Sources: The PlayStation 5 Is Still A Ways Off

A recent online rumour got people buzzing about a possible 2018 release of PlayStation 5, but that probably isn't going to happen. In fact, from what we've heard, the next PlayStation is a ways away - it may not arrive until 2020.

It's been nearly five years since the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launched, which has triggered bouts of nervousness and excitement among video game fans who want to know when they will have to start hoarding coins for a new generation of consoles. The PS4 launched seven years after the PS3, the Xbox One eight years after the Xbox 360. It isn't unreasonable to be thinking about the next generation. We don't have a concrete answer just yet, but we have been asking around, and what we've heard is a whole lot of uncertainty.

Over the past month, I've spoken to dozens of game developers, across a variety of disciplines and studios, about the next generation of consoles. Of those, two people said they were directly familiar with plans for Sony's new console. Those two people both told me that the next PlayStation is unlikely to release in 2019, let alone 2018, although they were careful to be clear that these plans are always shifting. "On a multi-year project, a lot can happen to shift schedules both forward and backward," one person said. "At some point, Sony's probably looked at every possible date. It's all about what they think is the best sweet spot in terms of hardware." A surprise move by Microsoft or another competitor, for example, could trigger a change in plans.

Most of the developers I spoke to, via phone and email and text, said they had not heard anything about plans for a new PlayStation. Even employees at Sony's first-party studios said they have not yet been briefed on the existence of a PlayStation 5. People across all the disciplines (design, art, engineering and so on) at major studios working on games scheduled for 2019 and beyond have told me that if there is information about the PS5 at their companies, they haven't heard about it. (Those people said they haven't heard about a new Xbox, either.)

In summary: 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.

Last week, an article from a website called Semiaccurate alleged that a large number of PlayStation 5 development kits had gone out to game makers. The article also speculated that the console could be out by the end of 2018. This article is behind a paywall - "Pricing is $1000 [$AU1293] for a year's worth of access" - but ResetEra rounded up some of the details. When I showed those details to one person familiar with Sony's plans, they laughed. For the PlayStation 5 to be out this spring, they said, it would already be in manufacturing. (And if that was the case, it'd come as a big surprise to a lot of people who are making games for this spring and beyond.)

PlayStation 5 development kits are another question. A development kit is a proprietary piece of hardware that allows game-makers to build and optimise games for a specific console. It usually comes with proprietary software, too, such as a console's operating system and other "debug" features that allow developers more access to the hardware than they'd have with a retail device. It's possible to replicate a console's development environment by using software on a computer, and these days, game engines such as Unity and Unreal can facilitate that process, but in order to release games on the PlayStation, developers will ultimately need the tools and licenses provided by devkits. These development kits are especially useful for debugging and preparing for certification, the process that Sony uses to test and approve of new games.

But the term can be misleading. To say that "PS5 devkits" are out in the wild could mean several different things. "Super early devkits are often PCs with the CPU and GPU," said a source familiar with Sony's console development, referring to the processor and graphics card of the future machine. Early "development kits" might not resemble a PlayStation at all.

An early devkit "is a literal desktop tower - it doesn't look like anything," the source said. "First devkits are almost always that. They might have a custom motherboard or might literally be a PC. You want to get one or two of those out to the lead graphics programmer [of a studio] so they can see what's possible, start planning what they can do in their game based on that. That's early devkit stuff."

As a result, before a new console is released, studios will typically work with multiple versions of development kits. One person who worked in a high role at a major game developer said that their company had received proper PS4 devkits, then code-named Orbis, about a year before the console launched in November 2013. Another person who worked for a major game studio said they were working with PCs dressed up as development kits around 18-24 months before the PS4 came out. The PlayStation 4, unlike its predecessor, was built with PC architecture, allowing more flexibility there.

If these early PS5 devkits are out at game studios now, they are likely extremely well-hidden. With earlier PlayStations, sources said, Sony had worked hard to keep development kits secret, even sometimes asking game studios to lock them in rooms where access was restricted to a select group of people.

Making things more complicated is the existence of Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro, upgraded versions of each respective console that have their own dedicated development kits. These "mid-generation" hardware refreshes suggest that Microsoft and Sony have taken a different approach to the current cycle of consoles, and it's fair to wonder how they might influence future consoles. Those mid-gen upgraded consoles are still new. The Pro came out in November 2016, while Xbox One X released in November 2017.

What we're hearing from developers is that most people expect Sony's next console to be a PlayStation 5, a machine that runs games that won't run on PS4, but that they don't expect it for a while. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco last month, secondhand rumours I heard also suggested a 2020 release. Word from a few people was that in meetings between Sony and developers, representatives for the publisher had dropped vague hints about that 2020 timeframe. But it's worth reiterating: When it comes to hardware, anything can change.

Sony did not respond to a request for comment.


Comments

    I hope it won't be for a while. games look pretty damn good now and not everyone looks forward to buying a new brick every year with no backwards compatability. if it did and saves were transfereable it wouldn't be so bad, but track records indicate otherwise.

      If the PS5 has the same basic architecture as the 4 then we should see backwards compatibility. The only reason we never saw backwards compatibility with the ps3 is because of the complicated Cell architecture.

        I thought it was so they could re-release "Remastered" versions of previous-gen classics and make new money on old games.

          That too, but theres literally no way the PS4 could run PS3 games. It cant be done. The system is far far too weak to emulate a cell processor.

      Given that any future Xbox will be backwards compatible I reckon it's safe to assume that the PS5 will be as well

    Given the improvements still happening on PS4 - look at the environmental differences between Horizon Zero Dawn and the Frozen Wilds expansion - I think we're a way off the limits of PS4. I think we'll hear rumblings next year with a Q42019 release at the absolute earliest, but I think 2020s more likely.

    Should probably finish those last couple of PS3 games though... ;)

    I'm starting to wonder these days if my next "Console" purchase should just be a pre-built, souped up PC. In the past it's been about having access to console-exclusive games but that's far less of an issue these days.

      See as someone with a pretty beastly computer I gotta say its hard to get rid of my Ps4. I still see exclusives come out that have zero chance of releasing on PC.

        There seems to be fewer exclusives each generation.

        It took me several years before I could justify a PS4

          I just bought a PS4 a couple of weeks back and I realized that I am actually interested only in 8-9 exclusives ... after all this years only 8-9. Also the upcoming God Of War, Red Dead 2 and Spider-man.

          Last edited 11/04/18 10:28 pm

    I should hope so! As others have said, PS4 still feels like it has plenty of life left in it.

    It makes sense to me to hold off - Mark Cerny the lead hardware architect for PlayStation has discussed how in his opinion 8 teraflops is needed for a consistent, true 4K experience. To get that at a launch console price ($500-600) that'd still be a challenge this year or next year. 2020 though, with a third generation Ryzen, it doesn't look as difficult.

    In the meantime, next year or 2019 they could drop the base PS4 and keep the PS4 Pro as the base experience, though they may just push the base PS4 cost down as far as it will go

      Given past progression, there'll be a PS4 superslim and a PS4 Pro Slim next year. ;)

        As long as it doesn't have a stupid slidey door like the PS3 Super Slim

          That'll be on the PS4 Pro Slim Pro2 Superslim.

      Never mind the Teraflops, I'm really hoping the next generation brings better CPUs!!!

      Last edited 12/04/18 12:48 am

    There's still too much life left in the PS4 to consider releasing PS5 this year. At earliest we may see it November next year after a 2019 E3 announcement. By that time, people will be more interested in 4K as the price of decent 4K tv's has dropped substantially over the last year.

    After playing the hell out of Horizon and constantly being blown away by the visuals, it really shows what a developer can get out of the console when they know what they're doing. Kojima and Naughty Dog will probably push the bar even further, so I can't wait to see what's next.

    It's interesting to see that there is a view that there even will be another console series now. Back when PS4/XBone were released a lot of industry analysts were saying that it will likely be the last console generation, citing that the advancements in mobile processing would make a new console generation pointless by the end of the PS4/Xbone life-cycle.

    That said, the current generation was released at the end of 2013, and at the moment the mobile tech is getting pretty good, but not enough to replace a console. I don't think it will likely catch up by 2020 either, as realistically that's only 2 or 3 models of phone from now. I think that eventually mobile tech, or something similar, will replace consoles; but probably not until the end of the next gen.

    They haven't milked the PS4 Pro for all it's worth yet. 2022 at least.

    A lot of (valid) discussion points here about optimisation of GPU on existing PS4 and Pro, but the bottleneck this generation is all about the CPU. That's why we are seeing better graphics, but poorer simulations in video games. Think GTA 4 vs GTA 5 in terms of how NPCs react and live. There has been no advancement in AI quality fr a while now as a direct result. 2020 seems to be the logical time frame with perhaps early prototype development kits going out towards the end of this year.

    As for mobile taking over, the Switch is a great example of what is possible from essentially mobile hardware, but I don't think anyone can realistically say they prefer it over a new console generation with full 4k/60fps.

    PS5 will be used to power the PSVR 2, and I suspect that will be the main draw card for upgrading. Couple that with Pro users who tend to want the latest and greatest and those standard PS4 users who never upgraded looking for the next big thing there should definitely be a market in a year or two.

    By 2020 all our games will run on remote servers, streamed to our homes via our world-class NBN.

    I kinda took the rumours the same way I take the YouTube rumours of GTA 6 that folks post.
    (Which always look a lot like a modded GTA 5 or tech demo of sorts)

      Indeed. I doubt you'll see GTA6 this gen for reasons I posted above namely the large CPU bottleneck restricting a lot of the simulation work R* want to do in the world. Realistically all they could push this gen is some more fancy graphics on pro and x and another city in a spin off filler. But I don't see that with RDR coming out.

    2020 at the earliest for mine

    Is anyone really excited for a few years in the wilderness before a new system picks up steam? In the past I have been an early adopter for systems but I have increasingly become detached from excitement about hardware in favour of excitement about the games.

    The PS4 still has plenty to give. Particularly so since PSVR has not really hit its straps yet.

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