Sony has shown an early PlayStation 5 tech demo at an investor conference, captured for posterity by Wall Street Journal Tokyo journalist Takashi Mochizuki and embedded further on down this page. The demo – or a variant of it – was previously shown to Wired magazine, highlighting the enormous streaming and loading time advantages offered by the proprietary SSD technology that finds its way into Sony’s next generation PlayStation.
The presentation is based on Marvel’s Spider-Man, developed by Insomniac Games. It starts off by showing a series of ‘fast travel’ warps around the game’s New York map, with the PS4 Pro taking 8.1 seconds to complete a single jump. By contrast, the next generation hardware completes the same process in just 0.83 seconds. Roughly speaking, loading times are improved by an order of magnitude.
The second element of the demo focuses on streaming open world data. In the original Wired piece, PlayStation system architect Mark Cerny explained that the speed of traversal in Spider-Man is limited by the constraints of the PS4 Pro hardware. The video shows this in action: as speed is increased, the PS4 Pro grinds to a halt as it streams in new information, with buildings popping in before the sequence starts up again. The same sequence on the new hardware shows traversal at jet fighter speeds, with no hitching or stuttering whatsoever.
It’s interesting to see the demos described in the Wired article actually running, though I suspect we are seeing a slightly different presentation. Spider-Man loading times for PS4 Pro in the Wired piece was described as 15 seconds with interstitial screens, and Spider-Man himself present on-screen. The demo here has no screens and no Spider-Man, but completes in just eight seconds. However, the next-gen score of 0.8 seconds is consistent.
Beyond that, no further details on the next generation project were revealed. However, a slide from the firm’s presentation reiterates the key points made in the Wired article: an all-new CPU/GPU, solid-state storage, 3D audio, back-compat, disc support, 8K compatibility and – yes – ray tracing.
Those hoping that Sony would talk more about its cloud business partnership with Microsoft likely left the presentation disappointed. The firm has acknowledged that streaming is going to become very important, settling in alongside disc and digital downloads. However, the medium term goal appears to be doubling down on PlayStation Now, with a view to increasing the current 700,000 subscribers to an impressive 5m using current capacity investments. It’s beyond that where the collaboration with Microsoft kicks in ‘to achieve growth and scale faster than ever before’.
In the meantime, Sony is looking to PlayStation 4 to deliver financial success for the next three years, pointing to its range of unreleased first-party tentpole titles in maintaining momentum. The firm is also looking to leverage PS4 to deliver the early adopters essential in making the next-gen machine a hit – perhaps demonstrating just how crucial backwards compatibility is to the PS5’s fortunes. But just how Sony aims to integrate next-gen games with Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure remains unknown – for now.
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