Sony tends to hold influence on the adoption of both optical and graphics technologies as they relate to gaming. One example is Blu-Ray; the company included a Blu-Ray player in every PlayStation 3 console shipped, driving the format’s popularity and putting the proverbial nail in the HD-DVD coffin. Next year, Sony is poised to do the same thing for an exciting – but still emerging – graphics technology when it launches the PlayStation 5: ray tracing.
We all knew ray tracing would be a headlining feature for PlayStation 5, but until this week we didn’t know if it would be a software-level ‘fix’ or something driven directly by the included AMD hardware.
PS5 Will Include Hardware-Based Ray Tracing
Now we know, thanks to new details that have emerged via PlayStation system architect Mark Cerny. Speaking to Wired, Cerny clarifies the ray tracing situation and leaves zero doubt on the table: “There is ray-tracing acceleration in the GPU hardware,” he says, “which I believe is the statement that people were looking for.”
Ray tracing is very much a next-generation gaming technology, allowing for complex and hyper-realistic rendering of light and shadows. It’s sometimes a subtle effect, but can dramatically improve the sense of immersion you feel when playing.
On the PC gaming side of the fence, Nvidia has been the only game in town for ray tracing, at least for the healthy handful of titles that support it. In fact, the company diverged from their typical GTX naming scheme and launched an entire product line of new GPUs last year – the GeForce RTX series – to highlight the technology.
AMD & Ray Tracing GPUs In 2020
Many assumed AMD would immediately follow in Nvidia’s footsteps, but regarding ray tracing, CEO Dr. Lisa Su is famously quoted at CES 2019 as saying “The consumer doesn’t see a lot of benefit today. I think by the time we talk more about ray tracing, the customer is going to see [the benefit.]”
In a nutshell, AMD didn’t believe ray tracing was ready for prime-time when Nvidia’s RTX released, and likely wanted to see larger developer adoption first.
The reality of modern game development is that it’s primarily console-driven, so with the same underlying technologies and PC-esque hardware across both PS5, Xbox Scarlett and PC, that adoption is certainly coming.
This all leads to one conclusion: AMD is going to release consumer PC graphics cards that boast hardware ray tracing in 2020, and that’s an exciting prospect.
Sure, it’s awesome for console gamers too! But if you’ve been tracking the Radeon RX 5700 series, you’ll know that AMD is finally competing with Nvidia on performance, price and (finally) power efficiency.
If AMD continues to improve on this front with its 7nm, RDNA architecture-based graphics cards in 2020 and adds hardware-accelerated ray tracing to the mix, the PC GPU wars are going to be more heated and exciting in 2020 then we’ve seen in years.
There are two interesting questions that rise up from this news:
1) Who will experience this from AMD first: console gamers or PC gamers?
2) How much of a framerate hit will console gamers take with ray tracing features enabled?
By November 2020 at the latest, we’ll have both of those answers.