Thought 2020 was Year Of The Rat? Think again. The Chinese Zodiac is way off: this is the year of PlayStation 5. PS4 Pro was a brilliant 4K stop-gap, but when Sony's new console launches this winter, get ready for one hell of a leap forward. There shouldn't be any half measures this time out: PS5 will be the next-gen real deal.
As we write this no doubt new PS5 details and rumours have circulated online – perhaps Sony has even shown us the hardware. But while we wait for PS5 to be revealed in the coming weeks, we can make some informed speculation in the here and now.
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We know PS5 dev kits have been in studios' hands for quite some time, and we have a good idea of just how powerful the cutting-edge tech under the hood is. Marc Cerny has confirmed that the PS5 specs include a custom GPU from AMD's Navi line of chips, speedy GDDR6 RAM, and an AMD Ryzen CPU rocking Zen 2 microarchitecture. It's also been confirmed PS5 comes with an SSD to slash load times, it's compatible with PS VR, there will be an all-new PS5 controller, the console supports 8K in some capacity, and that AMD's fancy chips house a custom 3D audio unit to deliver immersive sound. Phew!
Sony has even been hinting PS5 will have exclusive games that won't be playable on PS4. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, it suggests the firm is drawing a line in the sand; the PS4 era is coming to a close and the next-gen future is here. It's also a move that goes against what the competition is planning. Microsoft has promised all its first-party games will run on both its upcoming console and its current machines for the first year or so of the Xbox Series X's life.
Looking back at Sony's past console launches, history tells us PS5 will almost certainly hit shelves with next-gen exclusives, some of which may introduce new hardware-specific features. The likes of Killzone Shadow Fall not only delivered cutting-edge rendering techniques, Guerrilla's first-person shooter taught us to use the DualShock 4's touchpad. Before that, PS3 hit UK shelves with Motorstorm in pole position, the racer delivering a level of terrain deformation and vehicle physics that would have crippled PS2.
All eyes on the next-generation
But are next-gen launch exclusives a good thing? Absolutely. While it's never nice when one set of gamers get left behind, this is a technology- driven industry. Without significant leaps in tech there cannot be the sort of seismic steps forward hardcore PlayStation fans demand.
Just imagine if Uncharted: Drake's Fortune had been forced to straddle the cross-gen divide. To progress, we need games that cater to PS5's ultra-powerful components, not halfway-house titles that have been programmed to support both PS5 and PS4's now-seven-year-old tech.
A new console also means new IP, and considering how many amazing exclusive properties PS4 enjoyed (Horizon Zero Dawn! Bloodborne! Until Dawn! Days Gone! The Last Guardian! Marvel's Spider-Man!) PS5 has some seriously large loafers to fill. Speaking of Insomniac, Sony will surely want an inventive IP from the now-first-party Ratchet & Clank dev within the console's first year. Marvel's Spider-Man released almost 18 months ago, time enough to create something original for PS5 while the core team work on the inevitable sequel.
Naughty Dog must have something up its tremendously talented sleeve, too. PlayStation's premier developer has been a two-game studio ever since Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception wrapped. With The Last Of Us Part 2 out in May, a new PS5 IP from the Santa Monica-based studio can't be far off. There are persistent rumours of a new Uncharted from Sony's San Diego Studio, too. Will the series find new places to explore only on PS5?
What about Joel and Ellie's sequel? Will one of the last heavy hitters of the generation come to PS5? PS4's The Last Of Us: Remastered suggests so – don't be surprised if a PS5 version of TLOU Part 2 delivers 4K/60fps Clicker carnage. Similarly, we'd expect Ghost Of Tsushima to get a handsome PS5 upgrade.
Whether you'll have to pay for these next-gen editions if you already own the PS4 versions remains to be seen, but we really hope Sony offers a free upgrade path by way of digital downloads. Could PS5 even pack in a graphics enhancer for last-gen titles similar to PS2's polygon-smoothing feature or PS4 Pro's Boost mode? History suggests it may.
While we're hugely excited by the PS5-shaped future, there's also the tantalising prospect of how the supercharged console could tap into PlayStation's past. Recent rumours suggest PS5 could play games spanning every generation of PlayStation, from PS1 to PS4. Whether this can be achieved through disc updates and patches or a cloud-based solution via PS Now remains to be seen, but if PS5 is able to provide backwards capability covering four generations of PlayStation, it would be the ultimate console for both the present and the past. It's a dream at the time of writing, but here's hoping.
With tech specs that run rings around PS4 Pro, a new DualShock to look forward to, killer exclusive IPs only Sony studios can make, and rumoured back- compatible features, we're about ready to keel over we're so excited. The next-gen future starts with PS5, and the future is almost here.