In an exclusive report from Wired, Sony’s Mark Cerny divulged the first details on the next generation PlayStation console.
In the report Cerny stressed that the as yet unnamed next-gen console would be more of a revolution than an evolution. “The key question,” according to Cerny, “is whether the console adds another layer to the sorts of experiences you already have access to, or if it allows for fundamental changes in what a game can be.”
Both Sony and Microsoft have managed to extend the current console generation through the release of modified systems, namely the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. However, judging from the secretive nature of the meeting between Cerny and Wired (discreetly held in a conference room at Sony’s headquarters in Foster City, California.) this new offering will be a very different beast altogether.
Mark Cerny is once again taking on the role of Lead System Architect, as he did during the development of the PS4. The project appears to be far from finished at present, with Cerny saying that there is no chance of a 2019 release. But he also stated that many game studios have already begun working with the new system, and that Sony had accelerated its distribution of devkits so that more game creators had the time to adjust to the new system’s capabilities.
As expected, the next generation PlayStation will have significantly more powerful specs to match the requirements of next-gen games. Featuring an AMD chip at its core, the next-gen PlayStation will include a new GPU and CPU as well as an internal Solid State Drive. Take a look at the full breakdown of the known components below:
New CPU – based on the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line, containing eight cores of AMD’s new 7nm Zen 2 microarchitecture.
New GPU – custom variant of Radeon’s Navi family. Will support Ray Tracing, a technique that models the travel of light to simulate complex interactions in 3D environments. Cerny asserts that Ray Tracing can also be used to enhance directional audio mechanics as well: “If you wanted to run tests to see if the player can hear certain audio sources or if the enemies can hear the players’ footsteps, ray tracing is useful for that. It’s all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment.”
The AMD chip also includes a custom module for 3D audio that will vastly improve sound quality and redefine how sound can be used in videogames. Cerny admitted he felt a certain amount of frustration at the fact that audio quality had not risen on par with visual quality between the PS3 and PS4 eras. “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.”
SSD – More than anything else, Cerny says this specialised SSD is “the key to the next generation” and “a true game changer.” When talking to developers about what they wanted from the next generation of PlayStation, time and time again they requested an internal SSD.
In a demonstration, Cerny showed just how much of a difference this specialised SSD makes to loading times. What a PS4 Pro can load in 15 seconds, the next-gen PlayStation devkit managed in 0.8.
A purpose-built SSD will increase the speed at which data can be pulled from the hard drive. It also increases the speed at which a game world can be rendered, and thus, the speed at which we can move through that world. All in glorious 8K.
The exact specifications of this specialised SSD are unknown, and sadly Sony is unwilling to share that information at present, however Cerny claimed that the SSD “has a raw bandwidth higher than any SSD available for PCs.”
Not many other details were shared at the meeting, but Cerny did confirm that the next generation PlayStation will still accept physical media. It will not be a digital-only console. Also, as the console shares parts of its architecture with the PS4, it has to ability to be backwards-compatible with current-gen games.
As far as emerging features such as cloud gaming and PlayStation VR go, Cerny was tight-lipped. On PSVR he said: “I won’t go into the details of our VR strategy today beyond saying that VR is very important to us and that the current PSVR headset is compatible with the new console.”
And in regards to cloud gaming Cerny said only: “we are cloud-gaming pioneers, and our vision should become clear as we head toward launch.”
It may not seem like much information, but this small insight into what Sony are building presents a dazzling array of possibilities. I for one can’t wait to see more of what the industry’s creatives will do with this powerful new tech.
[UPDATE]: When asked to comment on pricing for the next generation PlayStation console, Cerny declined to talk numbers, saying only “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.”
This may be because the next-gen PlayStation will exceed the £400-odd price tag of the PS4 – but this could just as easily mean that Sony has not yet decided on a figure, as the console is still a work in progress.