The rumour mill is in full swing regarding the next generation of gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft. Here’s what we know:
Microsoft is gearing up for a big announcement mid-year either at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) or Gamescom. Codename projects that refer to the successor of the Xbox One have been circulating, and at this point, its replacement is now due. Meanwhile, Sony will be giving E3 a miss this year, and any hardware announcements will most likely only happen in 2020. However, the PlayStation 4’s lead architect has shed some light on what might be inside their next box.
In an exclusive interview with Wired, Mark Cerny provided some insight into what components we should expect to see in the ‘Playstation 5’. He emphasized that the strategy is not to simply offer a refreshed version of the PS4, but rather a fully revised and state-of-the-art unit.
“The key question,” he said. “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.”
The key takings from the interview relate to the console’s performance, data storage, and overall immersive experience of the gamer. The console will make use of a chip from AMD’s Ryzen line of CPUs; eight cores of the brand’s new seven-nanometre Zen 2 microarchitecture. The GPU meanwhile will be from Nvidia, one from Radeon’s Navi family and features ray tracing capabilities. The result is a significant boost in the rendering of 3D environments, especially in how light is projected and manipulated. But, Cerny hinted that the implications of ray tracing will not just be from a visual standpoint, but also from an audio one.
“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,” he explained. “It’s all the same thing as taking a ray through the environment. 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.” Cerny concludes this by saying that while the audio innovations will be explicit in all forms of output (i.e. TV speaker, etc.), the “gold standard” is to be found in headphones.
But the biggest news is data storage. Games are getting bigger and bigger, resulting in longer loading and rendering times. The answer to that is a solid state hard drive, and for good measure. The new console will support 8k graphics. It will be compatible with the current generation of PSVR, and have backwards compatibility for PS4 games. “The raw read speed is important,” Cerny said, “but so are the details of the I/O [input-output] mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them.”
On the software side, Cerny did not say much about Sony’s approach to the future of gaming. Specifically, the push towards cloud-based services such as Xbox Live and Google Stadia. “We are cloud-gaming pioneers,” he concluded. “And our vision should become clear as we head toward launch.”
That launch is still a while off. But, it’s exciting to hear what Sony is working on. And what the impressive result could inevitably look like.
Images supplied: Sony