We may have exaggerated a little in the title of this article, but not by much. As of this week, the days of the PlayStation 4 are numbered. Sony has confirmed that the PlayStation 5 is on its way, and it will hit the market just in time for Christmas 2020. We can officially begin the countdown. The hype will start now, and it will get more frantic with every passing day, week, and month between now and then.
As exciting as the announcement of a next-generation console is for video game fans, it’s equally big for those who work in software development. Almost instantly, the current generation of hardware will be deprioritized. There is no longer any point in developing a major video game for a dying format. We’ll see one more edition of annual video game franchises – the popular FIFA soccer games, for example – on the current hardware because gamers have come to expect them. Any other major projects will now be put on hold, though. No brand new games will be developed for the dying platform from this point onward.
The reason for that is that a video game is no longer a single purchase. When you buy a new video game, the expectation is that you’ll continue to pay for content for at least six months after the game has been launched. That content comes with DLC, such as new characters or new stories. The content extends the life of the game, and therefore the creation of any new game is viewed in terms of longevity as well as playability. It just doesn’t make good business sense to create a game you can no longer make money from in twelve months, because the platform you created it for has been abandoned.
In honor of Sony’s announcement, we’ve taken a closer look at the leaps forward we’ve been promised along with the new hardware. We know this at the very least; it will need to be better than any PlayStation which has come before it. This new PlayStation will face competition in a way that no new PlayStation has faced in the past, and we don’t just mean because Microsoft is releasing their next console next year, too. Next year, both Sony and Microsoft will face competition from the biggest technology firm in the world.
As 2019 becomes 2020, Google will go live with Google Stadia. The revolutionary new product allows players to stream video games via any device with a high-speed internet connection, without the need for bulky hardware, or the purchase of physical games. It’s the same kind of step forward that put casinos at risk from the internet. As soon as mobile slots were invented, there was less reason for players to go to the casino to play real slots. The range of games available at a mobile slots website like Late Casino is greater. Sometimes, the odds of winning when playing mobile slots are greater, because the house edge is lower. If Google can offer players the same games they’ll get through Microsoft and Sony – but with a lower price point and better availability – where’s the incentive for people to buy the new consoles?
Here are the factors that Sony hope will drive you toward staying with them instead of looking elsewhere.
Accelerated Ray Tracing
If you’re not overtly technically-literate, you can translate this into basic English as ‘massively enhanced graphical capabilities.’ With accelerated ray tracing, light in a video game will behave exactly as it does in the real world. It will reflect, bounce, and distort shapes. It will change the color of an object, depending on where you look at it from. Being able to make light act in a realistic manner is one of the final hurdles developers have been trying to overcome in order to make games look totally real. The PS5 sounds like it will be able to give them a platform to do it. Until now, this has only been possible in the context of highly expensive CGI scenes in movies.
SSD, Not HDD
This feels overdue, but we’re glad it’s happening now. The original point of video game consoles is that they were faster and more powerful than home computers when it came to playing games. That hasn’t been true for years. Powerful gaming PCs have been able to run rings around consoles, and using SSD is the main reason for that. The PlayStation 4 is powerful, but it’s slow. Games frequently have loading times that exceed one minute. There’s no reason to wait that long in 2020, and thanks to the SSD that will be inside every PS5 unit, nobody will have to. Crucially, this may be what makes the PS5 faster and more responsive than Google’s Stadia setup.
A Whole New CPU
When the PS4 debuted, it used the AM Jaguar CPU. They weren’t awful, but they weren’t exactly brand new when the machine launched in 2013. Here in 2019, they’re archaic. The old technology inside the current generation of consoles is arguably what’s held video game development back for the past two to three years. This time, Sony isn’t making that mistake. Inside every PS5 will be an eight-core Zen 2 architecture cup. That’s technology from the here and now, and it won’t become obsolete for many years. It will probably still be close to the industry standard seven years from now when the PS5 will be nearing the end of its useful life. This massive upgrade in processing power is what will make the next-gen machines truly feel next-gen. To use the most basic terms possible, it will mean that the PS5 can do far more than the PS4, and it can do it faster.
With the leaps forward that we’ve mentioned, we suspect that the PS5 will – at the time of launch at least – have the advantage over Google Stadia. We suspect that Stadia will have teething problems, and a lot of unhappy users in areas where internet connections aren’t lightning fast. Also, Stadia is at the mercy of internet connections dropping or slowing down. The PS5, in most circumstances, will not. The big challenge will be whether Sony can stay ahead of the curve as Google Stadia continues to develop. If it can’t, and streaming video games turns out to be the way of the future, then the fifth incarnation of the PlayStation might turn out to be the last.