict it will launch at $499, just a $100 more expensive than the PS4 Pro. But a fully suited out version could approach $599.
Gamers, prepare your wallets. The PS5 likely won’t be cheap.