Forget the promise of teraflopped eye-melters running in 8K, of household names breathing new life into cherished IPs, of ray-tracing (opens in new tab), 3D audio, or haptic feedback; the most exciting thing about the PS5 (opens in new tab) is the stuff you won't even notice. While that's a far less sexy sell than the usual buzzwords thrown around by Sony in the lead up to the release of its next-gen console, it's nonetheless a key driving factor behind my plans to pick up the PS5 at launch, and I can explain why.
For all its well documented greatness, the PS4 is really starting to show its age in 2020. Granted, I'm still playing on my day one edition, now in its seventh year of regular usage, but the wide range of anecdotal evidence suggests that feeling of antiquity extends to even the Pro and Slim models of Sony's record-breaking console.
Simple performances like game updates, footage capture, or even setting up a party chat, once silky smooth procedures achieved within seconds, now seem to make the console's operating system heave with palpable exertion. This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that games are now bigger and more demanding than ever, with titles like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (opens in new tab) taking up over 100GB in the PS4's hard drive at launch, extending loading times and requiring hefty new updates both in and out of the game itself almost every fortnight. As a result, the time between booting up the console and actually getting into the majority of triple A games feels longer than ever.
Then there's the noise. By Kratos' dishevelled beard, the noise. The PS4's internal cooling system is clearly struggling to cope with the sheer horsepower of the late-gen games it's now running, its fans desperately whirring and wheezing at the same levels of an Airbus A330, to the point where I'm basically unable to hear what I'm playing without the aid of noise-cancelling headphones.
All of this has the effect of undermining my enthusiasm and eagerness to play on the platform itself. There are countless moments amongst the frenetic busyness of life where I have the space to enjoy a modest amount of quality gaming time, for example, yet the very thought of having to watch the PS4 contort in agony as the game boots up (underscored by the worry of discovering that said game needs yet another update) actively discourages me from even bothering to turn it on in the first place.
State of Play
PS5, however, with its promise of no loading screens (opens in new tab), streamed installations, and the ability to play games without even booting them up, suggests this faff will soon become a thing of the past. No more watching the download list change from "Calculating" to "Preparing to Download" to "Downloading" to "Copying" to "Installing". No more leaving the console on overnight to make sure your games are simply up to date with the latest patch. And no more having to delete half your library to make up 70GB of space for a 10GB download.
All of these next-gen prospects might seem like small, somewhat strange things to get excited about, but it's more about what they can together achieve for the console's long term health, removing the obstacles and barriers to play that we're so used to putting up with at this stage in the generation.
While the era of PS4 (and, to an extent, the PS3 before it) has been all about pushing the parameters of what games can be, these strides of showmanship have come at the cost of baseline performance, seamlessness, and accessibility. Early promises from Sony, however, have already suggested the PS5 will pivot itself back towards precisely those goalposts, ensuring the next generation is one which is as consumer friendly as it ought to be.
PS5 is being positioned by Sony as the console that respects my time in an era of games that exhibit increasingly little regard for it. Don't get me wrong; I'm as intrigued by the new specs and features as the next longtime patriot of the PlayStation Nation, but a machine that knows when and how to get out of the way between the player and their games is one which could end up defining the future of interactive entertainment as we know it.
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