Sony has a comprehensive guideline for developers and it has leaked online
It is no secret that Sony Corp. (ADR) (NYSE:SNE) is developing a more powerful PlayStation 4 model, codenamed “NEO,” after the official confirmation last month. The console’s existence and hardware specifications are common knowledge after various leaks. Now, Sony’s alleged PlayStation 4 NEO guide has leaked online and it reveals many interesting details. So let’s have a look at some of the new details brought forward by this developer guide.
Basic intro of the system: We already know Neo has more horsepower that will allow support for 4K resolution and deliver better graphics and framerate.
The decision to patch older games to take advantage of NEO’s hardware lies totally in the hands of developers. Older games without the patch will run the same way as they do now on PlayStation 4.
Hardware specifications were leaked months ago but to recap things, NEO will have the same 8-Core AMD Jaguar CPU but feature a higher clockspeed of 2.1 GHz compared to 1.6 Ghz in PlayStation 4 and 36 Compute Units clocked at 911 MHz versus 18 Compute Units clocked at 800 MHz. This combines to give the GPU a 2.3x more TeraFLOPs performance upgrade, which is certainly a big deal and the GPU will handle games much better. Memory bandwidth has been raised to 218 GB/s on the existing GDDR5.
Reserved CPU and GPU resources will remain the same but NEO games will have access to 512MB of excess memory.
Developers can enlist their games for NEO if they are launching by the time system launches. PlayStation 4 game submission with NEO support can be done till September but games releasing in October and onwards must have PlayStation 4 and NEO support. The document notes that games can be shipped with NEO support before the console’s launch.
Eurogamer did an extensive coverage on NEO’s developer guidelines and we can absolutely see them here. Games will be delivered as one package but will run on two modes. Base mode is when you run the game on PlayStation 4 or when an old game without NEO support runs on the new system. NEO Mode is when you run a NEO support title on the new console. The game will automatically utilize the extra horsepower available.
Once a game has been added to support NEO, all future patches must support both modes. Additionally, saved data must also be supported on both systems with the ability to move freely between the two.
As we discussed earlier, NEO supports 4K resolution. A 1920×1080 or 3480×2160 display buffer will be prepared depending on the display connected. Developers can use display buffers lower than 3840×2160 but it must eventually scale to that resolution. Whatever resolution developers decide to work with, they must match or exceed PlayStation 4 version’s framerate. This suggests Sony is letting developers use the extra power as they see fit, we could see native 4K games on NEO.
Sony has received feedback from developers who prefer to use a single display buffer instead of two and then downscale to 1920×1080. So the developers could use a single high resolution of 3840×2160 or any other listed resolution and then scale for 1080p displays. This is the strategy Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) is aiming for with Xbox One Project Scorpio. Games will deliver native 4K resolution but also work just fine on 1080p.
Resolutions such as 1440p are off the table as according to Sony, it provides little differentiation from 1080p. It is unfortunate though, NEO’s capabilities can perfectly deliver a combination of visuals, framerate and a higher resolution than 1080p if games were native 1440p then downscaled or upscaled.
While Sony has not shared a release date, the insight provided by the guide strongly suggests NEO will launch between October and December this year. As the slide above reads, prototype hardware sent out to developers will return to Sony at the start of 2017 and mass produced units will be available before that. It appears Sony has not yet decided on a final release date.
Holiday 2016 seems like a good time to bet on. By then, Sony would have launched PlayStation VR and there will be new games and buying fervor that will work in favor of the new system.