Next-Generation Consoles

Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have recently been discussing elements of their next-generation consoles or upgrades. I thought it’d be useful to round this up and have it all in one place as we gear up for an exciting 2020.

The console hype is warming up gently. New players have entered the game with Google Stadia and the current kings of the consoles (Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo) are preparing for the next generation. Sony and Microsoft have their next-generation consoles with a new PlayStation and a new Xbox coming likely in 2020 whereas Nintendo is rumoured to be releasing an iteration on the Nintendo Switch perhaps as soon as this year.

Both Sony and Microsoft have prolonged the life of the current generation with upgraded consoles with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. While these have updated the current generation with more power, the next generation promises to lead us into the future of gaming.

Let’s go through all the current news, rumours and information we have.

Sony – PlayStation 5

Sony has revealed some of the details of their ‘next generation console’ in a sit-down interview with WIRED recently. Mark Cerney, Lead System Architect for Sony, spilt the beans on some the specs of the new console. It’s not likely to be out in 2019, however, developers have kits in their studios at the moment and are providing feedback and requirements into Sony. It’s an interesting insight into the hardware developer and how they work with game studios. Cerney was keen to point out that this isn’t a small-step upgrade – Sony wants to provide new gaming experiences and stride into the future of gaming.

The new PlayStation will feature an eight-core CPU based on the third generation of AMD Ryzen processors and a custom GPU based on Radeon’s Navi family which will be capable of real-time ray tracing. These technique models the travel of light to simulate complex interactions in 3D environments. Ray tracing has been used for some time in Hollywood special effects, but no console has managed it yet. Ray tracing mainly supports the graphical capabilities of the hardware, however, can be deployed to create sophisticated audio simulations.

The new processors will provide the processing to achieve next generation graphics and audio, however speed and space is also taking a huge leap forward. The next PlayStation will include an Sold State Drive replacing the hard disc normally found in consoles. This will lead to faster games downloads, faster environment rendering, shorter load times and speed up fast travel in-game.

The AMD chip in the new PlayStation also has a custom component that will allow for 3D audio. Cerney was disappointed that the current generation of consoles didn’t really improve on the audio experience of gaming. However, the new 3D audio capabilities will lead to improved audio immersion as sounds come at you from all angles.

The new audio and visual hardware will allow for better VR experiences too. Currently Sony aren’t talking about a new PlayStation VR unit but this will likely come in time. They aren’t talking specifics about games at this time either however studios have had the dev-kits for a little while.

Google and Microsoft are heavily investing in the streaming future. PlayStation is committing to physical media as the game will still play discs. It’s also fully backwards compatible with your existing PS4 library – which will be great news to some.

Sony won the battle this generation with the PS4 selling 90 million consoles. In what is likely to be called the PlayStation 5, their current plans point to winning the battle for the living room once again. However, with many of their competitors betting on cloud gaming are Sony battling in the wrong arena? Only time will tell.

Microsoft – Xbox Project Scarlett

Microsoft has been working on its next generation of consoles for some time. They announced at E3 2018 Xbox Scarlett – the code name for the next Xbox (or perhaps Xboxes?). It’s heavily rumoured that two Xboxes will be revealed at this years E3 2019.

Anaconda is the code name for the new standard, powerful Xbox console whereas Lockhart is the code name for the smaller more affordable variant. Lockhart is rumoured to be as powerful as the Xbox One X. Anaconda will provide the next generation gaming experience with cutting-edge graphics, audio and next-generation CPU and GPU not dis-similar from the new PlayStation. The precise details of the new Xbox aren’t out there in the wild yet however I expect news at this years E3 – which is only a matter of weeks away.

Both variants of the new Xbox will rely heavily on Microsoft’s Project XCloud. Similar to Google Stadia this will deliver high-quality gaming experiences via their Azure Cloud Gaming infrastructure. Phil Spencer talked about Project XCloud at E3 2018. Project XCloud is the ability to play Xbox games on any devices, anywhere where you have a good enough internet connection. Project XCloud will allow Microsoft to deploy their games on devices they haven’t been able to reach before including mobile devices and tablets.

Microsoft has been heavily investing in game studios for first party support. The list includes 343 Studios, Ninja Theory, Obsidian and Rare. Microsoft was slow out of the blocks with the current generation with the Xbox One. However with their investments in cloud gaming, first-party developers and a rumoured portfolio of consoles for the next generation they are positioning themselves to take on the next-generation consoles like never before.

Nintendo Switch mid-generation upgrade

Nintendo haven’t announced anything officially about their next generation just yet however there’s been a swell of rumours with current generation upgrades and improvements. There’s two specific rumours I can address – a new more powerful Nintendo Switch (or Switch Pro) and a cheaper, slimmed down Nintendo Switch.

The Wall Street Journal has reported on two new Nintendo Switch models coming. According to their sources, one new model of the Switch will be targeted at gamers on a budget with some features stripped back to save cost. This will be focused on the traditional hand-held gaming market. Features that could go could be the rumble features and removable joy-cons. The other variant of the Nintendo Switch would be focused on the premium gaming market offering a higher-resolution screen, better battery life and other enhanced features.

Nintendo are the ones with their cards closest to their chest at this time. However the we’re not as far into the life cycle of the console as we are with the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The Nintendo Switch is just over two years old and Shigeru Miyamoto has said recently he expected the Nintendo Switch to have a life span of approximately 5-6 years. Therefore we could be some time before we hear of Nintendo’s plans for their true next generation effort.

There we have it. Everything we know about the next-generation consoles. We have an exciting remainder of 2019 coming up with announcements and details coming out. Microsoft will no doubt come out swinging at E3 and it’ll be interesting to see how Nintendo respond to Sony, Microsoft and the new players including Google and Apple. 2020 is a likely release date for these new consoles and we’ll start the countdown in the coming months.