Sony is looking into ways to make it easier for players to move between the PlayStation 4 and the next-generation PlayStation console.
In an interview with CNET, PlayStation president and CEO Jim Ryan said the company will offer a means of “cross-generational play” to ensure users can carry over game progress between consoles.
“Whether it’s backward compatibility or the possibility of cross-generational play, we’ll be able to transition that community to next-gen,” he said. “It won’t be a binary choice about whether you have to be either on PlayStation 4 or next-gen to continue your friendship.”
Sony confirmed in April that the PlayStation 5 will support backward compatibility, which will give it the ability to play PS4 games natively. By contrast, the PlayStation 4 did not offer this feature for games on its PlayStation 3 predecessor.
Ryan, who became PlayStation CEO in April, still wouldn’t confirm if the next PlayStation system will indeed be called the PlayStation 5, as many are expecting. Ryan also wouldn’t speak to the company’s plans for PlayStation VR, although Sony did confirm in April that the PS5 will support the VR device.
However, Ryan did speak more broadly about Sony’s plans for the PlayStation 4 and its next-generation successor.
Doubling down on streaming, but not giving up on dedicated hardware
To start, Ryan confirmed that the PS5 will feature a custom-designed SSD storage drive, which is a first for a PlayStation console. Further, Ryan said the system will offer ultra-high definition 4K visuals at 120Hz.
Ryan also reiterated Sony’s commitment to growing its game streaming efforts on PS5. Although the PlayStation 4 has offered the PlayStation Now streaming service for several years, Ryan admitted room for improvement.
“I think maybe we’ve been a bit guilty of not talking about it enough. Now we’re in 19 countries, we have 170 publishers on board, 780 games in the [United] States,” Ryan told CNET. “We’ve actually achieved a lot, and probably a lot more than people realize. And our intent is to build on those learnings and really look to try to take PlayStation Now to the next level later this year and then in the years to come.”
As part of those efforts, Sony recently teamed up with Microsoft on various streaming, gaming and AI initiatives, which Ryan said will ultimately benefit PlayStation Now.
While on that subject, CNET mentioned that gaming is slowly transitioning away from hardware to streaming-based platforms, such as Microsoft’s Project xCloud and Google Stadia. CNET then asked Ryan about his thoughts on a “console-less world.”
Ryan noted that the future is often hard to predict, but stressed that “Sony believe[s] that there is a great market for a next-generation console.” To that point, he mentioned that the console world won’t suddenly go away in a short period of time.
“Any transition will be steady and gradual. I’ve built PlayStation businesses all around the world. I can tell you about the infrastructure in some of the parts of the world where we have very, very large businesses, and they will not be conducive to, you know, an entirely streaming model for years and years and years,” said Ryan.
Even when consoles do eventually become obsolete, Ryan says Sony will continue to focus on three core pillars. “Our enduring strengths [are]: Exclusive games, the brand and the community we have who we’re very humbled by the trust of the level of engagement they have with us.”
Ryan wouldn’t say when Sony will reveal more about the PS5 or when it will release, although it is expected to launch in late 2020. According to Ryan, Sony will talk more about the system once development kits are in the hands of more game makers.
“This is just the start of the unveil process,” promised Ryan.