next console generation is officially in the near future, now that both Sony and Microsoft have started to lift the lid on their upcoming platforms. Microsoft officially introduced the next Xbox as Project Scarlett during its E3 2019 press briefing with a video of developers and executives discussing the console’s features and how they’ll empower game makers. Sony pulled out of E3 this year, but the company revealed the first information about the next PlayStation — which is unofficially known as the PlayStation 5 — in April.
Details remain scarce at this point for both Scarlett and the PS5, but would-be early adopters are already hungry to learn more. Here’s everything we know about the PS5.
WHAT IS THE PS5’S RELEASE DATE?
Sony hasn’t explicitly provided a launch window for the next PlayStation, let alone a date. But we do have an idea of when it could arrive. In late April, Sony executives said that the company would not release the PS5 for at least 12 months. That puts the earliest launch timing in the summer of 2020.
Considering that Sony hasn’t said much else about the system since then — and hasn’t confirmed any games in development for it — it’s hard to imagine the console would be ready to launch a year from now. In other words, the smart money is on a fall 2020 debut, which would put the PS5 alongside Scarlett (just like the PS4 and Xbox One, which launched one week apart in November 2013).
WHAT ARE THE PS5’S HARDWARE SPECIFICATIONS?
Sony hasn’t yet provided hardware specifications for the console. What we know right now is that like Scarlett, the PS5 will be powered by technology from AMD. The eight-core CPU will be based on AMD’s third-generation Ryzen processors and its new 7 nm Zen 2 architecture, while the GPU will be a custom design from the company’s upcoming Navi line of graphics cards.
The GPU will support real-time ray tracing, a cutting-edge rendering technique that debuted in consumer-level graphics cards from AMD competitor Nvidia in 2018. But right now, Sony has not confirmed whether the PS5’s GPU will offer hardware-based ray tracing features. The company is currently promising that the console will also support resolutions of up to 8K and frame rates up to 120 Hz.
On the nonvisual front, the PS5 will contain a custom chip for 3D audio, which will allow the console to deliver more immersive surround sound à la Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It will still offer an optical drive for disc-based games. And Sony is touting a surprising component as the PS5’s biggest upgrade over current-generation consoles: a solid-state drive (instead of a hard drive) that’s designed specifically for gaming, which will greatly reduce load times and empower developers to create larger and more complex game worlds.
WILL THE PS5 BE BACKWARD-COMPATIBLE WITH PS4 GAMES?
Yes. The PS5’s architecture is based partly on that of the PS4. So unlike with the leap from the PlayStation 3 to the PS4, your existing games will not become obsolete when Sony launches its next console. It’s worth noting, however, that Sony has not yet given any details on how PS4 backward compatibility will work or how much of the console’s library will be supported on the PS5.
WILL THE PS5 SUPPORT CLOUD GAMING?
Unconfirmed, but it’s more likely than not. In the Wired interview in which Sony’s Mark Cerny — lead system architect for both the PS4 and PS5 — revealed the first details about the next PlayStation, he didn’t divulge anything about the company’s cloud gaming plans. He said only that “we are cloud-gaming pioneers, and our vision should become clear as we head toward launch.”
One key development that points to Sony’s interest in cloud gaming is that the company recently signed a deal with Microsoft — yes, the Xbox maker, which is launching a beta of Project xCloud this fall — in which the two firms agreed to “explore joint development of future cloud solutions in Microsoft Azure to support their respective game and content-streaming services.” Azure is Microsoft’s cloud computing platform, and one of its most successful business segments. Sony currently offers a streaming library containing hundreds of PlayStation 2, PS3, and PS4 games via PlayStation Now, but the company is now investing even more in cloud gaming.
HOW MUCH WILL THE PS5 COST?
Hardware makers generally avoid giving pricing details until fairly late in the game, so assuming that the PS5 is launching in fall 2020, don’t expect Sony to announce the price until sometime next year. At this point, any numbers would be pure speculation — the company may still be finalizing the hardware, and the components will be the main factor in setting the system’s cost.
The last time around, Sony took the wind out of Microsoft’s sails by launching the PS4 at $399, $100 cheaper than the Xbox One (whose higher price tag was largely due to the inclusion of the second-generation Kinect sensor). A generation before that, the high-end Xbox 360 at $399 was $100 cheaper than the low-end PS3 at $499. Cerny told Wired that the company is thinking about a price that will be “appealing […] in light of [the console’s] advanced feature set.”
From everything we know about Scarlett and the PS5 at this point, the two consoles are on similar footing when it comes to their hardware components and capabilities. It would be fascinating to see Microsoft and Sony go head to head with two consoles at the exact same price point, wouldn’t it?
WHAT GAMES WILL THE PS5 LAUNCH WITH?
Neither Sony nor any third-party publishers have announced any games in development for the next PlayStation. It’s not hard to imagine that some upcoming PS4 titles — even a few 2019 games like Kojima Productions’ Death Stranding — will eventually end up being released on the PS5. (Porting over recent last-gen releases is a relatively quick and easy way to beef up a console’s library early in its life.)
Considering Sony’s sizable stable of internal studios, it feels odd that we only know about a couple of major PS4 projects in development: Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part 2 and Sucker Punch Productions’ Ghost of Tsushima. The company’s other internal development teams are probably already working on some PS5 launch titles — perhaps Guerrilla Games with a sequel to 2017’s Horizon Zero Dawn?