Sony’s Mark Cerny took us all by surprise yesterday when he dropped a wealth of details on the next PlayStation console in an exclusive interview with Wired. By all accounts, it sounds like an ambitious beast.
While Cerny, who was the lead architect on the PlayStation 4 and Vita, wouldn’t refer to the new console as the PlayStation 5, I’ll be doing so for the sake of an easy life until an official name for it is revealed.
So what do we know about the PlayStation 5 at this point? The main take away right now seems to be that it’ll be a fairly traditional console with some pretty powerful upgrades.
Ray tracing is perhaps the most notable new addition, a major bit of new graphics tech that allows accurate simulation of light in 3D environments, making for much more detailed and immersive games. Cerny also confirmed that ray tracing can be used to simulate much more realistic audio.
The PS5 will also have a solid-state drive (SSD) which would drastically cut down on loading times. An example Cerny showed to Wired involved Marvel’s Spider-Man. The PS4 version took 15 seconds to load into a new area, where the PS5 dev kit took an incredible 0.8 seconds.
There’s still plenty we don’t know about the PlayStation 5 right now, and it’ll probably be a while before we get an official look at the thing. Cerny said that it absolutely won’t be coming in 2019, and we won’t hear anything more about it at E3 this year (Sony is skipping the traditional conference, after all).
With that said, I think this initial “reveal” actually serves as quite a telling mission statement for the future of PlayStation. It seems like Sony are telling us that, at least as far as it’s concerned, traditional consoles are here to say.
Consider the competition right now: The main message behind the Nintendo Switch is gaming on the go. Microsoft is pushing a subscription service based future where you can play Xbox games on various devices. Google Stadia has a similar message to Microsoft, but wants to eliminate console hardware completely.
That leaves the PlayStation 5 to be, as far as we know right now, the only next-gen console with a “traditional” sensibility behind it. There’s a chance Sony could announce some odd gimmick for the console further down the line, but I don’t see that happening. I think selling the PS5 as a traditional console is an incredibly smart play – and one that makes perfect sense for the company.
Let’s look at the last generation of consoles: It’s no secret that the PlayStation 4 absolutely dominated the Xbox One from the start and never let up (I love both, please don’t hate me for saying this). Nintendo of course, haven’t really directly competed with the other two for years now so I won’t be bringing the Wii U or Switch into this.
You can trace Sony’s success right back to the initial reveals of both consoles. The Xbox One unveiling was, frankly, a confusing mess that was criticised for a muddled digital strategy and a refusal to accept the fact that games with motion controls died with the Nintendo Wii and should’ve stayed buried.
To (briefly) bring the Wii U back into this, actually, I do have to say that console also suffered from a confusing marketing message that left people scratching their heads as to what the hell it actually was.
Sony found its success with the PS4 in tradition. Instead of looking at what Microsoft was trying to do, it focused instead on a strong lineup of games, affordable (but powerful) hardware, and a clear message: It wasn’t an Xbox “One” or a Wii “U” – it couldn’t have been clearer to a casual observer what was; the fourth PlayStation.
You only need to look at response from the majority of “hardcore” gamers every time the prospect of a digital-only or cloud-based future is brought up (spoiler: they’re not into it). These are people who love video games in the same way that music fans like to collect vinyl. They like the tradition of owning something physical. Something tangible.
There’s no doubt in my mind that there’s a massive audience to be found in Microsoft’s proposed strategy for the next Xbox, and if Google Stadia can work as promised, that’ll be a game changer too. But there will always be an audience of gamers that want a simple, uncomplicated console with quality exclusive games. Sony knows this, and I believe it’s absolutely approaching the PS5 with this in mind.
We know the PlayStation 5 will support 8K. We know it’ll support PlayStation VR and PS4 games via backwards compatibility. Sony seems to be focusing on revealing specs and features that the fans want to hear about right now, instead of bigging up some kind of cloud service or portable aspect.
I mean, if other competitors are already doing that kind of thing, why bother? If Sony does intend to introduce something similar, it makes sense to put the specs first and discuss the “gimmicks” after everyone is on board with what they’re selling. Some are criticising Sony for playing it safe, but I reckon it’s playing it smart.
Of course if tradition is at the core of the new console, the PlayStation 5 will most likely live or die on the strength of the exclusives we get. If what we’ve seen from the back end of the PS4’s life is any indication, then Sony has that on lock.
God of War, Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us… If the PS5 is the only place we can play the sequels to huge releases like these, then Sony has absolutely no need for any kind of gimmick. Sony’s earned the right to play it safe, or smart, or however it wants. The groundwork Sony built with the PS4 exclusives will be a key advantage going forward.
Video games are changing, but in a world where every other company seems to be in a massive rush to find a new angle, Sony is happy to remind people that the old angle of buying a video game and popping it into the box in the corner of your room to play on your TV is still just as viable as it was back in 1994.