Believe it or not, the PlayStation 4 came out in 2013. Six years ago. I know, it’s crazy, I had to check three different sources before I believed them. Questions like “When can we expect the PlayStation 5?” and “What kind of hardware it will be packing?” are reasonable ones to ask by now, but Sony hasn’t been as forthcoming with answers as gamers might prefer.
At this stage, the list of what we don’t know about the PS5 is longer than the list of things we do know, but we’ll share all of the details that we do have.
PS5 Rumors, Facts, & Mysteries
In an effort to be perfectly clear about what is and isn’t known for sure, we’ll break this preview into headings which will indicate how likely the information is to be reliable.
We’ll never claim something to be confirmed unless we can find a reputable source that directly quotes a Sony employee or representative. “Unknown” claims are those for which we can’t find any hard evidence one way or the other, whereas “likely” and “unlikely” claims are essentially just our best guesses.
Enough chit-chat. Let’s get on with it, yeah?
PlayStation 5 Release Date: UNKNOWN
Unfortunately, we don’t know when the PS5 will be hitting store shelves, but Sony’s chief architect of console hardware Mark Cerny confirmed that it’s not happening this year, so you won’t be unwrapping one in December. A 2020 release seems likely, but beyond that, we can’t say. We’re sorry 😢
PlayStation 5 Price: UNKOWN
When it comes to the PS5’s price tag, again, we can only speculate. The PS4 debuted at $399, so given that inflation is a thing and that the PS5 will be a lot more technologically advanced than its predecessor, it seems reasonable to assume that it will cost more than $399.
PlayStation 5 Games & Ports: UNKNOWN
Sony hasn’t officially confirmed any PS5 titles, despite the existence of a bunch of egregiously misleading articles out there claiming otherwise. The president of CD Projekt Red, the developers of the bestselling Witcher series, stated in an interview last year that the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 “can use very powerful future equipment,” which would certainly seem to suggest that they know something about the PS5 hardware, but Sony hasn’t confirmed or denied that claim.
Still, with hotly anticipated games like Death Stranding, The Elder Scrolls VI, and The Last of Us: Part 2 on the horizon, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t be available on Sony’s newest console. Rumors abound that some or most AAA developers already have prototype PS5 dev kits in their possession, but that, too, is unconfirmed.
PlayStation 5 Hardware Specifications: CONFIRMED
Update: During its very first official PS5 reveal live stream, Sony finally unveiled its PlayStation 5 specs as lead system architect, Mark Cerny, discussed the future plans of the console. While many fans were disappointed by the 50-minute reveal event, those who enjoy listening to all of the technical stuff were delighted. At least, we definitely were.
If you didn’t understand half of the technical jargon or you don’t fancy watching the full conference, we’ve made things simple by putting all of the PlayStation 5 specs into a table.
|Processor||AMD Zen 2 (Eight-Core, 3.5GHz)|
|GPU||AMD RDNA 2 (10.28 Teraflops, 36CU)|
|Storage||825GB (NVMe SSD)|
|Optical Drive||4K Ultra HD Blu-ray|
Compared to the upcoming Xbox Series X, Sony has picked an entirely different GPU, CPU and SSD speeds that should certainly influence how next-gen games are going to be developed. As seen in the table above, the PlayStation 5 has an eight-core AMD Zen 2 processor clocked at 3.5Hz.
This is similar to the AMD Zen 2 CPU found in the upcoming Xbox Series X, only this one has eight-cores clocked at 3.8GHz each. With that being said, the eight CPU cores will drop to 3.6GHz with simultaneous multithreading (SMT) enabled, so in theory, the difference is fairly small.
When it comes to the graphics processing unit, Sony has gone for its own custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU that promises 10.28 teraflops of power in addition to 36 compute units (CU) each running at 2.23GHz. Microsoft has also opted for a custom GPU (RDNA 2), although it claims it can reach 12 teraflops and 52 compute units running at 1.825GHz each.
By providing less compute units (36) than the Xbox Series X running at a much higher clock rate, Sony is hoping to retrieve improved performance out of its upcoming console.
Although this technically isn’t a comparison guide, where the PlayStation 5 shines compared to the Xbox Series X is storage. Sony has managed to develop a remarkable solid-state drive (SSD) that offers 825GB storage and is capable of loading games at 5.5GB/s.
Of course, the 825GB capacity may concern some gamers, which is why Sony is permitting PlayStation 5 users to expand the storage using a third-party SSD. This is fantastic news for those of you who would prefer to store all of your games on this upcoming PlayStation console.
All of this ultra-beefy hardware will come in handy as we move into an age of cloud gaming, in which we’ll expect content providers to stream massive amounts of data into our homes in the form of interactive and lag-free 4K and 8K video streams (more on that later).
The first three PlayStations used proprietary components not found in home computers, but the PS4 made the jump to essentially being a small PC that contains the same basic parts, and the PS5 is following suit—there’s just no other way for consoles to keep up at this point.
That’s a good thing, though. Not only does using PC parts allow for the most possible horsepower in the smallest possible container, but it also makes it easier for Sony and developers to implement features like PlayStation-to-PC cross-compatibility, which is a real thing you can use right now.
PS4 Backward Compatibility: CONFIRMED
Speaking of compatibility, the PS3 caught a lot of flak for not being able to play PS2 games, barring a very limited (and not entirely functional) run of early models that are now basically impossible to find. At the time, Sony seemed to be surprised at the number of gamers who really cared a lot about that feature, and they’ve taken the outrage to heart.
The PS5 will be fully capable of playing the entire catalog of PS4 games, so if you haven’t yet played the best PS4 exclusives, you’ll be able to do so on the new console. Awesome!
As an added bonus, gamers playing the same game on PS4 or PS5 will be able to play online together, regardless of platform. There are also totally unconfirmed rumors floating around the internet that the PS5 might even be backward compatible with every older PlayStation game all the way back to the PS1 days. That would be frickin’ amazing, but it’s also pretty hard to believe.
PlayStation 5 VR Support: CONFIRMED
VR is already taking eighth-gen consoles by storm, so it would be downright bizarre if the PS5 didn’t cater to that demand. According to Cerny, existing PSVR hardware for the PS4 will be compatible with the PS5, but it seems highly likely that at some point, we’ll see a line of PSVR 2 hardware updated to match the newer console’s VR capabilities.
Although PSVR games are awesome, two of the biggest complaints about the current PSVR hardware are limited resolution and frame rates that tend to be low; more powerful hardware could certainly improve both of those things.
VR gamers also routinely voice wishes that the hardware could be wireless; its cumbersome cords really break the immersion that VR seeks to create. Third-party manufacturers are already rolling out add-ons for the HTC Vive that make it wireless, and given their generally positive reception, it’s likely that Sony will follow suit with the next generation of first-party hardware.
Note, however, that 4K games in VR aren’t likely just yet. VR headsets have to render two slightly different images at the same time—one for each eye—and two simultaneous 4K data streams would almost certainly be too much for even the PS5’s hardware to handle.
PlayStation 5 Physical Discs: CONFIRMED
It’s unsurprising that, as digital downloads of full games become more readily available, physical disc sales decline more or less proportionally. The rapidly growing cloud gaming sector of the industry will undoubtedly have a similar effect on physical game sales, but what does that mean for the PlayStation 5?
Fortunately for those of us who still like to actually own our games, nothing. Last year, former Sony CMO and CEO Andrew House strongly hinted that the PS5 would support physical game and movie discs, and Cerny has since confirmed it. The future of physical media seems to be murky at best, but it’s not going anywhere just yet.
(By the way, if you’re on the all-digital side of this fence and not necessarily in a monogamous relationship with PlayStation, you should know that the Xbox One S comes in a cheaper version that doesn’t have a disc drive. Read about the differences in our Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S guide.)
PlayStation 5 Blu-ray Support: CONFIRMED
So the PS5 will be able to play games from physical discs, but what about movies—specifically Blu-ray HD and Ultra HD discs? Sony has been strangely silent on this question, and it’s not easy to take a guess here because there are strong forces pushing in both directions.
Update: Despite numerous doubts, Sony recently announced that the PlayStation 5 will double as a Blu-ray player thanks to the addition of a 4K Blu-ray drive that will support discs. That being said, those games must be installed to the custom solid-state drive found in the PlayStation 5.
If you already use your PlayStation 4 to watch Blu-Ray movies, chances are you’re going to appreciate the ability to play 4K Blu-rays on the PlayStation 5. Especially if you own a high-quality 4K gaming monitor.
On one hand, Sony drew heavy fire from consumers for not including a 4K Blu-ray drive in the PS4 Pro. Like the PS3 backward compatibility controversy way back in 2007–08, it appears that they underestimated how many people would care. Physical media may be slowly dying, but it’s far from dead yet.
On the other hand, Blu-ray players are relatively expensive pieces of hardware, and profit margins on video game consoles are thinner than most people realize. It makes sense from a business perspective to drop Blu-ray support if nobody is using it, but it’s entirely possible that the people who were mad about the PS4 Pro not having it were simply a vocal minority rather than a representative sample.
But here’s the thing: whether people are still using their consoles as Blu-ray players is a surprisingly hard question to answer. The same device plays both movies and games, but the user data that Sony collects doesn’t (yet) tell them much about our movie viewing habits. To some extent, the video game industry has used physical game sales as a rough guide to the popularity of disc-based movies, but that data is hard to parse, too.
The top two Google results for “digital vs. physical game sales” are articles that (at least partially) contradict one another; the first claims that in 2018, only 17 percent of game sales were physical discs, whereas the second points out that that raw data counts things like DLC and microtransactions as game sales, so it’s quite hard to figure out what’s really going on.
PlayStation 5 4K and 8K Support: CONFIRMED
Mark Cerny again came to the rescue when he confirmed that the PS5 will support 4K games. Whether all of its games will be in 4K remains unknown—that’s largely up to the developers of each game, but since we’re still at least a year away from getting our hands on the console, an entirely 4K-ready library of games seems plausible.
Just make sure you have a top-notch 4K gaming monitor waiting for it.
If you’re on the cutting edge and currently have an 8K TV, the PS5 will be able to play videos at that resolution. Don’t expect to play games in glorious 8K, though. That technology just isn’t affordable yet.
PlayStation 5 Cloud Gaming: LIKELY
We know that Sony’s PlayStation Now service will continue to place more emphasis on cloud-based gaming in the future, and the PS5 will be built to make that experience as seamless as possible. You can already stream many of the best PlayStation Now games on your PS4 or PC without having to download them, provided you have a sufficiently fast internet connection (and, ideally, no ISP-imposed data cap).
As graphics continue to get prettier, though, it will become even more challenging to stream games. The thing is, a game’s visual asset files in 8K aren’t merely twice as big as they are in 4K—they’re a lot more than twice as big. 4K streaming already uses an enormous amount of data, and as the market moves to adopt even higher resolutions, we’re going to start talking about absolutely astronomical infrastructure demands. (How much data does online gaming use, anyway?
Spoiler alert: it’s already a lot, even before we start streaming the actual game.)
Nonetheless, Sony seems ready to rise to the challenge. Cloud gaming is an attractive option for a huge number of gamers, so the company will do whatever it takes to meet the demand.
PlayStation 5 Cross-Platform Support: UNLIKELY
Historically, Microsoft has been much more open to cross-platform play than Sony has. It seems backward at first—Microsoft owns both Windows and Xbox, so you’d think that they would be reluctant to let their most significant competitor play in their yard, so to speak.
It’s actually Sony that’s been dragging their feet on this one, probably because they want to entice gamers to become PlayStation loyalists rather than give them more reasons to think Microsoft is cooler. (If that is indeed the reason, then someone at Sony needs to retake Business 101, because that’s not how any of this works.)
From what we know now, cross-platform play isn’t impossible on the PS5, just improbable. At the moment, there are exactly two games that can be played cross-platform between Xbox and PlayStation gamers (Fortnite and Rocket League), and that’s presumably because they’re both popular enough that Sony is willing to take the perceived PR hit in favor of more people buying those games for their console.
Stay positive, though—Sony has generally shown themselves to be receptive to customer feedback in the past, so maybe they’ll come around soon.
PlayStation 5: No More Loading Screens: LIKELY
There are already some games out today that have no loading screens, and that’s awesome, but each developer has to do a lot of extra work in each case to make it happen. Back in 2012, Sony filed a patent for a new type of loading software designed to make it easier for developers to get rid of those pesky loading screens.
In a nutshell, the system is described as:
“A system and method . . . for dynamically loading game software for smooth gameplay. A load boundary associated with a game environment is identified. A position of a character in the game environment is then monitored. Instructions corresponding to a next game environment are loaded into memory when the character crosses the load boundary, such that gameplay is not interrupted.”
Pretty cool, eh? Whether every PS5 game will take advantage of this opportunity remains unanswered, as does the question of whether we’ll actually see this technology roll out with the PS5. But given that the patent is now seven years old and missed the PS4 boat, it seems likely to be put to use sooner than later.
PlayStation 5 AAA Games Will Get More Marketing Than Indie Games: CONFIRMED
We’ve saved the most controversial bit of news for last, so. . . you’re welcome? Sony has made it known that they intend to focus on “serious gamers” when the PS5 comes out, meaning they’ll spend more money and time marketing big-budget AAA titles and leave indie developers to fend for themselves, at least to some extent.
It does kind of suck, but it at least makes sense, because indie games don’t generate much revenue compared to big studio titles. You’ll still see plenty of indie games available for the PS5, but you might see fewer of them because the people making them will have less direct support from Sony.
This might be a heretical opinion in some circles, but there’s a sense in which that’s a good thing—shovelware in the indie sector has been a real problem for a while now, so raising the barrier to entry may mean that only the most serious, most skilled indie developers get their games into the PlayStation store. (It’s a complicated issue to be sure, so please don’t take this to be our comprehensive and only stance on it.)
We’re Pumped for the PS5: CONFIRMED
That’s all we know right now about the new and still largely mysterious PlayStation. With all the cool stuff it’s going to be capable of, we might even leave our immensely powerful gaming PCs once in a while to see what it can do. (We’re kidding, relax. PC Master Race for real tho.)
Have you heard anything else about the PS5, or are there any features you’re really hoping to see other than what we covered here? Let us know in the comments!