By Keena Johnston
Note: this was written up before Wired’s recent interview with Mark Cerny. Feel free to check off the things list as you go.
With so much talk of new platforms, varying from Oculus Quest to Xbox Scarlett and Google Stadia, we have barely heard anything from PlayStation’s next forary in the console wars. While there is a lot of talk about software upgrades with things like backwards compatible and the next generation of streaming video games, something that is still super intriguing by, I have a lot hopes and worries about the actual hardware features of the next generation of PlayStation products from the PS5, PSVR2 and more. I’m not going to be discussing the actual innards of the machines in terms GPU, CPU, RAM, etc., more on quality-of-life features that just make the usability of the machine more easy to use. Also, I’m assuming the PS5 will launch in Fall 2020. SPOILERS: This is going to basically be a USB-C article.
Firstly, let’s discuss the PlayStation 5 itself. Remember the original PS3 having 4 USB ports. That would be nice to have again. Or at least 3 ports if PSVR2 is still going to have a break-out box. Having 2 ports is just too limited to charge all the peripherals needed to exist fully in the PlayStation ecosystem. Ideally these ports would be USB-C to allow simple, study and fast connections. Also, fast charging with USB-C is amazing and if the Nintendo Switch can have USB-C charging so too can an industry leader. Another great feature that should be grandfathered in is the ability to easily expand the internal memory. The PS3 Grill and the PS4 made it really simple to upgrade to the amount storage you want, something that is important as AAA game size files continue to increase. While a simple feature, it’s something that Xbox does not do and Nintendo only allows through the use of SD cards.
Speaking of simple features, it’s a goddamn travesty that the PS4 Pro does NOT have a 4K Blu-ray player. Sony has a huge investment in both the 4K and standard Blu-ray industry as well as 4K TVs, really good ones too. The fact that I can’t watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (a Sony film) using a 4K Blu-ray disc and a Sony 4K OLED HDR TV on a PS4 Pro but I can using an Xbox One S/X continues to astounds me. Sony has a chance to rectify this with the PS5. With the 4K becoming more and more of a focusing in the entertainment industry at large, the PS5 needs to support that, especially with its streaming capacity. The PS5 should support native 4K streaming to YouTube and Twitch, ideally at 60fps but I wouldn’t hold my breath on that (maybe for the PS5 Pro?). While we’re at it, it would be nice to see games reach 4K 60fps natively on the console. No supersampling. No cheating. Just the power to do it. Not every game should be 4K 60fps like not every game is 1080p 60fps on PS4 but it can be done (eg. Ratchet and Clank (2016), Doom (2016)). Doom Eternal would look amazing running like this on PS5.
While visual fidelity is good and all, audio fidelity should also be improved upon. The PS5 should take a page from the Xbox One X and support Dolby Atmos surround sound (https://www.dolby.com/us/en/brands/dolby-atmos.html). With Sony’s world class sound engineers with music and sound effects and marrying that with state of the art Dolby technology, PS5 games could very well best sounding video games on the market.
Finally, the last dream aspect of the PS5 is it backwards compatibility. Back-compat with PS4 is an easy ask but the help the preservation of video games as an art so ideally all PS1-4 games including PSVR games and games compatible with PSTV, which would bring up some PSP and PSVita games (RIP Vita) to the modern console. This would be done via hardware so you could insert the old disc into the PS5 and play the game. The more likely scenario is that either Sony brings back the PSOne/2 Classics or follows Xbox’s trail and slowly incorporate the old library into the new one with software improvements. Either alternative would be great, especially over not having an back-compat when Xbox is winning over gamers hearts and slowly their minds with its back-compat program. If the PS5 looks anything like this dream, Sony will have set themselves up nicely for a pretty well future proofed console for the next years and to play the games on this great hardware, we need a controller that is just as great.
Since the original DualShock (not the original PS controller however,) the DualShock has been basically perfect. I much prefer the parallel sticks while the D-Pad and face buttons feel amazing to press. The worst feature was the inwards “triggers” on the DualShock 3 but then the DualShock 4 fixed it, added great triggers and concave sticks. The latter two features feel a lot better on the Xbox 360 controller (yes, 360) but the DualShock 4 made it feel with the same playing field as the 360 controller. So moving forward the DualShock 5 should basically keep the same form factor as its current model but improve it. Keep the Touch Pad as it is sometimes used for interesting uses, especially in first party games, but maybe make it feel more tacticle to click in. It current feels like a giant button slapped on last minute and doesn’t really feel like it belongs there. The light bar feels somewhat in the same boat. While it is cool to have lights change and having it come through the Touch Pad with the v2 revision, it doesn't serve an actual function outside of VR. Because of this, there should be the option to actually turn of the light when playing non-VR or motion games to help preserve the battery life of the controller. Speaking of battery life, the DualShock 4 has a horrible battery life. Even the v2, while better, does not really cut it for how long a controller should last. With the light turned off, I don’t see why the DualShock 5 wouldn't have a similar battery life to the Switch’s Joy-Cons and Pro Controller. Both have the same-ish motion controls and the Switch’s controllers have HD rumble and still lasts ad infinitum. Whether it is battery size or just power usage optimization, the DualShock 5 should last longer. While battery life is a point of contention for me, so too is the charging captitbites (here comes to USB-C idolisation). While Micro USB is fine and does the job, it don’t like how flimsy the connector feels each time I insert in into my controller. USB-C fixes this form factor is as it is sturdy and provides super fast charging. If Nintendo can fork out the money to incorporate a USB-C port to charge the console, surely Sony would want to not be outclassed by a “technically inferior” device. Even Sony’s Xperia line of phones use USB-C charging. Now I should clarify, I don’t mean the regular USB port on the console to a USB-C port on the controller. No. The PS5 should have USB-C port both the console and controller, USB-C to USB-C, the fastest possible charging capabilities. Will this initially alienate third party hardware manufacturers like Hori? Most likely but if the PS5 is successful (and it probably will be) it will push those third parties to adopt USB-C thus creating a more vibrant, advanced ecosystem of USB-C products, moving away from the 15+ year old USB tech. Another port the controller should keep is the 3.5mm AUX port, for people who would prefer a wired experience as the quality is often improved compared to wireless options.
It would also be great if Sony would be its own “Pro” controller rather than licence that R&D to a third-party. Sony has always made great hardware compared to its competition so a quality rival to the Xbox Pro controller would be great in the market, but I don’t really see that happening unless Sony’s lead is threatened next gen.
And finally, another aspect of the controller is gimmicky features like motion controls and vibration. While this features are often forgotten about, some games use them to their advantage really well. But this tech is antiquated now and deserves upgrades. The DualShock 4 still uses the Sixaxis motion functions which is now 13+ years old and, to my knowledge, the rumble is basically the same from the original DualShock, maybe with minor improvements in each successive iteration. With Oculus and Vive improving their motion fidelity and the Switch having HD Rumble and Xbox One’s controller having haptic feedback from the trigger’s motors, the DualShock 4 looks like an antiquated piece of hardware in comparison. These rumble and motion improvements should be worked in conjunction and applied to the next iteration of the PS Move as well.
PlayStation Move 2/PlayStation Move Some More
The reason I’d like some parity with the DualShock 5 and the PS Move 2 is to make them feel like they feel as part of an ecosystem of products rather than some disparate tools that feel like different parts of the company conceived them. I’m not saying the PS Move 2 should have to motion controllers as the DualShock 5. Rather develop a baseline so devs can use the DualShock 5 motion (something every PS5 owner will have) for any use they want. Meanwhile the Move controllers would be improved even further as they would be the dedicated motion controllers. In both cases, this would bring the tech from 2006 and 2010, Sixaxis and Move respectively, into 2020. Again, Vive and Oculus clown out the fidelity of the Move but Sony has the resources to do better, and it should. The Move 2 should also let me navigate the PS5 Home Screen UI. On the PS4, I have to turn on my DualShock, select the game I want, then turn on and sync up the Move controllers. Eliminating the DualShock from the process of starting a game that does not require would just make the experience more enjoyable. As to controlling the games, the Move 2’s face buttons should be redesigned from the ground up. I’m not sure how that would look but Sony can look to its competitors and upcoming games and adjust accordingly. Having an analog stick on it might go a long way. Also, it should be USB-C charged. The current Moves last a long time, which is great, but they also take a long time to charge; longer than the recommended 4 hours before the Rest Mode stops charging devices. USB-C would help solve that issue immensely.
Essentially, Move 2 should be another mode of play like the Switch Joy-Cons can offer with its motion controls. All of this would be in service of the future of PSVR.
PlayStation VR 2
I’ll say this first, the PS VR is an amazing device. Time and time again we’ve seen Sony abandon their peripherals with a year of launching them but the VR is still going strong, especially after the first State of Play presentation in 2019. Nearly two and half years later, Sony has sold 4 million units; a success in the eyes of Sony and critics alike. For me personally I have enjoyed the games I’ve played on it but within an hour of setting it up and using it, I noticed all the things that could be improved about the device. Firstly, the viewing experience needs to improve. Fix the screen door effect. Allow for a wider viewing angle. Increase the resolution to ideally 4K for each eye. While the visuals are being improved, so too should the audio capabilities. Keep the 3.5mm AUX port on the headset but also allow for wireless headphone support. Provided Dolby Atmos is supported on PS5, the VR audio can then be design with that in mind further immerse yourself in the world you want. But as it stand now, there are too many cords properly immerse yourself.
The wired headset itself often breaks the immersion. I often get caught in the wires playing Beat Saber, Superhot VR or other motion intensive games and it sucks. Currently, it needs a power supply and HDMI from headset to breakout box. Then micro-USB to the PS4 USB and a separate from the box to the power point to power the unit. It then also needs HDMI-in from the PS4 to the box then HDMI-out from the box to the TV. Oh, and that’s the simpler v2 model, not even the original which had an extra cord. Way too convoluted of a setup that needs simplifying. So, I can see Sony doing one of two things, either committing to a wired connection to maximise fidelity of the experience and decrease any input lag as much as possible. In this case, the wires should be USB-C from headset to breakout AND breakout box to PS5. Not only does USB-C fast charge devices, it also sends data at record speeds and, with the right architecture and engineering, provide multiple sources of data at once, in this case power and video. On the other hand, Sony could accept the common feed back and have the headset have an internal receiver sending to the breakout box. In either case, the box to the PS5 should cut HDMI and the separate power supply to just have one USB-C cable from the box to the PS5. This would mean there would be two wires at most with the wired outcome, one with the wireless unit. In a dream world, Sony would let Mark Cerny just sit and tinker and tinker until he solves how to have to VR processing unit all internal onboard the PS5. Sony could then advertise the PS5 as “PSVR2 Ready” leaving consumers to be the VR2 unit and Move 2 controllers when they want/need to. Cerny is a very smart man and I believe he could do it.
There is another reality where Sony looks at the upcoming Oculus Quest and tries its hand at a truly wireless device making the PSVR2 divorced from the PS5 and its own product ala the PSP or PSVita. Despite this being a viable option, I think Sony would want to leverage the power of the console instead of trading off for lesser quality of games in terms of its visuals. Now you may be thinking, “Sony already did that with the original PSVR. It is the worst looking core VR unit on the market.” And you’re right, they did launch with a “just good enough” product and it worked out just fine for them sales wise. However, the next generation brings about a new set of expectations and both PS5 and PSVR2 are likely to be in develop with each other thus making for a more synthesised product and experience. To wow consumes and devs, an increase in power and fidelity is needed.
Other than that being my primary gripe with the amount of cables, the unit on the visor itself should allow for up/down configuration, allowing the device to come even closer to the person’s face. And finally, the range should be improved. Not everyone is able to sit in the very specific zone the PSVR requires, although this is probably due to the limitations of the PS Camera.
PlayStation Camera 2
PlayStation has had a long history of camera peripherals dating back to the EyeToy on PS2, the PS Eye on PS3 and now the PS Camera on PS4. All have been vary degrees of mediocre products. They all achieve what the set out to do, in the most rudimentary ways possible. Moving forward, if the Camera is to be a primary part of the VR2 experience then significant improvements must be implemented. For starters, capturing in a good 1080p resolution would allow for much for a wider and better quality motion and VR tracking as well as better cameras for Twitch/YouTube streaming.
I’m going to say it again: it should have a USB-C cable from the PSCamera 2 to the PS5. Sony is often seen as protective about its peripherals being used in other ecosystems but the fact that I can use my DualShock 4 on my PC and Switch with the help of the 8bitdo connector (http://www.8bitdo.com/wireless-usb-adapter/) means I think Sony should give up on that dream. If the Camera 2 can be priced well and have great specs, it can be also be marketed as a great webcam for streamers using more complex streaming setups.
One feature that I have not seen talked about since launch is the Camera’s voice commands. To be fair, it isn’t great and paled in the light of both the original Kinect and the then contemporary Xbox One Kinect. Now, since the introduction of voice AI systems like Google Assistant and Alexa, the Camera looks like a cute snapshot in time. In saying that though, Sony should expand their Google Assistant partnership from its TV business into the PS5. Now whether this can be done with the PS5 alone or with only with the Camera 2, would be up to how Sony envisions its next console but ideally, it would be the former. It that was the case, then more engineering could be focused on the Camera 2 to be a visual sensor rather having to worry about any audio sensing in any capacity, increase visual fidelity even further.
And that’s it. Those are all the features that would be ideally in the next generation of the PlayStation Family. I really feel that these are mostly realistic features that are likely to happen. Hardware features that are the internal computing power are often overlooked in consoles I feel and I wanted to draw attention to them as they will go together to create a really good and simple(ish) ecosystem. And a little bit of dream scenarios never hurt anyone so sprinkling that in is always fun.
Anyway, what did you think of this. Did I miss any crucial hardware features that you want? Did I misunderstand any tech mentioned? (the answer is yes). Lemme know in the comments below.