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The PlayStation 5 Specs Are Beefy, But Not Entirely Necessary

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PlayStation 5

Six years have passed since the launch of the PlayStation 4, and, consequently, the launch of the eighth generation of consoles. Throughout this time the industry has seen a shift in how the medium is consumed. Nowadays, gamers are no longer forced to experience titles through conventional controller inputs thanks to the implementation of VR, while visual performance and optimization are at record heights given the current technology available to developers.

For well over a year now, rumors and speculations have sprung up surrounding the next generation of hardware from both Sony and Microsoft, with the latter being more open about its technological aspirations. Despite withholding true hardware specifications, Microsoft does not shy away from igniting conversations around its next systems (yes plural). Sony, on the other hand, has been extremely tight lipped on the topic, only hinting at the PlayStation 5 during a discussion on the success of the PS4.

Until now, consumers were left to speculate on the possibilities of what the PlayStation 5 will contain. To the surprise of many, however, Sony has unexpectedly opened up about the final specifications that will be found within the upcoming hardware. Lead architect on Sony’s next console Mark Cerny detailed how important this generational leap is for the company and what consumers can expect from its beefy machine. While confirming some rumors, and debunking others, Cerny expressed Sony’s desire for the new generation to allow “for fundamental changes in what a game could be.” As a bold statement by Cerny, this ideology will help Sony fall in line with the trajectory that other studios, such as Xbox, have had during the eighth generation of consoles.

For those who are unaware, the PS4 launched in 2013 to wide success, re-establishing Sony’s brand at the forefront of console gaming. Although the console became a household and media juggernaut, many tech-savvy individuals were quick to point out the flaws within its hardware. For example, much of the specifications that the PS4 touted were, in fact, already outdated at release when compared to high-end PC rigs. Despite the obvious limitations of console gaming, the choice of hardware found within the PS4 proved puzzling, as it was being marketed as a giant leap forward for the industry. Sony would later attempt to mitigate the ongoing damage caused by underperforming hardware with the mid-generation iteration of the PS4 Pro, though this attempt only served to extend the console lifecycle by another few years.

From the outset, Sony knew its largest issue was underperforming hardware, and, thanks to the information detailed by Mark Cerny, the community finally has some insight on how that will be addressed. For starters, the CPU found within the PS5’s hardware will use the third generation of AMD’s Ryzen line which is a massive leap over the PS4’s Jaguar chip. Although I am not much for technical jargon within the PC economy, I do understand how much the Jaguar chip held back performance within the eighth generation, and I welcome the Ryzen with open arms. My only hope is that this upgrade will be enough to sustain the PlayStation 5 throughout the years and maintain its presence as a PC competitor.

Additionally, the custom AMD Navi GPU that will be present in the PS5 will support ray-tracing, a feature that only a few games fully utilize on PC, but nonetheless will provide a more realistic experience. Although this specific feature is a welcome addition to the console ecosystem, I honestly never expected it to be a priority. While having real-time accurate reflections within the environment will definitely increase immersion, I would personally desire a more optimized experience that will never falter during play. We will have to wait until more is revealed on the PS5’s ray-tracing technology, but I can only hope that it will not take priority over performance.

Building upon the implementation of ray-tracing with the PS5, Cerny noted that, for him, the audio technology present within the PS4 did not achieve the standards of a generational leap from the PS3. According to Cerny, the PS5 will implement 3D Audio, dramatically changing how gamers perceive sound within a video game. The inclusion of 3D Audio sounds like a well-deserved feature for PlayStation veterans. However, I feel as though this addition will only benefit those who have an entertainment setup that supports it. Unfortunately, individuals who resort to stereo speakers could potentially see no difference in how the audio is delivered from PS5 titles compared to those on PS4.

The interview also provided information surrounding the type of storage available in the PS5. As a much-needed addition, the PlayStation 5 will contain a solid state drive (SSD), which will allow for faster load times and experiences. As many PlayStation users know, the PS4 can provide some appalling load times, leading this issue to be a constant topic of discussion throughout the entire generation. The possibility of a game having long load times was so great that it often made headlines in video game’s media, pleading for action to be taken (Bloodborne anyone?).

Thankfully, information on the PS5’s hard drive capabilities does not require too much speculation, as Cerny provided an example of how fast it will be. According to him, Marvel’s Spider-Man, which has an average of a 15 second load time on a PS4 Pro, will have just 0.8 second load times on a PS5. No indication is yet forthcoming as to how consistent this technological feat will be across different titles, and I urge consumers to temper their expectations on the speed of the PS5 because only time will tell how efficient it can be. Regardless of my concerns surrounding inconsistencies, the PS5 will feature the fastest load times of any console before it, eliminating one of the greatest issues of the PS4’s hardware.

Bloodborne gameplay 1

In addition to the announcement that PlayStation 5 will have an SSD, Cerny confirmed a much-desired feature in backwards compatibility. Although this feature will not reach as far back as the competition, the PS5 will be compatible with PS4 titles, both digital and physical. This was to be expected—seeing as both consoles will run off the same architecture—but the silence from Sony proved worrisome for some fans, myself included. While I am disappointed that PS3 titles will not be compatible with the PS5, I understand that the cell processor of that earlier device would take more effort than it is worth to make games from the platform compatible. Regardless, PlayStation fans can rejoice in this news, as it further validates any investment into the PS4’s ecosystem.

Where I draw most of my criticism from Mark Cerny’s report on the specifications of the PS5 is within the idea that Sony’s next hardware will support 8K resolution. To be clear, I am not stating that such an achievement is impossible; rather I question the necessity of it. Given everything that we know about the PS5, one can assume that the system will cost around USD $500. With 4K televisions slowly becoming a household norm, is it worthwhile for a company to be devoting resources into a feature that will likely not be consumer friendly for years to come? I understand that Sony is at a disadvantage right now with the Xbox One X outputting at native 4K, but seeking to outdo the competition to this extent seems financially unobtainable for most consumers.

My concerns develop from individuals who hear the news of PS5 and 8K resolution and assume it to be the Second Coming. It is unfeasible to have a $500 to $600 console run at a native 8K resolution. Anyone who believes this will happen need look no further than PlayStation’s competition with the Xbox One X. At its launch, Microsoft was selling the Xbox One X at a loss, solely to prevent the console from exceeding the $500 mark and turning away consumers. Microsoft’s current machine is capable of outputting at a native 4K resolution, whereas the PS4 Pro can only achieve the same through upscaled checkerboarding. The PS5 will surely be able to output at a native 4K resolution, but to expect anything more with the current state of consumer technology is wishful thinking. I urge consumers to understand that if the PS5 has an 8K setting, it will likely be only achieved in the future and through a checkerboarded solution.

Spider-Man PS4

Given the rumors that the next generation of hardware will be the last, Sony may be trying to future proof the PS5 so that it can remain on the market for as long as possible. Given the information provided by Mark Cerny, Sony may be intending to utilize every feature of the PS5 to its entirety before considering what could come after. By future proofing the PlayStation 5, Sony can anticipate where the industry is heading, ultimately eliminating the need for a mid-generation upgrade with a PS5 Pro.

I have been a PlayStation fan for as long as I can remember, but have recently branched out with the Xbox One X and PC gaming to experience what those ecosystems have to offer. By broadening my horizons, I maintain an outside perspective on how Sony is upholding its promise to gamers and how the competition tackles similar issues created by an ever-growing industry. With the eighth generation nearing its completion, I look forward to discussions such as this one as it generates hope and excitement for the future of the brand.

While the PlayStation 4’s colossal success this generation will provide a jump-start in sales for the company’s new hardware, the beginning of a new generation only reinvigorates the console wars. As a firm believer in what both Sony and Microsoft will do to shape the future of the industry, I am reminded that competition breeds excellence. Furthermore, when competition is present between both parties to win over public appeal, in the end, consumers emerge victorious.

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E3 2019

Ubisoft’s E3 Showing Was All Hype, No Bite

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Ubisoft E3 Conference - Gods & Monsters, Ghost Recon Breakpoint

Ubisoft’s E3 2019 press conference featured some anticipated announcements and a few surprise ones. With the odd hidden gem lost in a sea of generic announcements, the conference by Ubisoft felt like a commercial that one is forced to view between episodes of their favorite TV show. The unfortunate leaks that surfaced mere days ago left a notable stain on Ubisoft’s presentation and overall appeal. The decision to open with Watch Dogs: Legion was a smart one since everyone knew it was coming though the homeruns became few and far between after that.

With both the announcement and extensive gameplay footage of Watch Dogs: Legion, Ubisoft seemed as though it was gearing up for a “headbanger” of a conference. The way the game was being presented for the first time would lead players to believe that Ubisoft had a stellar showcase to follow. After Microsoft’s slower and less hyped conference and Bethesda’s adequate attendance, I genuinely believed that Ubisoft would show them all up. Instead of a “headbanger” performance, audiences were treated to a rollercoaster of announcements.

Shortly after the conference commenced, audiences had the brakes instantly pumped on their excitement as Ubisoft took the time to advertise a new television show it is creating along with the producers of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. For the next few minutes, actor Rob McElhenney took the stage to describe the producers’ vision for a show that explores a comedic take on the politics surrounding a development studio and its egotistical creative director. Following this announcement, Ubisoft proceeded to show a trailer for the new Apple TV exclusive series. No game was announced for that duration.

Eventually, Ghost Recon: Breakpoint featured, with a surprise visitation by Jon Bernthal, who portrays the game’s villain. To promote Breakpoint, Bernthal briefly described how his past roles in the entertainment industry have influenced his character and how, as the villain, he encourages the players/Ghosts to hunt him down or die trying. Instead of following up with gameplay footage, Ubisoft announced a new addition to the Ghost Recon family, Delta Company. Not much was said about the new initiative, but it seems to be a collective forum for Breakpoint fans.

As odd as a forum announcement can be on an E3 stage, even more unsettling was the exaggerated hype from its developer, a sentiment that would sadly carry on throughout the remaining conference. Before concluding the Breakpoint showings, the developers were psyched to announce the beta on September 5. Unfortunately, since the beta is less than a month from the game’s launch, Ubisoft may be confusing the term with demo.

As a time-honored tradition at every Ubisoft E3 conference, Just Dance 2020 had an explosive presentation emphasizing the importance of Just Dance in people’s lives. With on-screen actors over-intensifying the joy of dance to everyday individuals, translating to the on-stage actors performing a symphony of limbs for everyone’s amusement, Just Dance 2020 is a reminder of how to oversell a product. Ubisoft continues to take a household party game and hype it into a hardcore intense experience year after year.

The hype-train continued on as viewers were introduced to Ubisoft’s premium PC subscription service, unsurprisingly titled Ubisoft+.  A sizzle reel followed, showcasing some of the titles that will be featured on the proprietary service. The success of Ubisoft’s subscription service remains to be seen in an age where all the cool kids are doing one. However Ubisoft’s turn at bat might strike out when considering its lineup. Almost all the titles shown in the subscription trailer are playable in another form of subscription such as Xbox Game Pass or have been free with a PlayStation Plus membership. Considering this subscription service is PC-only right now, it has the possibility of finding a foothold in the market, but Xbox Game Pass PC Games is another new contender with an established fanbase behind it.

Outside of the forced enthusiasm for new titles existed a trailer that had many considering the possibility of a Zombi sequel. Instead, audiences were treated to a surprise announcement from the Rainbow Six team with its new game: Rainbow Six Quarantine. Continuing the concept of 2018’s short-lived ‘Outbreak’ content drop for Rainbow Six Siege, Quarantine is a full-fledged title built on the foundation of that mode.

Finally, CEO Yves Guillemot insinuated a classic “one more thing” moment as a developer from Ubisoft Quebec came on stage to show a project that has been in development for four years: Gods & Monsters. This title will take advantage of player’s historical fantasies, with an emphasis on mythology being the primary storyteller. Potential aside, the announcement proved to be a poor way to abruptly end Ubisoft’s press conference as it contributed to a bait and switch for current Assassin’s Creed Odyssey fans. With the developer being from Ubisoft Quebec and mentioning historical storytelling and mythology in reference to Odyssey, many  audience members would have been anticipating an Assassin’s Creed announcement. The misguided excitement and anticipation only contribute to the continuing narrative this year that E3 2019 is lacking in content from previous years.  

Ubisoft is trying to position itself as being the publisher known for fun and variety in gaming. This mission statement is reaffirmed year after year by Guillemot, with this year being no different. Despite its desire, though, Ubisoft’s 2019 press conference contained an excessive amount of artificial hype. Instead of allowing the games to impress the audience, Ubisoft developers took upon themselves to do it instead. Before and after every trailer shown was a developer explaining to the audience how hyped they should be, rather than allowing the footage to do its job. An obvious takeaway from Ubisoft’s 2019 conference is its reinforcement of fun with others. Almost every project shown featured co-op in some way, further emphasizing Guillemot’s expression of inclusivity. Just a shame that his encouragement towards gamer empowerment and expression was contrast to extensive cringe-worthy corporate hype.  

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