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SYFY WIRE Sony Interactive Entertainment

Sony outlines plans for lightning-fast PlayStation 5 with solid-state drive

By Benjamin Bullard
Marvel's Spider-Man for PlayStation 4

Sony’s PlayStation 4 successor will still take physical discs, it’ll be backwards compatible, and — at least until developers dream up new ways to challenge the hardware — will dramatically reduce load times while enabling warp-speed in-game actions that would humble current consoles, according to a new report.

Sony’s Mark Cerny tells Wired that the PlayStation 5 — not yet its official name — will support 4K televisions (perhaps even 8K), and sport a solid-state drive tailored specifically for gaming; one that all but completely eliminated a 15-second loading time in a fast-travel test of the PS4’s Spider-Man, which Cerny demonstrated for Wired on a developer build of the new console.

Cost and storage capacity have long been major bottlenecks for pushing solid state drives into the gaming console market, and Cerny did not reveal plans for the new device’s storage capacity or pricing. He did, however, say the drive and its accompanying operating software are being designed from the ground up to optimize next-generation gaming. In other words, the PS5 won’t just sport a plug-and-play, off-the-rack drive. 

Sony isn’t yet showing off any PS5 box designs to hint at what its next machine will look like in your living room, but Cerny said the new console won’t be a digital-only device, and that it will still accept physical media — just like every PlayStation console has done since 1994.

One of the coolest features Cerny reportedly showed off in the Spider-Man demo was the solid state drive’s (literally) game-changing ability to let players play games faster, without losing an ounce of graphical fidelity.

 In a side-by-side demo of Spidey web-slinging down the street, the player could move the camera at unprecedented speed (a limiting feature of game mechanics since the very dawn of 3D games). Freeze-framing any moment of Spidey’s warp around town revealed that every minute graphical detail of the environment was being rendered at the same speed, and could be paused and examined at a nanosecond’s notice.

Here’s how the report describes that side-by-side comparison:

“On the original PS4, the camera moves at about the speed Spidey hits while web-slinging. ‘No matter how powered up you get as Spider-Man, you can never go any faster than this,’ Cerny says, ‘because that's simply how fast we can get the data off the hard drive.’ On the next-gen console, the camera speeds uptown like it’s mounted to a fighter jet. Periodically, Cerny pauses the action to prove that the surrounding environment remains perfectly crisp.”

Sony isn’t ready to reveal how the PS5 might accommodate an increasingly always-online and connected gaming world. It also isn’t in a hurry to tease a release timeframe for the new console, other than to confirm that there’ll be no PS5 debut in 2019. Cerny confirmed to Wired that developers already have test versions of the console in their hands, and hinted that some games coming near the end of the PS4’s life cycle — like Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding — might end up simultaneously releasing for both the PS4 and the PS5. 

Sales for the PS4 have continued to run neck-and-neck with those of the record-setting PS2, and there are still plenty of announced PS4 games slated to released through the end of this year (and beyond). With success like that, it’s hard to envision Sony rushing a PS4 replacement out the door before it’s ready. While we wait — possibly months — for more news, we’ll just stick with our PS4s and keep plugging away at Sekrio: Shadows Die Twice. After all, it might just take some of us that long to beat it.