The PS5’s SSD could spell doom for next-gen PC game ports

VaLLiancE

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There's a chance the console's SSD could be a boon to PC gamers, but equally it might mean we're only seen as a last-gen platform



PCIe SSD growth



Next year is going to be a big one for gamers of all shapes and allegiances. No matter whether you’re a PC gamer, an Xbox fanboi, or a ‘for the players’ PlayStation aficionado, the gaming landscape is going to change with a whole new generation of consoles hitting the market in less than 12 months time.
However you feel about consoles, it’s impossible to deny the limited li’l boxes will have an impact on the PC platform. But it’s probably one of the least sexy new components being dropped into the new game boxes that could end up having the biggest impact on PC gaming… the SSD. And we’re not yet sure whether that will be for good or ill.
We’ve had solid state drives in gaming PCs for years now, so the fact that the consoles are only just catching up might not seem like such a big deal. But with the console-first development strategy of a vast number of game developers, this could be the first time that games across all platforms will be created with the speed and responsiveness of a high-end SSD as a given. And that could mean great things for us PC gamers who have been rocking the so solid state for an age… but equally could result in another round of console ports treating the poor PC like a last-gen device.

We now know that both the Sony PlayStation 5 and the Microsoft Xbox Series X will contain an SSD, and very likely a speedy NVMe PCIe-based one plumbed into the mainboard itself. For its part Microsoft hasn’t really given much in the way of detail about its plan for the Series X’s SSD beyond the optimistic assertion that “our next-generation SSD will virtually eliminate load times and bring players into their gaming worlds faster than ever before.”
That’s what Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, is claiming anyways.



On the Sony side it has been far more forthcoming, with Mark Cerny announcing that “it has a raw bandwidth higher than any SSD available for PCs.” and that the introduction of the SSD would be “the key to the next generation.”

Sony has even gone as far as to demonstrate the potential of its new storage device with a side-by-side comparison of of a PS4 Pro and an early “low-speed” PS5 dev kit with an SSD in it. Using the fast-travelling load times of the PlayStation-exclusive Spider-Man Sony has shown a reduction in load times from 15 seconds on the PS4 Pro to just 0.8 seconds on the early dev kit.

“The raw read speed is important,” says Cerny, “but so are the details of the I/O mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them. I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and then I put in a SSD that cost as much as the PlayStation 4 Pro – it might be one-third faster.”

So it’s not just a case of Sony dropping a standard solid state drive into the same SATA interface it’s used for console hard drives. That’s what’s pointing to Sony using the PCIe interface to handle I/O and the NVMe protocol as the advanced software stack taking full advantage of the extra bandwidth on offer.


It’s more than likely going to be the same situation on the Microsoft Xbox Series X side, with the company using essentially the same semi-custom AMD silicon heart for its console. Which means developers creating games for both platforms will now have a far higher target for minimum storage performance for their games.

And that could, and should mean greater detail in broad, open-world games, with little to no loading into areas. The games should then be able to seamlessly stream in new gameworld assets as the player moves through the world no matter how fast they move around it. For people rocking NVMe SSDs in their PCs that ought to also mean that same level of performance will be visible to them too.

But it also means that PC gamers still sporting hard drives, and also potentially those on SATA-based SSDs, will find they can’t keep up with the new standard in open world gaming brought about by the next-gen consoles.

But what should benefit all SSD users on PC is the extra efficiency afforded to devs knowing that the target platform is using solid state rather than spinning platters. “Rather than treating games like a big block of data,” Cerny tells Wired, “we’re allowing finer-grained access to the data.”


Which means that install sizes could be more optimised if the devs are aiming for an SSD rather than a hard drive. At the moment devs often duplicate regularly accessed game data across an install to make it quicker and easier for a read head to grab the data from a spinning platter. That’s unnecessary on an SSD, meaning installs for next-gen consoles will look markedly different from those created for the last-gen machines… or for PCs with hard drives. And that could end up being an issue itself.

The problem is that, despite a drop in SSD pricing, there are still a whole lot of hard drives still out there in PC land. That means a lot of cross platform game developers will still be looking to target those spinning platters because of the broad HDD install base in PC gaming.


And that could hold back the PC being seen as a next-gen compatible gaming platform by devs targeting the lowest common tech denominator. That might see us getting the s***ty end of the console port stick once again, with the PC versions being more akin to PS4 or Xbox One versions of a game rather than high-end PS5 or Series X iterations.

We could get lucky and there’ll be SSD and HDD installs of PC ports, but that would require some effort from the developers and that level of expectation is always dangerous…
 

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There's a chance the console's SSD could be a boon to PC gamers, but equally it might mean we're only seen as a last-gen platform



PCIe SSD growth



Next year is going to be a big one for gamers of all shapes and allegiances. No matter whether you’re a PC gamer, an Xbox fanboi, or a ‘for the players’ PlayStation aficionado, the gaming landscape is going to change with a whole new generation of consoles hitting the market in less than 12 months time.
However you feel about consoles, it’s impossible to deny the limited li’l boxes will have an impact on the PC platform. But it’s probably one of the least sexy new components being dropped into the new game boxes that could end up having the biggest impact on PC gaming… the SSD. And we’re not yet sure whether that will be for good or ill.
We’ve had solid state drives in gaming PCs for years now, so the fact that the consoles are only just catching up might not seem like such a big deal. But with the console-first development strategy of a vast number of game developers, this could be the first time that games across all platforms will be created with the speed and responsiveness of a high-end SSD as a given. And that could mean great things for us PC gamers who have been rocking the so solid state for an age… but equally could result in another round of console ports treating the poor PC like a last-gen device.

We now know that both the Sony PlayStation 5 and the Microsoft Xbox Series X will contain an SSD, and very likely a speedy NVMe PCIe-based one plumbed into the mainboard itself. For its part Microsoft hasn’t really given much in the way of detail about its plan for the Series X’s SSD beyond the optimistic assertion that “our next-generation SSD will virtually eliminate load times and bring players into their gaming worlds faster than ever before.”
That’s what Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, is claiming anyways.



On the Sony side it has been far more forthcoming, with Mark Cerny announcing that “it has a raw bandwidth higher than any SSD available for PCs.” and that the introduction of the SSD would be “the key to the next generation.”

Sony has even gone as far as to demonstrate the potential of its new storage device with a side-by-side comparison of of a PS4 Pro and an early “low-speed” PS5 dev kit with an SSD in it. Using the fast-travelling load times of the PlayStation-exclusive Spider-Man Sony has shown a reduction in load times from 15 seconds on the PS4 Pro to just 0.8 seconds on the early dev kit.

“The raw read speed is important,” says Cerny, “but so are the details of the I/O mechanisms and the software stack that we put on top of them. I got a PlayStation 4 Pro and then I put in a SSD that cost as much as the PlayStation 4 Pro – it might be one-third faster.”

So it’s not just a case of Sony dropping a standard solid state drive into the same SATA interface it’s used for console hard drives. That’s what’s pointing to Sony using the PCIe interface to handle I/O and the NVMe protocol as the advanced software stack taking full advantage of the extra bandwidth on offer.


It’s more than likely going to be the same situation on the Microsoft Xbox Series X side, with the company using essentially the same semi-custom AMD silicon heart for its console. Which means developers creating games for both platforms will now have a far higher target for minimum storage performance for their games.

And that could, and should mean greater detail in broad, open-world games, with little to no loading into areas. The games should then be able to seamlessly stream in new gameworld assets as the player moves through the world no matter how fast they move around it. For people rocking NVMe SSDs in their PCs that ought to also mean that same level of performance will be visible to them too.

But it also means that PC gamers still sporting hard drives, and also potentially those on SATA-based SSDs, will find they can’t keep up with the new standard in open world gaming brought about by the next-gen consoles.

But what should benefit all SSD users on PC is the extra efficiency afforded to devs knowing that the target platform is using solid state rather than spinning platters. “Rather than treating games like a big block of data,” Cerny tells Wired, “we’re allowing finer-grained access to the data.”


Which means that install sizes could be more optimised if the devs are aiming for an SSD rather than a hard drive. At the moment devs often duplicate regularly accessed game data across an install to make it quicker and easier for a read head to grab the data from a spinning platter. That’s unnecessary on an SSD, meaning installs for next-gen consoles will look markedly different from those created for the last-gen machines… or for PCs with hard drives. And that could end up being an issue itself.

The problem is that, despite a drop in SSD pricing, there are still a whole lot of hard drives still out there in PC land. That means a lot of cross platform game developers will still be looking to target those spinning platters because of the broad HDD install base in PC gaming.


And that could hold back the PC being seen as a next-gen compatible gaming platform by devs targeting the lowest common tech denominator. That might see us getting the s***ty end of the console port stick once again, with the PC versions being more akin to PS4 or Xbox One versions of a game rather than high-end PS5 or Series X iterations.

We could get lucky and there’ll be SSD and HDD installs of PC ports, but that would require some effort from the developers and that level of expectation is always dangerous…
Who wrote this? Wired?
 

VaLLiancE

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Here is the deal....
PC players that rock normal hard drives a la 5200rpm and 7200rpm are going to have issues.

All other PC players with NVMe storage and fast SSDs will be fine.

The death of PCs has been foretold since the PS1. Still hasn't happened. Call me when it does.
The gameplay will be made around the faster drives.
Not going to work unless they want measly amounts of people buying/playing.
 

The Living Tribunal

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Hopefully soon these console devs cut the umbilical of the PC so we can get the better GAMEPLAY advantages of these faster drives(ie better use than loading levels like they are used for on PC)
Never going to happen.
Why?
Because the PC hardware space will ALWAYS be on the cutting edge of gaming graphics and gameplay before consoles get there. 4K, VR, resolution scaling, and every graphics effect known all started first on PC. This goes along with storage.
Consoles might catch up or even get ahead a little bit ( like the 360) but when you have 5 or even 7 years between each console generation PC will always catch up and overtake during that timeframe. Period.
 
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VaLLiancE

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Never going to happen.
Why?
Because the PC hardware space will ALWAYS be on the cutting edge of gaming graphics and gameplay before consoles get there. 4K, VR, resolution scaling, and every graphics effect known all started first on PC. This goes along with storage.
Consoles might catch up or even get ahead a little bit ( like the 360) but when you have 5 or even 7 years between each console generation PC will always catch up and overtake during that timeframe. Period.
When and if 3rd parties do this it changes everything.
Consoles will have the edge this isn't the same as things offered in the past.

I seriously don't see 3rd parties alienating the people which is likely most PC gamers who have mechanical drives or slower SSD drives and making nvme/SSD combo the minimum.
 

DarkPassenger

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No sweat. Next Gen consoles will be sporting SSDs with speeds that surpass any SSD available today in the market. But...that will change quick, fast and in a hurry. I wonder how the new consoles SSDs will stack up against this new badboy?

Samsung reveals its 980 Pro PCIe Gen4 SSD with 6,500MB/s read speeds - CES 2020

 

VaLLiancE

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No sweat. Next Gen consoles will be sporting SSDs with speeds that surpass any SSD available today in the market. But...that will change quick, fast and in a hurry. I wonder how the new consoles SSDs will stack up against this new badboy?

Samsung reveals its 980 Pro PCIe Gen4 SSD with 6,500MB/s read speeds - CES 2020

The next gen games can use the extra speed for improvements in gameplay.
This won't happen on the PC no matter how fast the drives get.
Maybe by next gen enough PC gamers will own this setup to match/surpass these consoles but right now it's super niche.
 

GeorgeSoros

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I saw you linked to this thread. Yeah, now that we know what the specs are some of the posts in this thread have been proven false. The Xbox has a top speed Nvme and their target for game loads is around 8 seconds. For the PS5 the target is 0.5 to 1 second.

Basically no loading times.

Both consoles have customized decompression hardware as well as other customized hardware for reading data off the drive. So there is no way to replicate console ssd performance on a PC. They were talking about ASCII, but no developer will support that on the PC.

I remember listening to Red Gaming Tech say that the cost for Sony and MS to produce a 1TB SSD is only $20. That's an incredible advantage over PC gamers having to build their own rigs.
 

OneBadMutha

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Here is the deal....
PC players that rock normal hard drives a la 5200rpm and 7200rpm are going to have issues.

All other PC players with NVMe storage and fast SSDs will be fine.

The death of PCs has been foretold since the PS1. Still hasn't happened. Call me when it does.
Don't all SSD's have scratch pads in them? SSD's on PC have been grossly under-used in games because not enough of the overall AAA gaming community had them. Now devs can use them beyond loading times. Yes PC gamers will need to upgrade to SSDs if they don't have them but most PC gamers with mid to high end rigs already have them.
 

starseeker

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The SSD is cloud 2.0?

Also, I heard the next-gen console will be better than PC since before Spice girls met at audit.
 

GeorgeSoros

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At the very least developers will eventually make a SATA SSD a part of the minimum specs on the PC side just to keep the size of the game install down. Otherwise, if they continue making games on the PC with HDD in mind game installs could end up being much larger on PC.

The SSD is cloud 2.0?

Also, I heard the next-gen console will be better than PC since before Spice girls met at audit.
The PS5 SSD is definitely no pie in the sky stuff.


Cerny is an entirely different beast compared to the joker who ran the Xbox division in 2013, Don Mattrick.

Don't all SSD's have scratch pads in them? SSD's on PC have been grossly under-used in games because not enough of the overall AAA gaming community had them. Now devs can use them beyond loading times. Yes PC gamers will need to upgrade to SSDs if they don't have them but most PC gamers with mid to high end rigs already have them.
Well, he's talking about an NVME. That means you need an M.2 slot, so some people will need to upgrade their motherboard. A lot of people have slower Sata SSDs.

A 1TB M.2 nvme right now is cheap enough, but the PS5 has a lot of custom hardware that gets them to those half second load times. You are not going to get that on PC.

Most pc gamers don't even have midrange rigs. I wouldn't necessarily say that these gamers wouldn't have an SSD, but they don't have the space on their drive to put every new game on. That means less sales on PC for every new game. At some point developers might not see the benefit of having to down scale games to PC hardware when the sales numbers are dwindling.

Funny thing with me. I had a cheap 500gb M.2 Nvme picked out to add to my rig and somehow I ended up mixing it up with an M.2 sata at the last minute, same brand and everything.
 
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hrudey

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A 1TB M.2 nvme right now is cheap enough, but the PS5 has a lot of custom hardware that gets them to those half second load times. You are not going to get that on PC.
A 1TB NVME is *not* cheap, either, at least if you're actually going to get a PCI 4.0 one.

But they are freaking awesome.
 
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GeorgeSoros

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Funny with all this talk about the PS5's super fast ssd I forgot all about Microsoft's velocity architecture. So using the SSD as VRAM is a standard across both consoles.
 

Two Pennys Worth

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Funny with all this talk about the PS5's super fast ssd I forgot all about Microsoft's velocity architecture. So using the SSD as VRAM is a standard across both consoles.
Yes. Which we knew about the day before the Sony press conference via the digital foundry video. It was one of the things I’m most excited for.
 

eVo7

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A 1TB NVME is *not* cheap, either, at least if you're actually going to get a PCI 4.0 one.

But they are freaking awesome.
At the moment those really aren't needed for gamers, in fact NVME drives for games offer very little to no benefit in game loading times compared to their SATA counterparts.
 
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GeorgeSoros

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At the moment those really aren't needed for gamers, in fact NVME drives for games offer very little to no benefit in game loading times compared to their SATA counterparts.
Wow, I was just mulling over replacing this M.2 SATA trying to find a compatible enclosure to convert it to a 2.5 INCH so it doesn't go wasted. You saved me some time, thank you.
 

eVo7

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Wow, I was just mulling over replacing this M.2 SATA trying to find a compatible enclosure to convert it to a 2.5 INCH so it doesn't go wasted. You saved me some time, thank you.
Here's a video to back my statement. Ironically this video features the same Samsung drives I have in my machine. There was maybe 2 games out of like 10 that had any significant benefit. Personally I think it's a great thing consoles are coming factory with SSD's, maybe that means that ports will now actually take advantage of NVMe drives.

 
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hrudey

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Here's a video to back my statement. Ironically this video features the same Samsung drives I have in my machine. There was maybe 2 games out of like 10 that had any significant benefit. Personally I think it's a great thing consoles are coming factory with SSD's, maybe that means that ports will now actually take advantage of NVMe drives.

Yeah, the gaming benefits are not all that. Fortunately (or, really, not) most of my time on my PC is development work, and I generally build for an 8 year lifespan. The fact that I splurged on a gpu this time is nice though.
 
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starseeker

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If XB champion edition or whatever the name is not designed with SSD in mind, as well, then I don't see many 3rd party dev design games with SSD in mind.

More so if PS5 is not the runaway leader.

I think the hype of SSD is over the top. It seems like Sony's "power of the cloud" or "direct X 12".
 

GeorgeSoros

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On The PS5's SSD:

Just to show you how impressive the SSD is - No consumer SSD on PC will be able to match or exceed its raw speed (5.5 GBps) for another year or so. No consumer SSD on PC will be able to match its compressed speed (8-9 GBps) until the next revision of PCIE gets adopted by manufactures (which will happen many years from now) or until a CPU manufacturer implements a dedicated hardware decompressor in its processor (which is extremely unlikely to happen). No consumer SSD on PC will be able to match its performance in games because the storage interface that Sony has built for its SSD is better than the NVME spec that is standard on PC.

...

Because the City is so detailed and large, with a large number of NPCs each with their own dialogue and music, the data for the city cannot exist in system memory at the same time as the data for the rest of the game world. So when you're walking towards the city the game is dumping all the data for the open world and loading the data for the city, but since HDDs are slow, the bridge has to be longer and the elevators have to be taller to ensure that the game has enough time to load the city. They also have to put in place artificial limits - for example Aloy's running speed when she is on the bridge is slower than when she is out in the open world and she cannot ride a mount (the game's controllable robot horses) into the city because it would be too fast (this is also why you cannot ride a horse into Athens in Assassins Creed Odyssey).

...

With the PS5's SSD, Sony wants everything to happen in a snap, they want things to be immediate, they want you to be able to ride a flying robot dinosaur into a large city, shoot some unruly robot in the face with an arrow, then mount a horse-like robot and exit the city at breakneck speed towards your next objective, all without artificially stopping you in your tracks, without making you walk across long bridges or wait through a long elevator ride. They want loading times to be 1 second, not 10 seconds. They want you to be able to get back to playing again after dying without having to look at 'tips' for 2 minutes. They want your fast travel subway rides across New York to be over in 1 second, not 3 minutes. It might not seem much to you now, but once you experience that sense of immediacy, of things happening instantly, going back to anything that isn't this, that is slower, is going to be annoying. - Found By JINCA
hrudey - Here is your answer for what Sony plans on doing with that extra SSD speed.

Yeah, the gaming benefits are not all that. Fortunately (or, really, not) most of my time on my PC is development work, and I generally build for an 8 year lifespan. The fact that I splurged on a gpu this time is nice though.
I remember somebody here saying they just upgraded to an RTX 2070 after 8-years. I heard a lot of stories like that on the Bethesda forums and Reddit when we were complaining about Fallout 76's performance.

SD in mind, as well, then I don't see many 3rd party dev design games with SSD in mind.

More so if PS5 is not the runaway leader.
First thing developers will do is throw up the $300 Lockhart in gamers' faces when they complain about the SSD requirements. There's really no way around it.

Without artificial limits in place many AAA games won't be playable on an HDD at all. Horizon Zero Dawn 2 will probably set the standard. The lead producer of Beyond Good & Evil 2 went on record saying he wanted to make use of SSDs for instant transitions. UBIsoft won't pull any punches. They were already pushing CPUs pretty hard. I wouldn't be surprised if they delayed their lineup just to make use of these new SSDs in consoles.

The PS4 was the runaway leader so I think that there will probably be a few third party developers that really want to design their games around that high speed SSD that will use their 'dominance' in the previous gen as an excuse to go exclusive. Obviously, most developers won't do that, but I'm sure some will.
 
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hrudey

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hrudey - Here is your answer for what Sony plans on doing with that extra SSD speed.
So, loading area transitions in a second as opposed to, what, two on the xbsx? Or even three, although that also assumes they can't figure out you're going to a city sized area three seconds in advance and start streaming it in then.

Now, of course, compared to x1x or ps4pro, it's game changing.
 

GeorgeSoros

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So, loading area transitions in a second as opposed to, what, two on the xbsx? Or even three, although that also assumes they can't figure out you're going to a city sized area three seconds in advance and start streaming it in then.

Now, of course, compared to x1x or ps4pro, it's game changing.
The example given in the quote was that you could fly into a large heavily populated city on a dragon without there having to be an artificial boundary giving the game time to load in. Now if you tried to do that and there was even two seconds of load time it's not seamless, it's not instant.
 

Nervusbreakdown

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The gameplay will be made around the faster drives.
Not going to work unless they want measly amounts of people buying/playing.
and you think the 3rd party is going to make a game based on one SDD from Sony and screw the other base?
If anything SONY made a bad investment on this type of drive, They will get the standard treatment like everyone else.