For a long time now, we’ve been hearing about SSD (solid-state drives) being the biggest leap going into the next generation of consoles. Both Microsoft and Sony will both have them in the Xbox Series X and PS5 respectively, but Sony’s Mark Cerny has talked about special architecture on the PS5 SSD that makes it more than a simple off-the-shelf solid-state hard drive. Today’s reveal of the Unreal Engine 5 running a real-time gameplay tech demo on the PS5 prompted Epic CEO Tim Sweeney to comment on Sony’s unique PS5 SSD, saying that the storage solution is best-in class, both on consoles and high-end PCs.
Sweeney made the statement in an interview with Geoff Keighley after showcasing the new engine today:
Sony’s storage system is absolutely world-class. Not only the best-in-class on console, but also the best on any platform, better than high-end PCs. This is going to enable the types of immersion we only could have dreamed of in the past. The world of loading screens is over. The days of pop-in and geometry popping up as your going through these game environments are ended.
Additionally, Epic has been working closely with Sony, reiterating the point in a press briefing while saying that PC SSDs are going to need to catch up with what Sony is doing. The Verge reported Sweeneys quote:
We’ve been working super close with Sony for quite a long time on storage. The storage architecture on the PS5 is far ahead of anything you can buy on anything on PC for any amount of money right now. It’s going to help drive future PCs. [The PC market is] going to see this thing ship and say, ‘Oh wow, SSDs are going to need to catch up with this.’
The key factor is not the speed or size of the drive, but the custom way in which Sony has engineered the drive to access data and assign priorities. Epic Games has been developing Unreal Engine 5 alongside the development of the PlayStation 5 and its SSD, working closely with Sony to optimize its next-gen engine not just in theory, but in practice on the hardware it will be running games on. The result is the PS5 gameplay tech demo we were able to see earlier today, an impressive—if aspirational—showcase of what’s possible when developers lean into these features.
We know a little bit about the onboard PS5 SSD, such as its relatively small size (only 825 GB) and the fact that a solid-state solution can lead to massively reduced file sizes by eliminating asset duplication common on disk-based drives. Developers have been vaguely praising the PS5 SSD for nearly a year now, since Sony first started talking about it in April 2019, but this stamp of approval from industry vet Tim Sweeney is perhaps one of the strongest pieces of evidence we have for just how much this little piece of hardware is going to fundamentally change next-gen gaming.
While consoles typically lag behind high-end PC gaming, it’s interesting to see the dynamic shift, especially because consoles provide a guaranteed benchmark and base specs that all players will have, requiring less optimization of multiple different components in the way PC games do. It can also do those special things with its drive and architecture that unlock doors and smooth road bumps, apparently surpassing anything on the PC market today.
Sony has yet to really come out and start talking about the PS5 yet. It’s still in the midst of marketing its final two big PlayStation 4 exclusives (The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima) but recent reports say the company is getting ready for a big unveiling early next month, finally showing off the full console, price, and release date, which is still on track for holiday 2020.