The PlayStation 4 is still going strong, not least thanks to being reinvigorated by the launch of the Slim, Pro and PlayStation VR, expanding the gaming potential of the system, along with a wide array of fantastic titles keeping us entertained. However, the PS4 is slowly approaching the end of its life cycle and details around its highly anticipated, and as yet unannounced replacement, are starting to emerge.
Select members of the press were invited to an event at Sony’s headquarters in California for a sneak peek of what we can expect from the next generation console. The event showed off some impressive results from an early version of the device, including a new CPU and GPU and the inclusion of an incredibly fast SSD that almost makes loading times a thing of the past. We’ve got all the details here, so do read on.
When is the PS5 release date?
The short answer to this question is that we don’t know, all we have are educated guesses.
Sony has confirmed that we won’t be seeing it in 2019 at the very least and considering Sony don’t have a keynote at this year’s E3, they won’t be showing it off this year either.
If we were to guess, we’d imagine the console will be shown off at 2020’s E3 event and set for a release towards the end of 2020 at the very earliest, with a 2021 release date being much more likely.
How much will it cost?
Without knowing exactly what's on offer, it's impossible to accurately predict how much the PS5 will cost. With the PS2 costing £300, the PS3 £425 and the PS4 £349, we can only assume Sony will stick around the £400 mark.
The inclusion of a new generation of CPU and GPU, along with an internal SSD, could mean it could become a little more expensive than we’re used to. However, due to the changing nature of the gaming landscape, it could be possible that Sony won’t be seeking to make money on the sale of its consoles at all and will just aim to get them into as many homes as possible - relying instead on the sale of aftermarket services and game sales to generate revenue through the life cycle of each console.
What will the PS5 look like?
Concept images of the PS5 have already popped up on the web. We suspect it will retain the black box, blue light theme, but will be sleeker and more stylish than before.
Streaming service PlayStation Now and digital downloads could be enough to let it do away with discs, so it could even be more compact too.
Here is an example of a concept design we've seen floating around the internet:
PC gamer? Here's how to play PS4 games on PC.
What will the PS5 feature?
The PS5 will feature a CPU and GPU made by AMD.
The CPU is reportedly based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen series, and will contain 8-cores on the company’s new 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture.
The GPU will be a variation on Radeon’s Navi family and will support ray tracing, a graphics technology that allows the path of light to be rendered more realistically within a game - allowing for accurate reflections in water and deeper, more responsive shadows.
Ray tracing technology was originally debuted by Nvidia with the launch of its RTX cards at Gamescom 2018, and you can see its effects in the video below.
The hardware improvement that has been most widely requested by developers and players alike, is the SSD (solid state drive). As games get bigger and graphics get better, more and more is required from the hardware that stores the games.
The event showed off an early prototype of the future console that demonstrated the difference in loading times using 2018’s Spiderman title as an example. The fast travel feature requires the console to load an entirely new environment, and on a PS4 this took almost 15 seconds, while on the new prototype console it took 0.8 seconds.
This massively increased data transfer speed also allows developers to create experiences where a character can move through a detailed world much faster than is currently possible. Currently, Spiderman can only move through the world at his maximum webbing speed because the console can’t build the world around him any faster.
The demo showed off a character moving at a speed closer to a fighter jet, with pauses to show off the fully detailed world being loaded in despite how fast the character was moving. This really opens up a huge amount of possibilities for the future of gaming.
The new AMD chip will also contain a custom unit for a 3D audio, allowing for much more immersive audio as you’ll be able to hear sounds distinctly from all directions. This will be available through all speakers but the gold standard will always be through headphones for the best audio experience.
The PSVR headset will be compatible with the new console too, and as it will be built on a similar architecture to the PS4, there will be a cross-over period where titles will be released on both systems. It will also be backwards compatible so you’ll be able to play PS4 titles on the next-gen console.
It will reportedly also take hardware still, despite the industry undoubtedly shifting towards digital distribution methods and even a console-less experience will game streaming services such as Google’s Stadia.
Will the PS5 offer VR support?
Sony has confirmed that VR will be a focal part of its next-generation console which won’t come as a huge surprise. However, we don’t have any firm details on what exactly the strategy will look like as Sony is keeping it firmly under wraps for the time being.
The current PSVR headset will be compatible with the next-generation console, so you won’t need to buy a new one. However, we would be surprised if a newer generation headset didn’t appear at some point to make use of the new level of hardware see on the upcoming console.
Will it be portable like the Nintendo Switch?
One of the other major questions around the PS5 is whether Sony will follow in Nintendo's footsteps and release a handheld/home console hybrid along the lines of the Nintendo Switch.
There's some precedent of course - Sony previously released both the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita, and the latter can even link up to the PS4 and be used as a remote screen and controller for games.
Still, disappointing sales of the Vita mean it's unlikely that Sony has much appetite to return to the portable market. And besides, the PS4's current dominance was driven partly by its position as the most powerful console on the market - we just can't see Sony making the sort of compromises on specs necessary to make the portable form-factor work.
However, May 2018 comments from John Kodera suggest that it could be on the table. In an interview with Bloomberg, Kodera said "In my opinion, rather than separating portable gaming from consoles, it’s necessary to continue thinking of it [portable gaming] as one method to deliver more gaming experiences and exploring what our customers want from portable. We want to think about many options."