Our thoughts are inevitably turning to the PS5 now the PS4 is officially reaching the end of its life cycle (that's direct from Sony) – so what exactly is in store for the Sony PlayStation 5?
For now Sony is keeping rather quiet when it comes to specific plans for the PS5: we know that a PlayStation 5 release date will one day actually exist, thanks to Sony's President and CEO Shawn Layden confirming as much in an interview with Golem.de.
Back in May, Sony Interactive CEO John Kodera revealed to the Wall Street Journal that the PS5 would not be releasing until at least 2021. However, an investigation by T3 claimed the PS5 could release as soon as 2019 - earlier than the Xbox Two.
Even while we wait for official confirmation of a PS5 launch, we can still get excited about the next-gen console. We all know that the rumors, wish lists and alarmingly convincing 'leaked' renders in the run up to a console reveal are a big part of the fun.
In that spirit, we've gathered together everything we most want to see from the PlayStation 5 and what its stand-out features might be when it arrives.
PS5: release date
With no official word yet from Sony, it's difficult to pin down exactly when we might get to see a PS5 console.
Some analysts are predicting we could see the PlayStation 5 around 2020 or 2021, for example, while others say 2019 – so just the three-year window, then.
Speaking to GamingBolt, Michael Pachter said that though he thinks the PS5 will be a half-step and will be backwards-compatible with the PS4 Pro, he doesn't think we'll see it until "2019 or 2020 but probably 2019".
This would make sense as it would fall in line with predictions for when the 4K TV market in the US will reach 50%. "I think Sony has probably got the next console cycle lined up already," he says, "I think they already know what they've got to do."
More recently Pachter clarified this claim, saying that Sony would most likely release the new console in 2020. He added that at this time he thinks the PS4 Pro will become the base model PlayStation and will see a reduction in price.
Meanwhile a recent report from Kotaku's Jason Schreier backs up this thinking. He spoke to a number of developers about likely release dates with most of the conversations pointing to a 2020 release. He writes: "There is information about the PlayStation 5 floating around at both first- and third-party companies, but it’s far more limited than it would be if the console’s release was imminent."
A recent Wall Street Journal report points to a release around three years away, with Sony's John Kodera stating “We will use the next three years to prepare the next step, to crouch down so that we can jump higher in the future."
Not long after this, Sony's new CEO, Kenichiro Yoshida, released a three-year business plan for the company which predicted the company's profits would dip in the run up to 2021. This is the kind of dip that may come as the PlayStation 4 reaches market saturation, before the launch of the PS5.
So mark your calendars for 2019, 2020 and 2021 then.
Although we're hideously impatient for news of a PlayStation 5 release date, we can't fault Sony for taking another few years to really milk the last of the PS4, given it's huge and loyal player base. After all, the PS4 Pro is still relatively new to the market and its direct competitor, the Microsoft's Xbox One X, is an even more recent release.
However, industry insider Jez Corden and a recent Microsoft job listing have hinted that Microsoft is already thinking about the next Xbox – the Xbox Two (codenamed "Xbox Scarlett"). That means it's highly unlikely that Sony isn't currently doing the same and is, perhaps, even further along in the process.
According to gaming industry analyst Hideki Yasuda (via T3), and his firm Ace Economic Research Institute, "the introduction of the PS5 will be at the end of 2019". A 2019 release would be much earlier than expected and would mean Sony has been pulling the wool over our eyes – it would also mean the PS5 would release before the Xbox Two.
If we're honest, we can't really see any urgent need to start a new generation right now. And given Microsoft's growing commitment to backwards compatibility, we think it's key for Sony to really think carefully about its next steps.
Despite Yasuda's report, a two to three-year wait make a lot more sense to us. However, it could be Sony is trying to throw Microsoft a sucker-punch from left-field by releasing earlier than expected.
PS5: news and rumors
Solid news on the PlayStation 5 is pretty thin on the ground at the moment, but as always, we do have rumors about what could be coming down the line – and we've collected and assessed them right here.
Ace Economic Research Institute report
Gaming industry analyst Hideki Yasuda, from Osaka-based firm Ace Economic Research, has claimed in a recent report that the PS5 could arrive in time for Christmas 2019 (via T3).
The report estimates that "the introduction of the PS5 will be at the end of 2019". If this is true, then it'll be a massive blow to Microsoft who has confirmed the Xbox Two (codenamed "Xbox Scarlett") will not launch until 2020.
John Kodera talks life cycles
PlayStation's John Kodera has been discussing the future of the PS4 at a Sony Corporate Strategy Meeting and, by extension, inadvertently creating space for prospective PS5 release year rumors.
During the meeting, Kodera made it clear that Sony is still very much behind the console but warned that sales are expected to slow this year, in line with expectations as market saturation approaches. As a console gets to this point in its lifecycle, it's natural to start looking forward to the next iteration.
Kodera stated that the time passing from now until 2021 would be a period where Sony would hunker down – which suggests that a new big idea could be around the corner. Perhaps 2021 will be the time to expect the PS5?
No E3 2018 appearance
Now that E3 2018 has come and gone, we know there was no mention of the PS5 during the event. Instead, Sony offered up deep dives into four of its biggest upcoming games: Death Stranding, Spider-Man, The Last of Us 2 and Ghost of Tsushima. Watch this space for E3 2019.
Eurogamer tech analysis
A recent report from Eurogamer has attempted to narrow down a possible release date based on when technologies advanced enough to justify a generational leap will be available to Sony. The most important things that will need to advance will be the console's processor and its memory and in both cases, Eurogamer has determined that we're unlikely to see a new console released before the very end of 2019.
Even if Sony did manage to push its console out at this date, the cost of production would make the PS5 far too expensive, making it more likely that we won't see the console released until the end of 2020, if Sony has any intention of making it an appealing proposition.
Andrew House talks the next generation
Former Sony chief, Andrew House, has been speaking about what the next generation of consoles could look like at the GamesBeat conference recently. Though House refused to comment specifically on the PlayStation 5 itself, he did say that he believes physical discs will stick around for a while yet, as a result of the need to continue tapping into developing markets where downloadable titles may not be quite as compatible with limited internet infrastructure.
In other markets, however, he thinks that streaming games will be a big part of the next generation of consoles.
House also stated that he thinks the PS4 and the PS4 Pro still have a long life in them yet. This doesn't necessarily cancel out the rumors that the PS5 will be with us in the next one to two years; if the reports that the console will be backwards-compatible are true then the PS4 generation will remain relevant long into the lifecycle of the PS5. Regardless, given that House was unwilling to comment on the PS5 despite being pushed, these details can only be considered speculation at the moment.
The SemiAcccurate report
SemiAccurate (via ResetEra) is claiming that it's received some leaked information on the yet-to-be-announced console and says that the number of dev kits which have been distributed suggests the console could be released sooner than expected.
In addition to this, SemiAccurate also reports that Sony will use this console to push its VR efforts even further, with VR-tech baked in at the Silicon level, and will sport a GPU based on AMD's Navi architecture with a CPU that's potentially a custom item from AMD's Zen line.
Though SemiAcccurate has a decent track record with its reports, having accurately reported Nintendo's Nvidia partnership for the Switch and the PS4 specs back in 2012, we still say take this with a pinch of salt.
Though the specs sound plausible, a 2019 release date seems a little far-fetched. Regardless of how many developer kits that Sony has distributed, it feels too soon after the release of the PS4 Pro for the next PlayStation console just now... and we're getting towards the end of 2018.
The Marcus Sellars claims
Renowned leaker Marcus Sellars has been making some bold claims on Twitter recently (via GameRant), alleging that PS5 development kits are already in the hands of third-party developers. He also claimed that Nintendo is planning a Direct stream for March 8 (something which has since proven to be accurate). In fact, Sellars has been accurate with his claims a few times: recently he revealed Metroid Prime 4 was being developed by Bandai Namco.
However, Sellars didn't provide any evidence to back up his claims so they really can't be taken as anything more than rumor at the moment.
Something which may be interesting in relation to this, though, is that recently CD Projekt Red revealed that their upcoming title Cyberpunk 2077 was being developed for current and next generation consoles which came as a great surprise to many. Whether this means they're one of the third-party developers at work with these rumored kits is yet to be confirmed.
Even if development kits are in the hands of developers, this doesn't mean the PS5 is coming any time soon. It could still be another couple of years before any kind of reveal in terms of hardware.
Something that does help Sellars case is a recently updated patent for backwards compatibility that's been filed by Sony. Originally filed in 2015, the patent was updated in February to say “Backward compatibility testing of software in a mode that disrupts timing.” This is no guarantee that Sony is actually working on the technology for the PS5 (it could be creating an entirely separate peripheral that makes backwards compatibility possible) but it's not impossible that this could be for a new generation console.
The PlayStation Plus news
Though there's been no official word from Sony on the development of a PlayStation 5 just yet, a recent announcement in relation to the PlayStation Plus service has ignited some speculation. It's been announced that from March 2019, PS Plus will no longer offer free PS3 or PSVita games and will instead focus on PS4 titles. This has led to some wondering over whether or not Sony is attempting to phase out these older generation titles in preparation for a new generation. This is, of course, pure speculation but it's interesting that Sony would be willing to reduce its game offering to only two games (as it informed Polygon) without any other excuse than wishing to focus on titles for an already highly successful console. Whether Sony is truly making way for the PS5 or whether it's going to offer a higher quality of PS4 game is unclear and it seems we'll have to wait a while to find out what the final plan for PS Plus is.
PS5: can we have proper 4K gaming?
The PS4 Pro offers a tantalising hint of what 4K gaming could be like. But the stark fact remains: it still doesn’t have the grunt to do native 4K consistently.
Its “checkerboard” technique of taking single pixels and using each to render four pixels in 4K resolution is clever, and it can do native 4K output, but it often has to sacrifice resolution to keep performance consistent.
Chris Kingsley, CTO and co-founder of developer Rebellion, dangles an even more ambitious technological carrot in front of a putative PS5: “Obviously new hardware should be able to support 4K TVs and possibly even 8K TVs at a push!”
Native 4K support, surely, will be a basic requirement of the PlayStation 5. And if Sony cracks that particular problem with alacrity, it could even mean that a PlayStation 5 will arrive sooner than anticipated.
Aside from 4K visuals, if recent showings at GDC 2018 are anything to go by we certainly can expect the next generation to offer incredible visual advancements in terms of character models.
During GDC, we got a glimpse of what the next generation of games might look like and it's left us extremely excited for the PS5.
Real-time ray tracing was revealed to be the next big thing in rendering while Epic Games gave us a taste of how it might be used to create the most lifelike characters ever. Using its capture technology, the Unreal Engine creator displayed a future with character models so realistic they bring us close to crossing the uncanny valley. Watch a performance from Andy Serkis below to see just how capable these new development technologies are:
“Honestly, between five and ten years from now, I don't think you're going to be able to tell the difference between the real and the virtual world,” Epic CTO Kim Libreri told GamesIndustry.biz, “You'll see hardware that can support these kinds of capabilities pretty shortly, and then, finally, the greatest blockbuster with the most complicated effects, within ten years, you'll be able to do that in real-time.”
When Libreri tells us we'll see hardware that can support this technology "pretty shortly" we can't be sure, but we like to think she's talking about the yet-to-be-announced PS5.
PS5: the VR effect
Sony became the first console manufacturer to embrace virtual reality, thanks to the PlayStation VR, but if you examine PlayStation VR closely – and observe how it operates on the PS4 Pro – it invites speculation about how a PlayStation 5 console might take VR to a new level.
Currently, PlayStation VR operates at lower resolution than the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive – but, as it stands, even its current incarnation almost pushes the base PlayStation 4 beyond its limits. Running a PlayStation VR on a PS4 Pro brings improved frame-rates, which are very handy indeed in terms of the overall VR experience, but even the PS4 Pro can’t overcome the resolution constraints set by the PlayStation VR headset.
So it’s a good bet that, presuming PlayStation VR is successful (and it already appears to be catching on) Sony will want to return to the market with a second, markedly higher-tech iteration: which would provide an obvious selling point for the PlayStation 5.
And if a PlayStation VR 2 headset could be sold without an external black box, it should be markedly cheaper, further accelerating VR’s march into the mainstream. A recent report from SemiAcccurate, which claims that the PS5 will have virtual reality capabilities built-in at silicon level, suggests this will indeed be the case.
Rebellion’s Kingsley makes another good point about second-generation VR. “Anything that reduces the leads has to be a good thing,” he says.
The umbilical cord which currently attaches VR headset-wearers to their consoles or PCs obviously goes against VR’s entire immersive nature, and we’re already beginning to see, for example, a third-party implementation for the HTC Vive that renders it wireless. It’s a safe bet that the capacity for running a wireless PlayStation VR 2 will be built into the PS5.
But Kingsley’s PlayStation VR 2 wish-list goes further: “Wide vertical and horizontal field-of-view would be top of my list, and of course, that would require 4K resolution per eye, and high dynamic range would be great too.”
HDR and wider fields of view should be achievable but sadly, we don’t reckon full 4K VR is likely to be a possibility even for the PS5. As Kingsley points out, that would require 4K rendering per eye, which equates to 8K rendering overall, which we expect to be beyond the PS5’s capabilities.
That said, perhaps Sony will find some clever technological bodge to get around that before it releases its fifth PlayStation console.
What form will the PS5 take?
It has been suggested that future consoles like the PlayStation 5 could take radically different forms to current ones, thanks to advances in cloud computing and game streaming, doing away with the components that make today's devices so bulky. However, we reckon it's unlikely that Sony will take a more Nintendo-like approach and put the PS5 in a tiny box.
One reason for that is that with the PS4, Sony has only just committed to using what are basically the innards of a PC – the first three PlayStation variants used proprietary components (and which in the PS3 impacted sales). Developers, certainly, were massively relieved that the PS4 took the PC route.
“Developers want the ability to make the best games using the minimum amount of effort. We want to focus on being creative and getting things to just work,” Kingsley says. “So the hardware should be based around current console hardware, which is in turn based on PC hardware. We always want fast CPUs and GPUs, but lots of fast RAM is also very important – it’s no use having fast processors if they are starved of data.”
All the above are achievable, but will the PS5 still have a hard disk?
Sony Computer Entertainment President and CEO Andrew House spoke at the PS4’s launch about how deciding to put hard disks and 8GB of RAM in the PS4 were both “billion-dollar decisions”. The fact that Sony has now made external hard drive support possible for the PS4 and Pro is a step in the right direction and this is something that could be carried over to the PS5, which will undoubtedly have to deal with even larger 4K assets.
It seems certain that Sony is very keen to hear what its community thinks – recently a group called PlayStation Voice sent out surveys to members of its closed community asking them what their expectations of the PS5 are. One community member posted the email they received and found themselves removed from the group for breaking its non-disclosure agreements.
According to PSU, PlayStation Voice is a community run by third-party consumer insight agency, Join the Dots. Once information has been gathered, it's fed back to clients (the client in this case presumably being Sony PlayStation).
Admittedly, this doesn't tell us much about PS5 itself, other than that things are likely to be still in the very early stages. While it's unlikely that Sony would use the information gathered from its communities to decide exactly which features will be included in the console, the ideas of fans can certainly spark a good deal of inspiration.
PS5 and streaming games
Of course, if games were just streamed to the PS5 that problem would disappear entirely, and Sony already has a game-streaming service in the form of PlayStation Now.
So why isn’t this more of a definite feature rather than something on our wishlist? Well, Sony is remaining tight-lipped about PlayStation Now uptake figures, but we suspect they are pretty unimpressive. It has certainly had issues with setting the right subscription charges, given that PlayStation Now effectively gives backwards compatibility – a “luxury” that was previously free for owners of PlayStation 2s and 3s.
But the biggest issue is broadband speeds. Even 4K TV requires a minimum of 25Mbps broadband in order to provide satisfactory streaming, and it’s doubtful whether 4K game streaming – with extra information on top of the visual side – would even work reliably at such speeds. There would be nothing to stop Sony launching a small form-factor cloud-based version of the PS5 console for those with mega-fast broadband, perhaps with a mobile phone-style subscription model that has an upfront hardware costs (something Microsoft is thinking about).
But for the PS5 to sell anything like its predecessors, there would have to be a conventional version with similar innards to the PS4.
Chancellor Philip Hammond has previously announced an infrastructure investment aimed at bringing fast broadband and 5G mobile data to the UK – but the earliest that would have an impact would be 2021, and the PS5 will almost certainly arrive before then. Perhaps its first mid-cycle update, though, will be a streaming version which takes advantage of burgeoning 5G networks?
PS5: optical discs or not?
The rise of downloadable games, which continue to eat into the physical disc market, means that pundits have been predicting that consoles will go discless for about a decade now. However, our guess is that the PS5 won’t be the first system to risk venturing down that road, at least not until it catches wind of Microsoft doing the same thing.
Sony has taken a lot of (justifiable) flak for not putting a 4K Blu-ray drive in the PS4 Pro – making it a less attractive purchase for film and TV buffs than the Xbox One S or the Xbox One X.
Surveys continue to show that gamers are still attached to the possibility of buying games on physical discs – not least because they can then sell them (a practice that the games industry hates), and keep hard disk space usage at a manageable level.
If Sony were to axe the Blu-ray drive from the PS5, gamers would expect several terabytes of storage in compensation.
Kingsley gives a developer’s view on the topic: “I think the days of delivering films and games via disc are on the decline, as most people are going digital; however, some people like physical discs, so who knows whether that decline will level out and remain present but at a lower level than now?”
Download figures have been on the rise over the last year but EA CFO Blake Jorgensen has said that he thinks consoles and disc drives will continue to stick around.
“Consoles and disc drives probably stay around for a long period of time [...] I think it's the consumer deciding what's the easiest way for them to buy a game.
“And it may mean they no longer have a store down the street from them so they decide to buy it [digitally] maybe it's easier for them to do.”
So when can we expect the PS5?
Given that the PlayStation 4 was launched in 2013 and Sony’s previous consoles arrived in six-year intervals, it would be easy to project that it will launch the PlayStation 5 in 2019 at the earliest. The sort of technology available then should easily allow full native 4K games without saddling the PS5 with a massive price-tag and, by 2019, 4K TVs will be the norm, rather than the exception, in the average household.
So it would be a surprise if Sony doesn’t want to capitalize on that at the earliest possible juncture. However, Kingsley points at the PS4 Pro, and reckons that could have an effect on the length of the current console cycle: “It’s a difficult one to judge, but overall I think it’s fair to say that the overall cycle will lengthen slightly.”
Especially if the PS4 Pro wildly outsells the base PS4, which admittedly isn’t something we anticipate happening once it has reached a critical mass of households with 4K TVs.
So perhaps 2020 might be the year in which Sony unleashes the PS5 on the world, as the first native 4K console with wireless VR... as long as Microsoft doesn’t get there first.
What games can we expect to see on PS5?
If the backwards compatibility patent mentioned above is actually applied, we can expect to see the whole PS4 library available to play on the PS5. Or, perhaps we'll see another round of remasters as we did when moving from the PS3 to the PS4. However, we imagine there will be some games being developed specifically for this new PlayStation 5 console generation and the extra power it's likely to offer.
Already we've seen CD Projekt Red mention that it's developing for this generation as well as the next, and alongside the rumors that there are already developers kits out in the open, we think there's a good chance that Cyberpunk 2077 will be one of the early PS5 titles.
Check out our PS4 vs PS4:PSVR compared and explained video below.