Latest reports on the PlayStation 5 suggest that Sony may be making serious changes to its next generation console. Central to this speculation is the suggestion that the Japanese corporation will release a PlayStation 5 that is a pure streaming device.

Disc Drive
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PlayStation 5: Death of the disc drive?

This is certainly becoming increasingly feasible in an age in which many more games and gaming-related content are downloaded over broadband. The death of the disc and physical media has been predicted for some time, but is it about to come to fruition with the PlayStation 5?

According to N4BB, Sony is now seriously considering releasing a PlayStation 5 that is a pure streaming device. It is not clear whether this would be the only PlayStation 5 model released, or whether the company would also produce a disc-based variant in order to keep its existing fans happy. After all, traditionally gamers have tended to favor physical discs, and it was the clarity of policy that Sony expressed with the PlayStation 4 in this area that ultimately led to its success.

N4BB quotes an industry insider who suggests that although a pure streaming console may seem a drastic move, the current market conditions in the gaming industry make this decision possible. Downloading games from streaming services such as Steam is considerably more affordable for game manufacturers than physical discs.

Another advantage of eliminating the physical disc drive is that it would enable Sony to make space for other components in the PlayStation 5. This could mean that the amount of storage available to PlayStation 5 consumers will be many times larger than any previous console release, making such digital downloads more feasible.

AMD mooted for processor

With Sony intending to include a next generation Accelerated Processing Unit in the PlayStation 5, which is apparently to be developed by AMD, the console will unquestionably be considerably more powerful than the the previous iterations of the PlayStation series. Early reports relating to the PlayStation 5 suggest that it will be as much as five times faster than the existing PlayStation 4.

Another report has backed up these AMD rumors, with suggestions appearing in the media that the next generation processors that AMD will offer will be attractive to both Sony and Microsoft owing to their 4K and virtual reality capabilities. Sony is expected to prioritize both 4K resolution and virtual reality gaming in the PlayStation 5. The former of these two technologies is already becoming mainstream through providers such as Netflix, with the British television broadcaster Sky having recently announced a 4K compatible set-top box.

Utilizing AMD chips would also enable Sony to deliver backward compatibility in the PlayStation 5 from day one. This has been conspicuous by its absence in the previous console releases, with both Sony and Microsoft having been criticized for essentially condemning old games to the dustbin.

Shifting to the PlayStation 5 will certainly be a challenge for Sony, as the company will have to deal with a delicate balance. On the one hand, there are compelling reasons for Sony to release the PlayStation 5 as soon as possible, as it wants to get on board with new technology, and is simply unable to do so with the existing PlayStation 4 architecture.

Conversely, the PlayStation 4 certainly isn’t an ancient console. In fact, it really hasn’t been available for all that long in terms of the average console shelf life, and would usually be expected to remain a mainstream device until the end of the decade. Unfortunately, the pace of development in the console and the technology marketplace suggested that Sony will have to consider releasing the PlayStation 5 at an earlier point than previous console releases.

This has led to some media speculation that the PlayStation 4 and Xbox Two may both see the light of day in 2018. The PlayStation 4 architecture is already somewhat out of date, and there is little doubt that it will look rather ancient by the time that 2018 rolls round.

Sony has certainly seen off Microsoft in the existing console generation, and there is no doubt that the goodwill that Sony generated before the PlayStation 4 was even released played a major role in this process. Indeed, although the PlayStation 4 is also a technically superior console to the Xbox Two, and this has certainly been a source of media stories, the fact is that the public perception of the PlayStation 4 probably played the major role in its overwhelming success.

Market positioning

When the Japanese corporation releases the PlayStation 5, it will certainly not want to poison this well of positive feelings. Although Sony probably produced the superior console in the PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 generation, Microsoft got off to a massive headstart simply due to judging the market conditions wisely. Sony eventually caught up with the Xbox 360, but both companies will by now be acutely aware of striking the right note with console releases before they even hit the stores.

So several analysts are suggesting that Sony will unveil the PlayStation 5 in 2018 ahead of a release probably shortly before Christmas. This would indicate a shorter lifespan for the PlayStation 4 than previous console generations, which will mean that Sony has a tricky task in order to deal with the expectation of gamers.

However, video gaming has suddenly become an ever more enthusiastic marketplace over the last couple of decades, and even though the landscape of the contemporary market is more complex, Sony can probably rely on a lot of early PlayStation 5 adopters. Nonetheless, as Sony will be releasing the machine into a climate with a huge amount of competing technology, including mobile phone gaming, PCs, the Steam Box and other consoles, it is clear that the Japanese company will want to have everything perfect this time round.

ValueWalk has already reported that Sony appears to be recruiting programmers to work with an early prototype of the PlayStation 5, and it could be that when the system sees the light of day that it will spell the end for physical discs and media.