This Is The Most Important Feature Of The Upcoming Playstation 5
A few days ago, almost out of nowhere, Sony announced the PS5. In a bizarre unveiling, Wired published an article with Mark Cerny, the chief architect behind Sony’s gaming machines, in which the revered developer talked about the major upgrades that are coming in PlayStation’s future. Cerny talked about the tech under the hood, what it’s capable of in terms of gaming performance, and also confirmed that it won’t be out this year – instead it is targeted for 2020.
Compared to the fanfare of an E3 – glitz, glamour and millions of eyeballs streaming across the world – it’s perhaps the most understated way for a hardware company to talk about its next flagship console. Perhaps we’ll hear more about it later this year at a PlayStation event such as PSX.
But the Wired article raised a host of questions. In a smart and considered way, Sony has now essentially told gamers what they already knew (that there’s a new console relatively close on the horizon) while giving them impressive details (including the fact that load times will be massively reduced, and that the console will support 8K resolution games), while also keeping the juiciest commercial details (such as price and any idea of what the console will be called or looks like) under wraps. It’s a tech-heavy piece that’s light on commercial juice, and that seems like a clever way of getting ahead of Microsoft’s expected June announcement of its ‘Next Box’, without fully letting the cat out of the bag.
Of all the revelation, to my mind one thing stands out as particularly important: backwards compatibility. That means you won’t be stopped from playing your existing games when you buy the new console. In the past, console generations usually meant a new form of physical media – think of the transition from DVD to Blu-Ray discs between PS2 and PS3 eras – but it seems the PS5 will support PS4 titles.
Many will argue that keeping PS4 games compatible on the new and upcoming hardware reduces the excitement of a generational leap; developers always find cross-generational games hard to develop as it is – it’s a costly process to make a game work on different platforms. But ultimately it’s a pro consumer decision that allows people to upgrade more freely when they want to, rather than choose between immediately being cut off from the latest games, or having to let go of an entire generation's worth of games. It’s also proof that Sony isn’t quite ready to let go of disc based games just yet. In an age when cold, sterile technology such as Google’s Stadia threatens to remove the gaming magic from the living room and host it in a server rack somewhere, well, this can only be a good thing.