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 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.
Since then, WIRED also broke an exclusive on more details of the console, including specifics on the hardware and - more excitingly - an official release date. We’ve got all the details here, so do read on.
When is the PS5 release date?
Sony have now confirmed holiday 2020 as the official time slate for the release of the PS5 - and yes, they've also confirmed PS5 as the official name. Phew.
As we suspected it would, this puts it directly in line to compete with Microsoft's next-gen Project Scarlett, which is due for release in the run-up to Christmas 2020. The battle of the next-gen consoles is coming.
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, but a recent 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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
The PS5's SSD is also much more efficient that its predecessor, which previously relied on the console using 'seeks' to read each piece of information off of the drive, including some pieces of data that have been duplicated hundreds of times on a drive. The SSD erases the need for duping, so its can read things much faster whilst also saving some much-needed space for game developers.
Therefore this massively increased data transfer speed will allow studios 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.
Game installation will also be getting a switch up, making the process 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. This will be available through all speakers but the gold standard will always be through headphones for the best audio experience. There has also been rumours of a voice-driven AI assistant on the console, but this isn't confirmed yet.
The controller will include 'adaptive triggers' to make gameplay feel more realistic and immersive. For example, if you're shooting a bow in a game, the controller will change the level of resistance depending on the level of tension in the weapon as you pull back. The haptic feedback in general will be far more complex, allowing for varying levels of vibration and feedback. Testers remarked that playing in different environments (like ice, mud and water) affected how the controls operated.
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.
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.
What will the PS5 look like?
The design is a striking departure from previous PlayStation consoles, sporting a unique V-shape design. The V-shaped design looks to improve airflow to keep the console cool, while also representing the number 5 in Roman numerals (V).
The patent claims that it was designed by one of Sony's Technical Directors, Yusuhiro Ootori, and features the same Locarno classification (Class 14.02) as a pre-release PS4 patent, lending authenticity to the patent.
Of course, this design hasn't been confirmed by Sony and it's possible that it's one of many possible designs that the company is currently considering. We kind of like the V design, especially if the improved airflow means the PS5 is quieter than the Concorde-esque PS4!
In terms of the controller, press have reported prototypes to be looking very similar to the current PS4 DualShock controllers, but obviously this is something to take with a pinch of salt considering that we're still in the development stages.
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."