Console generations come and go, but one thing is certain. We haven’t seen the last of the new console release cycle. A new generation comes along and overlaps with the previous consoles for a while before the older models become obsolete, a rhythm that’s been pulsing away since even before the NES and Master System. The current generation has been in play since the announcement of the PS5 in 2019, and is currently in its prime. We know there will be another console generation, though. So what features would we like to see in the PlayStation 6?
We’re fairly sure Sony is working on something, as the Japanese electronics giant has already got trademarks registered all the way up to PlayStation 10. Consoles tend to be released around five years after the beginning of their development, and a 2021 job listing from Sony looking for someone to contribute “…to identifying and developing the technology portfolio of future PlayStation platforms” suggests we might see the console in 2026.
Specs: more of the same?
There are two likely directions the PlayStation 6 could go in. It needs to be a more powerful version of the PS5, just like the PS5 is of the PS4. That means a stronger APU chip from AMD, with faster processing cores and more graphics capabilities for better frame rates and more effects at 4K resolution.
We’d really like to see the PS6 nailing 4K/60fps. The current situation, where resolutions and frame rates can rise and fall depending on the needs of the game, is sub-optimal. Performance and quality modes muddy the waters of exactly what you’re going to get.
This approach would also mean more RAM and a larger SSD, possibly one that’s even faster than the best PCIe 4.0 drives the PS5 can use. Much was made about the speed of the PS5’s SSD at the console’s launch, with its ability to cut load times and generally introduce a lot of data to the console’s RAM much faster than a spinning hard drive ever could, so it’s likely this is one area the console designers will continue to push. PCIe 4.0 drives top out at around a 7 Gbps read speed, so equipping a putative PS6 with a PCIe 5.0 interface could see that double.
The benefits of this are that game developers could carry on using the development and compiling tools they’re currently using: taking account of changes in clock speed and graphics processing ability but not having to learn new ways of doing things. Sony’s developers are often able to wring extra performance out of PlayStation consoles, and everyone having more power to play with would make the next generation of games more realistic and spectacular.
GPUs have also become more important in computing in the past few years as they are the chips used to run AI and other machine learning models. The likelihood that these will be incorporated into future games is high, whether to provide natural dialogue on the fly, to create images according to the player’s actions, or as enemy generals to field your waves of tanks against, so we’d like to see a larger number of graphics cores on future consoles to do more than just push pixels.
Sony could go down the route it took for the PS2 and PS3 consoles, and create something with new custom processors unlike anything else on the market. This is less likely, as it would affect the development tools used by game makers.
The Cell processor in the PS3 had a reputation for being difficult to develop for. Its heterogeneous architecture meant it consisted of multiple different types of processing units, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. This made it difficult to write code that could efficiently use all of the available resources. The AMD chips used in the PS4 and PS5 don’t have this problem, and are similar enough to the chips used in PCs and the Xbox consoles to make developers’ lives easier.
Streaming: in the clouds
We’ve already seen digital-only consoles this generation, including the PS5 model with no disc drive. But what about a console that is purely online-only? Sony, Microsoft, Nvidia, Google and Amazon have already tried cloud gaming services where you use an app running on a tablet, laptop, TV or other device. Some are even in the controller themselves.
Switching the PS6 to be a streaming console is perhaps unlikely just now. The high-speed broadband infrastructure required to make it work isn’t quite there yet, but it’s something Sony might push harder in the future.
Handheld: on the go
There are also some possible futures for the PlayStation that are less likely. One is for Sony to go down the Nintendo route, and merge its home and portable console lines. We haven’t seen a PSP for a while, since the demise of Vita, so a Switch-like PlayStation could potentially fill that gap.
Playstation Portal, a handheld device announced at 2023’s PlayStation Showcase, looks like somebody cut a DualSense controller in half and whacked an iPad in the gap. It streams games over Wi-Fi from your PS5 using the Remote Play ability. This is a really interesting way to decouple the PS5 from the TV, and something we’d like to see taken further with PS6.
Whichever path Sony decides to take, we’ll certainly be seeing a PlayStation 6 sometime in the next ten years. The only thing that’s certain is that video games will continue to be a huge deal in the entertainment industry.