I'm really feeling it!
I'm really feeling it!
Illustration for article titled The State of Next Generation

The year is 2020, and we are on the cusp of the ninth generation of console gaming. All the big console makers have been playing their cards close to their chests, trying not to reveal too much information, but drip feeding details as necessary. The point of this article is to gather together all the information that has been officially announced about these companies next generation offerings, and to flesh them out using the rumors/leaks that have appeared over the years(And they will be marked as such so you know what is and is not official information.).

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Sony: The PlayStation 5

A mock-up of the PlayStation 5 dev-kit, which is not indicative of the final retail design.
A mock-up of the PlayStation 5 dev-kit, which is not indicative of the final retail design.
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What we do know:

- The console’s name is the PlayStation 5, surprising no one.

- It will sport a Zen 2 8-core/16-thread CPU.

- It will have an RDNA Navi GPU(RDNA1 or RDNA2 is unknown, but the ray tracing cores suggest RDNA2).

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- The system will use GDDR6 memory, replacing the PlayStation 4/PlayStation 4 Pro’s GDDR5 memory and skipping GDDR5X memory completely.

- It will use a custom Solid State Drive to significantly decrease loading times for games, with the example given being 0.8 seconds in Marvel’s Spider-Man compared to the PS4/PS4 Pro’s 8 or more seconds.

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- It will feature support for 3D audio which was also hinted to have ray tracing applications.

- The system will support hardware ray tracing.

- The PlayStation 5 will have support for screen resolutions up to 8K(7680 × 4320).

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- The first officially confirmed exclusive title for the console is “Godfall” developed by Gearbox Software.

- The PlayStation 5 is backwards compatible with PlayStation 4 software.

- The PlayStation 5 will release in Holiday 2020

What we don’t know:

- While we know the system will have a Zen 2 CPU, we don’t know it’s exact specifications. Rumors have circulated that it’s clock speed is around 3.2Ghz, which would be 1.1Ghz faster than the PlayStation 4 Pro’s 2.1Ghz Jaguar CPU, and 1.5Ghz faster than the PlayStation 4's 1.7Ghz Jaguar CPU.

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- We don’t know the clock speeds of the systems Navi-based GPU. All the rumors have pointed to a speed of 2Ghz, a decent increase over the PS4 Pro’s 911Mhz and the base PS4's 800Mhz. It is also speculated to run at 9.2TFLOPs, compared to the PS4 Pro’s 4.1TFLOPs and the base PS4's 1.8TFLOPs.

- We don’t know how much RAM the PlayStation 5 will be sporting upon release, however rumors have suggested somewhere between 8GB and 12GB of GDDR6 memory. The earliest rumors suggested higher amounts such as 16GB to 24GB. For comparisons sake, the PlayStation 4 sported 8GB of GDDR5 memory, only 4GB of which was for gaming while the remaining 4GB was used for the OS and other non-gaming functions. Over time Sony freed up an addition 500MB, raising the number of game usable RAM to 4.5GB. The PlayStation 4 Pro added 1GB of additional memory which was intended for gaming, raising the total RAM to 9GB with 5.5GB available to games and 3.5GB available for other functions. This makes the 12GB estimate for PS5 more logical as it would allow for 4GB of OS RAM while still leaving a decent 8GB for gaming.

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- While the DualShock 5 has been officially acknowledge, it has not been shown off or talked about. Leaked patents suggest the removal of the light bar and the touchpad in favor of another function similar to the touchpad, as well as new back buttons and the removal of the home button.

- Sony has not officially given a price for the platform, however given the failure of the $600 PlayStation 3 and Sony’s unwillingness to push further with the PS4 Pro’s power to hit a $400 target, it is likely that the system will cost between $400 to $500 which is a bargain given the specifications. Rumors also suggest these two price points as the main possibilities.

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- Sony has not confirmed any backwards compatibility beyond PlayStation 4 titles, however rumors suggest that Sony has figured out how to emulate PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and PlayStation 3 titles for the next generation system.

Microsoft: The XBOX

The retail design of the Xbox Series X home console and its new XBOX controller.
The retail design of the Xbox Series X home console and its new XBOX controller.
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What we do know:

- The official name of Microsoft’s next generation home console is simply “XBOX”, with Series X actually being the specific model in this new XBOX family. To be more specific, Series X is the next generation machine formerly referred to as “Anaconda” in leaks, the premium high end machine.

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- The system will sport a Zen 2 8-core/16-thread CPU.

- The system will have an RDNA2 Navi GPU.

- The XBOX will support hardware ray tracing.

- The console will support up to 8K(7680 × 4320) screen resolution.

- The system will use a custom Solid State Drive to dramatically decrease loading times. Microsoft has also said that it can be used as Virtual RAM if necessary.

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- The consoles RAM will be upgraded to GDDR6, replacing the 8GB of DDR3 RAM and 32MB esRAM combination of the original Xbox One and Xbox One S, and the 12GB of GDDR5 RAM used for the Xbox One X.

- While physically larger than the original Xbox One, it will run just as quiet, if not quieter, than the Xbox One X. The systems size is due to the cooling solution.

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- All Xbox One games will be playable on the new XBOX, and all Xbox One Backwards Compatibility titles will be playable on the new XBOX on day one.

- All Xbox One controllers will work with the new XBOX, while the new XBOX controller will also work with Xbox One consoles.

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- Halo Infinite will release on the same day as the XBOX, but is not exclusive to the system, also releasing on Xbox One and PC.

- Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is the second confirmed XBOX title, but unlike Halo Infinite, it is exclusive to the XBOX console while also being released on PC, but has no current release date.

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- The XBOX, or more specifically the Series X model, is slated to release in Holiday 2020.

- The system can be stood up vertically or laid down horizontally.

What we don’t know:

- While Microsoft has confirmed the type of CPU it will be using, it has not given exact specifications. Rumors suggest that the CPU will be largely identical to the PlayStation 5 with a 3.2Ghz clock speed, a 900Mhz improvement over the Xbox One X’s Jaguar Evolved CPU which ran at 2.3Ghz, and an improvement of 1.5Ghz over the Xbox One’s 1.7Ghz Jaguar CPU.

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- Microsoft’s next generation machine is confirmed to be using an RDNA2 GPU, in other words, a 2020 model of AMD’s Navi architecture. However, no exact specifications were given. Rumors suggest that it will be capable of 12TFLOPs, compared to the Xbox One X’s 6TFLOPs, and the Xbox One’s 1.3TFLOPs of compute performance. In terms of speed it can supposedly hit clocks of up to 1700Mhz, compared to the Xbox One X’s 1172Mhz and the Xbox One’s 853Mhz(Boosted to 914Mhz in the Xbox One S).

- The XBOX will use GDDR6 however how much was not stated. Rumors currently speculate that the system could have as much as 12GB, which would be equivalent to the Xbox One X. However, due to generational leap in hardware, the XBOX Series X can pull more from the same amount. Not only that, but the Xbox One X has never been utilized to its fullest due to being attached to the Xbox One S. The XBOX Series X has no such attachment, and as a result, the full power of the RAM can be utilized. The Xbox One X had 9GB of RAM available to games with 3GB utilized for the OS. I would expect a similar result should these rumors prove true. Older rumors suggested RAM totals of 16GB to 24GB.

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- While the XBOX Series X model is the only confirmed model, rumors have long suggested that Microsoft has been developing a second entry level model codenamed “Lockhart” which would have reduced specs and as a result a reduced price. The console was reportedly scrapped last year before being resurrected prior to the end of 2019, likely to offset the Series X high price tag.

- Microsoft has not given an official price for the Series X model, however rumors currently put it at no less than $500 with estimates of $600 to $700 also being tossed around due to the state of the art hardware it’s sporting.

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Nintendo: The Switch 2(?)

Not an official image in any sense, also not mine.
Not an official image in any sense, also not mine.
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The Nintendo Switch 2/Pro is the oddity on this list because it hasn’t been officially announced by Nintendo. As a result, confirmed details are scarce. However, there is no doubt that such a device exists based on what information we do have that isn’t just rumor.

What we do know:

- Sharp has entered into a partnership with Nintendo to produce their new IGZO displays for as yet unannounced device. Before anyone suggests that such a display was used for either the Switch Lite or the revised Switch, teardowns have revealed that it is in fact not. Thus, this high end display is intended for something else, presumably something that would make far better use of its capabilities.

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- The confirmation of a screen also confirms that the device will be yet another handheld, not a standalone home console.

- Nintendo was looking to hire someone with experience using the Lumberyard and CryEngine game engines, which are not supported by the current Nintendo Switch models. These engines are notorious for their performance issues and high power requirements, implying that whatever device Nintendo is looking to add support for is more powerful than any of its existing iterations.

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- Nintendo was looking to hire programmers to create a new operating system, yet again suggesting they are developing a new device that is not a refresh of existing hardware.

- The codename of the next generation Nintendo Switch is likely to be either “Thor”, “Baldur”, or “Vali.” This naming scheme was revealed when Youtubers did a teardown of the Switch Lite and revised OG Switch. The original Switch had the name “ODIN” on the motherboard while its revised model is simply “MODIN” standing for Modified ODIN. The Switch Lite was “LOKI.” If Nintendo continues with this scheme then the next Switch will be named after another son of Odin. While Loki was not technically a son of Odin, he was adopted by Odin.

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What we don’t know/has been rumored:

- The Nintendo Switch has built in Wi-Fi support, however new standards have released since the orignal model hit the market, namely Wi-Fi 6. It would make sense to upgrade the latest model with this latest standard for the best compatibility. There were rumors, long since buried, that stated as much.

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- The original Nintendo Switch uses 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 3GB of which is available for games. Both LPDDR4X and LPDRR5 have been released in the last few years. It would make sense for Nintendo to upgrade to either of these new RAM standards for a next generation machine, and rumors state as much, even going so far as to suggest it could sport as much as 8GB to 12GB of LPDDR5.

- Rumors for the Nintendo Switch Pro go back years, its existence being rumored even before the original model released. The latest of which state that this new model will finally release between March 2020 and Spring 2021 after having been in development for years. UPDATE 1/6/2020: Fresh rumors hot off the press specify a Summer 2020 release date with mass production already in the early stages.

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- The latest rumors suggest the price will be around $400. This would create a three-pronged strategy from Nintendo with the handheld-only child-friendly model at $200, the base full Switch model at $300, and the advanced enthusiast model at $400. Basically, pick your poison based on what’s important to you and pay accordingly.

- Those same rumors also suggest that the new Switch will support 4K resolutions, however the extent of which is not mentioned. Speculation suggests that given the power of the console is unlikely to exceed that of the base PlayStation 4, the 4K support is likely limited to TV/movie streaming services, Youtube, and game upscaling. That last one would be very welcome considering using my Switch on my 4K LG OLED produces mixed results, and native upscaling could help alleviate that. Sharp’s IGZO display could also enable HDR support for on the go play, which in turn would mean HDR support on any television that supports it(HDR is not a 4K exclusive feature, it’s merely bundled with 4K as a selling point.).

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- It is rumored that the Switch Pro/2 will receive exclusive third party games. The first rumored title for the system is Resident Evil 2 Remake. This rumor dates back to around January 2019 at least. The latest fan speculation is that both Red Dead Redemption 2 and Cyberpunk 2077 for Switch could be real, but only for this next generation Switch which would be far more capable and easier to port to. Nintendo first party titles however would continue to be released on all Switch platforms and it would be backwards compatible with all currently released Switch games.

- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2(Name not official) is rumored to be a launch title for the system, if not at least developed with it in mind.

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- Retro Studios recently hired a Lead External Environment Artist whose most recent projects include Crysis 2, Crysis 3, Ryse: Son of Rome, and Homefront: The Revolution, all of which are CryEngine games, lending credence to Nintendo’s job listings suggesting CryEngine support for an unannounced console, and also implying Metroid Prime 4 is being developed on CryEngine or some variation of it due to the fact it will presumably also run on the older Switch models which lack CryEngine support. If not, it would be the first Switch 2/Pro exclusive title from Nintendo.

- Putting this here since it’s not official confirmation of the systems existence from Nintendo, but when asked about the Switch Pro in Summer 2019, Nintendo President Shuntaro Furukawa declined to comment saying it would ruin the surprise. He was not referring to the Switch Lite or revised Switch.

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- The latest rumors suggest that not only is Nintendo upgrading to a better CPU with this model, but they are also exchanging the plastic casing of the console for a new magnesium alloy casing.

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