First Details On Next-Generation PlayStation Confirm Backwards Compatibility

by Sage Ashford

As we get closer to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One reaching seven years on the market, fans have begun to speculate about what the next-generation of gaming consoles will look like.  Both Microsoft and Sony have been rather silent on this front for the most part, but a new article from Wired has changed that.  In an exclusive interview with Mark Cerny, lead system architect for the PlayStation 4, we’ve been given a tiny look at what Sony has planned for their “untitled” next generation machine.

The interview goes into detail on a number of things, starting with explaining that the CPU will be a third-generation AMD Ryzen chip with eight cores of 7nm Zen 2, while the GPU will be customized, but based on Radeon Navi micro-architecture.   The AMD chip supports 3D audio, allowing for immersive sound that can feel like it’s coming from any direction.  Though this sounds like it would require a special audio system, they specify no additional purchase other than the system will be “necessary”, but that the best audio will come from usage of headphones.

Though when Cerny designed the PlayStation 4 he didn’t seem overly concerned with Raytracing, the technique that models the way light travels to create more realistic and complex 3D environments, this time around both he and Sony have completely embraced the technology, and the interview discusses all the benefits of using Raytracing to advance game design.

Most surprising of all however is the addition of Solid State Drives to the next-generation PlayStation. They’ve gone the extra mile to put a specialized “SSD+” in the new system, reducing travel (and fast travel) times at a geometric rate. In the article, they discuss going from fifteen seconds for fast travel in Sony and Insomniac’s Spider-Man to 0.8 seconds.

Still, the biggest two bombshells are saved for last. As it stands, the next PlayStation will both support physical, disc-based media and be backwards compatible with PlayStation 4 games. These have been two of the biggest discussions about next-generation systems–whether they will go all digital and whether the more common x86 architecture would allow Sony to go for proper backwards compatibility, and it seems Sony is once again answering in the affirmative.

This Wired interview features an almost unprecedented amount of information for a console that’s over a year from release. However, there’s still plenty of questions left to be asked about the future of Sony PlayStation.  (As the article astutely points out, we don’t even know what the system is called, though it’s most likely the PlayStation 5.)  There’s no information about what the system’s launch line-up will be–the PlayStation 4 had a lot of problems if players weren’t interested in indie games and cross-gen sports titles.  They didn’t talk about what apps would be available on the console either–Netflix, Hulu, Spotify, and other applications were big six years ago, and they’ve only become a bigger deal since then, when the PS4 launched with absolutely none of the functionality of its older brother.

Of course, there’s the biggest question hanging in the air as well: what’s this thing going to cost?   The system specs read like a dream for every techie fanboy, with it’s RyZen CPU and it’s Raytracing and backwards compatibility and it’s Solid State drives–it seems unlikely they’ll be able to hit that $399 sweet spot that made the PlayStation 4 fly off the shelves.  As everyone else prepares to make their big moves for 2020, Sony’s going to need to come up with the right answers for every single one of these questions, because as fun as all this new technology sounds, that’s never been what moved the most consoles. Still, it’s hard to argue that this is a good start, and it’s smart of Sony to get out ahead of any potential leaks and drop pretty much anything relevant themselves to kick off the road to the ninth generation.

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