We always knew next-generation consoles were coming, even before we began to hear the first rumblings about what these next-generation boxes could house within them. You don’t need to be a genius to guess that these consoles are in development long before they are revealed and released, and Nintendo have basically said as such in the past. So, when WIRED had an exclusive interview with Mark Cerny over at Sony’s console development centre who teased eager fans with potential upcoming specs for the next generation of Playstation, the Playstation 5, so to speak, it wasn’t necessarily a big surprise.
What was perhaps a bit surprising was how ambitious this upcoming device was, at least based on these comments. Ray-tracing, a high-resource graphical technique only just introduced on the highest-specced PC graphics cars in the last 12 months? Supposedly it’s there. An SSD that can load a PS4 save file 15x faster than the standard HDD of that device? It’s in there. 8K image processing? You bet. VR support? Of course. You’ve likely seen some of these supposed specs floating around the internet over these past 24 hours, with lots of discussion going on about what this could mean for gaming going forward…
Which is why I’m here to ruin the fun and to tell you to temper your expectations. If all of this was included in a console, it would be ample cause for celebration and an easy reason to be excited… I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Perhaps more accurately, I don’t think it should happen.
The thing is, much of this tech is way too expensive to put into a console and keep the cost down to something many people could afford. Sure, a lot of this is technically already possible on current PC hardware, but a custom-built PC that could support all the features mentioned in this interview isn’t going to cost you $400 like you would expect from a console, but several thousand. Lots of this tech will have to be scaled down or removed to feature within such a device. Even with just the SSD, as much as prices on fast storage are decreasing, there will still be a significant cost to including a fast storage drive large enough to not be quickly filled with games, a common problem on the PS4 due to the sheer size of modern games.
Then there’s the games itself. With the cost of games already increasing at an alarming rate, causing many projects to scale back risk in order to tick enough boxes to appeal to a wide enough audience to make a profit, the possibility of new hardware increasing costs even further is worrisome. Looking at Japanese developers, many of their games are built on smaller budgets due to lower expected sales targets, and the pressure from consumers to increase the fidelity of their games to keep up with this technological arms race will kill more experimental projects from Japanese developers and possibly accelerate the exodus of third party developers from the console market to devices like the Nintendo Switch or mobile devices, where portability and lower costs have helped new games flourish.
The interview does provide a glimpse of their goals, admirable and ambitious as they may be. I feel it’s better to warn and keep expectations in check when it comes to these comments, regardless if they come from an official working within Sony. These Playstation spec ideas are simply ambitions when they aren’t coupled with an official announcement, ambitions that I think they would be foolish to pursue for the simple reason that the cost of the device would doom a potential Playstation 5 to failure. It’s definitely worth reading Mark Cerny’s comments for themselves to see just how ambitious they are being with this new device, but I’d still recommend you temper your expectations before they get out of control. Not only could they be exaggerated, but we have to question whether such an advancement in tech would even be a good idea, and until we know that, I feel there is little reason to get excited for a potential Playstation 4 successor.
At least we know it’s on the way, though, and I wouldn’t expect we’re waiting too long to know just how ambitious the company have been with these new products.