This week, both PlayStation and Xbox revealed the technical specs for their next-generation consoles. Both consoles pack a significant amount of power, make use of solid state drives and custom GPUs, and look to make a big leap in what hardware can do in the coming years.
One key factor in Sony's favor is the PS5's super-fast, proprietary internal storage drive. As you might expect, first-party devs are full of praise for this innovation. Kurt Margenau, co-game director at Naughty Dog, tweeted that players "don't even know" how big of a leap the SSD will be. He specifically notes how impactful it will be for first-party developers, those who are working primarily on PlayStation 5 games. "By far the biggest leap in my career," Margenau says. "Can't wait."
Still tripping about this #PS5 SSD spec. Like, people don't even know how big of a leap in terms of game design can be made, especially for 1st party that doesn't have to design to lowest common denominator. By far the biggest leap in my career. Can't wait.- Kurt Margenau (@kurtmargenau) March 19, 2020
Margenau's fellow Naughty Dog developer Anthony Newman also praised the SSD. "The SSD in the PS5 (and all the associated IO hardware) is going to fundamentally change how we design videogames by removing limitations we've been working around the last two gens," Newman says.
The drive itself is an 825GB custom drive, which has a raw throughput of 5.5 GB/s compared to the Xbox Series X's 2.4 GB/s. That difference grows when you start using compression, and as our Reviews Editor Mike Williams details in his comparison of the two consoles, this could allow PS5 games to do some really incredible things. Fewer loading screens and more contiguous open worlds look possible with this sort of architecture.
Andrea Pessino, the founder and CTO of Ready At Dawn Studios, bets that within a year of launch, gamers will "fully appreciate that the PlayStation 5 is one of the most revolutionary, inspired home consoles ever designed, and will feel silly for having spent energy arguing about 'teraflops' and other similarly misunderstood specs."
Split Across Party Lines
But developers who are designing for all platforms, rather than just Sony, are a little more reserved. Richard Meredith, one of the developers on indie game Bad North, seemed skeptical of whether developers working on both PC and the PS5 could take advantage of the tech.
"Cerny talked convincingly about level design considerations [with regard to] streaming going away in next gen, but that's not gonna happen for anything running on PC as well," says Meredith. "It's gonna be incredible for PlayStation's first-party AAA extravaganzas, but outside of that? I can't see it happening."
Digital Foundry's John Linneman also praised the SSD speeds but notes the first-party distinction. He does seem, however, optimistic about the potential SSDs in general have for this generation.
"Sure, only first party games will truly utilize those speeds but multiplatform games are still going to be made with SSD in mind," says Linneman. "I mean, we went from 50-100 MB/s last gen to 2.4 GB/s [Xbox Series X] and 5.5 GB/s [PlayStation 5]. That's a massive leap."
Kotaku's Jason Schreier also says he's hearing sentiments like Pessino's from developers, including third-party developers. In one tweet, Schreier says that one technical-minded person told him it was "the most exciting hardware in 20 years," emphasizing both the SSD and the PS5's CPU.
The PS5's unique architecture could be the silver bullet for Sony against the Xbox Series X, which looks more powerful on paper. Despite falling behind in the teraflops battle, PlayStation seems to have the edge with developers who are eager to make use of the internal SSD.
Ultimately, the proof will be in the games, and we're still waiting to see more of that in the coming months as we get closer to the console launches. The PS5 and the Xbox Series X are currently slated for holiday 2020.