The PlayStation 4 is still the dominant console of this generation, and it's showing no signs of slowing down - with big exclusives like Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us 2 still set to be among 2020's biggest game releases.
Still, hardware has moved on, gamers expect more, and as a result the PS5 is on the way too, due before the end of the year. Sony hasn't yet given it a grand unveiling - so we know much less than we do about its future rival, the Xbox Series X - but little tidbits have slowly been revealed, giving us a pretty good idea of what to expect from the PlayStation 5 - and when - including the first confirmed games.
When is the PS5 release date?
Sony has confirmed holiday 2020 as the official time slate for the release of the PS5 - and yes, the company has also confirmed PS5 as the official name. Phew. We've also now got a logo - the one thing Sony announced for the PS5 during its CES 2020 keynote. It's not exactly rocking the boat though:
As we suspected it would, this release date puts it directly in line to compete with Microsoft's next-gen Xbox Series X, which is due for release in the run-up to Christmas 2020. The battle of the next-gen consoles is coming.
While Sony hasn't revealed exactly when during the 'Holiday 2020' release we should expect to see the console, people seem to be getting excited about a tweet from Twitter user @PSErebus. Per the account, the PS5 will allegedly be released on 20 November 2020 in North America, and will cost $499.
Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) will launch PlayStation®5 (PS5™) in several countries in the holiday season of 2020 and will make PlayStation®5 (PS5™) available in North America on November 20, 2020 at a recommended retail price (RRP) of $499 pic.twitter.com/fe4jKlHmrH— PlayStation (@PSErebus) November 19, 2019
The alleged price and release date both sound realistic, and the Twitter user has a track record after correctly predicting the original The Last of Us 2 release date, but it's worth taking this with a pinch of salt.
That's not least because there's separate evidence of an October launch for the console. That comes from a job listing posted by Sony for a role in Japan, shared by the usually reliably tipster Nibel:
We're hoping to find out more before too long, with rumours that we'll discover more about the PS5 at an event in May or June. Games journalist Jeffrey Grubb claims that there is a reveal event currently planned for 4 June, but for the moment nothing is confirmed.
How much will the PS5 cost?
Without knowing exactly what's on offer, it's impossible to accurately predict how much the PS5 will cost. Going by the RRP of the PS4 (£229) and PS4 Pro (£349), we can only assume Sony will stick around the £400-500 mark, which aligns with the rumoured price mentioned above, but an interview with the company's Chief Financial Officer could suggest otherwise.
The issue, like with most issues in the world at the moment, stems from President Trump. Sony has stated in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that the PS5 price could be inflated due to the proposed tariffs on products imported to the US from China. "We believe, and therefore have told the U.S. government, that higher tariffs would ultimately damage the U.S. economy," Hiroki Totoki stated.
“[Tariffs] haven’t affected us that much, but we should remain vigilant about the potential risk,” the CFO claimed, and while he confirmed that the company is yet to make a definitive decision on how to tackle the tariffs, it is studying options including gamers "bearing the burden" of an increased launch price.
Parts are expensive too, and prices for some, like DRAM and NAND flash memory, are spiking as smartphone manufacturers also try to scoop them up. That's affecting PS5 production according to Bloomberg, which reports that right now each PS4 costs Sony $450 just to build - meaning the company is unlikely to charge any less than that to consumers.
On the other hand, the same report says that Sony is waiting for Microsoft to confirm its pricing to help decide its own. Xbox pricing is most likely to be revealed in May or June (when E3 2020 would have happened), so we'll probably have to wait until after that for the corresponding PS5 price.
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 the console.
What will the PS5 feature?
- 7nm 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU
- Radeon Navi GPU with ray-tracing support
- 825GB SSD storage
- 16GB GDDR6 RAM
The PS5 will feature a CPU and GPU made by AMD with the aim of powering up to [email protected] gameplay experiences.
The CPU is based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen series, and will contain 8-cores on the company’s new 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture - which sounds very similar to the next Xbox's CPU, also based on Zen 2.
The company has emphasised that this is a chipset designed in collaboration with AMD, and that the collaboration goes both ways, meaning that AMD may release a consumer PC CPU or GPU using some of the features found in the PS4 - but that this is a direct result of the two companies working together, not a matter of Sony simply using an off-the-shelf component.
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.
Though some had speculated that ray tracing would be done via a software-level fix, system architect Mark Cerny debunked this theory in an interview with Wired, stating "There is ray tracing acceleration in the GPU hardware."
The hardware improvement that has been most widely requested by developers and players alike is an 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 PS5 will come with a 825GB SSD that will read data at 5.5Gb/s, which Cerny says will in practice result in load times 100 times faster than the PS4. That means almost instant game loads and fast travel, along with freeing developers up from game design that loops players around winding paths to avoid loading too many textures at once.
That faster SSD will also free up RAM, as more assets will be loadable directly from the SSD. That means RAM will be used to greater effect, with 16GB of GDDR6 RAM available in the console.
If 825GB of storage doesn't sound like enough for you, Sony has confirmed that the console will be upgradeable with internal M.2 SSD storage. That's friendlier than Microsoft's reliance on custom expandable storage cards, but there is a catch: only certain M.2 drives will be the right size and speed to work in the console, with Sony warning that it may not have a list of compatible drives ready until after the console's launch.
The game installation process will also be improved, making it more configurable for users. For example, if your game comes with both a single-player and multi-player campaign, you'll have the option on whether you want to install just one or the other to save space on your console. You can also delete these campaigns after you've used them, keeping the core game data but deleting what you don't need.
In terms of multiplayer, the PS5 will have game servers which will allow players to see joinable games in real-time, as opposed to having to boot up each individual game like on the PS4. Single-player games meanwhile will include information on mission rewards in the UI - should you wish to view it. We don't know yet what this UI will look like exactly - but when we have more details we'll let you know.
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 using what Sony is calling the Tempest Engine, designed together with AMD based on GPU tech.
The idea is essentially to create more powerful virtual surround sound that will work for any sound system - not just licensed Dolby Atmos peripherals - though the company warned this is a work-in-progress, with headphone support ready now, but work on stereo and true surround systems still ongoing. The quality will also depend heavily on the exact makeup of your ear, so Sony will offer a choice of five sound profiles at launch and a test to help you pick the best one for you.
The PS5 will also be backwards-compatible so you’ll be able to play PS4 titles on the next-gen console, with the core chipset designed to be capable of simulating the PS4's own core, factoring in the architectural differences between the two. Basically that means you'll be able to play most PS4 games on the PS5, though as always some may not work fully.
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.
If that wasn't enough, a September 2019 patent seems to showcase an AI-powered voice assistant branded as PlayStation Assist that gamers can use to get in-game help without having to pause the game and Google it.
As per the patent, the voice assistant should be able to dynamically respond to queries and provide users with "gaming assistance", allowing the system to show you where to find a nearby medkit or help you solve a particularly confusing puzzle.
Considering the DualSense controller, seen below, includes a built-in mic, we think this could be one of the killer features of the PS5 that Sony is yet to announce.
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. For more on a potential next-gen headset, take a look at the latest PSVR 2 news.
What will the PS5 look like?
While we're still months away from a possible release, a patent discovered by LetsGoDigital from 28 May 2019 looked like it would give us our first glimpse at the design of the PS5, though in fact it has since been confirmed to be the design of the console's dev kits:
What about the controller?
The controller is one area where we do have something concrete, as in April 2020 Sony officially unveiled the PS5 controller, the DualSense:
Aside from the striking black-and-white colour scheme there are a few things to note straight away. First up, the face buttons have lost their colour-coding, so you'll have to get good at remembering which shape goes where. The light bar - rumoured to be getting cut from the new pad - is in fact still here, but now sits to either side of the touch-sensitive pad in the controller's centre.
The Share button has been renamed the Create button, and Sony has teased it could have better integration with streaming or social media services for sharing content. There's also an integrated microphone, removing the need for a dedicated headset (though we imagine the quality won't match a proper headset), and USB-C charging is welcome 2020 touch.
As for the actual controls, things are mostly the same. Adaptive triggers on L2 and R2 are the big upgrade, which when paired with improved haptic feedback will allow you to feel the tension of pulling back a bowstring, in Sony's example.
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."
What PS5 games have been confirmed?
While we can speculate about plenty of PS5 games - God of War 2 seems likely, and surely Spider-Man 2 to boot - there are only a few actually confirmed so far.
The only exclusive so far confirmed is Godfall, a fantasy 'looter-slasher' from Borderlands publisher Gearbox. It was announced at The Game Awards 2019 and sounds likely to be a launch title, with a 'Holiday 2020' release date. It's a PS5 console-exclusive, with no Xbox launch planned, but it will arrive on PC too. Watch the launch trailer right here:
Then there are the multi-platform titles. So far they include Cyberpunk 2077, Hellblade 2, Outriders, Destiny 2, Observer: System Redux, Fortnite, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, but many more are expected to be announced between now and the PS5 launch.
As for first-party titles, Sony hasn't announced any just yet. But we do know that when they arrive they'll carry a fancy new PlayStation Studios branding, including a new Marvel-style intro animation that will make its debut in games on the PS5. We're naturally hoping for sequels to the likes of God of War and Spider-Man, but for now we'll have to wait and see.
You'll notice that so far we haven't really seen any actual gameplay running on a PS5. The closest we've got is this official look at Unreal Engine 5, running on a PlayStation 5. In case you're not aware, Unreal Engine 4 is one of the most widely used game engines in the industry, so it's a safe bet that a big proportion of next-gen titles will on this new iteration, making this a great look at what to expect - including literally billions of triangles. Phwoar.