We recently received some new information from a source close to AMD about the company's future plans and one portion of it naturally includes the next generation consoles. As probably everyone is aware, AMD is the supplier of the hearts of current generation consoles: the APUs. Considering their experience in the APU sector, it is of little surprise that AMD has plans to provide chips for the next generation of consoles as well - which if they are to be believed will happen by 2018.
Next Generation Consoles will be based on AMD's GCN architecture - 5x the Perf/Watt with increased focus on VR
AMD believes it is a very strong contender to supply the next round of APUs - which considering the history, isn't a bad assumption at all. The company is confident that its GCN architecture will be able to achieve at least 5x the performance/watt of the current generation, resulting in much more powerful consoles, with approximately the same power draw. They have also mentioned other focuses this time around which I will be going over shortly. The company has plans to provide said chips by 2018 to console manufacturers - which can also be interpreted as the timeframe for the arrival of next generation consoles.
Currently, the PS4 is very much ahead of the game when it comes to console hardware - featuring the most powerful graphical side (at 1152 GCN based stream processors) currently present in any console. In a talk with Senior Vice President of Entertainment, Sony, an interviewer from 4Gamer discussed the possibility of an even high powered variant of the PS4 - A PS4.1 so to speak. This is something that is now a possibility thanks to the use of x86 architecture - unlike the PS3 where it would not have been possible to offer a version with upgraded hardware.
However, this new information (that AMD does not have plans to supply new APUs till 2018) makes it very unlikely that we will see a new PS4 with a more powerful APU, rather, a more energy efficient APU (and PS4 version) with the same approximate power could be on the table. Die shrinks and process maturity could result in a much more cooler and slimmer PS4, but will have approximately the same horsepower as the original. The same holds true for Xbox One as well - although the company has not officially discussed any such plans so far.
The second thing we learned was that AMD will be shifting a lot of its focus to VR capabilities as well. As many of you will know, and as I detailed in a previous article, the current generation consoles just don't have the necessary horsepower to drive powerful VR headsets - unless you drastically cut graphic quality. You would need roughly 3 times the power of the PS4 hardware (and even more for the Xbox One) to be able to drive an Oculus Rift standard VR Headset (2160x1200 @90fps) successfully - and since AMD's architecture should theoretically be capable of 5 times as much the next generation of consoles will definitely be VR based.
AMD has already been working extensively on virtual reality with its LiquidVR development kit and has actually integrated the (now publicly defunct) Mantle API into the same - improving it internally. Needless to say, by 2018, GCN architecture will be very well positioned to drive Virtual Reality headsets seamlessly, making AMD APUs probably the only real choice for any console maker. Nvidia also has a pretty powerful graphical side of things but is unfortunately lacking where the CPU comes into play. On the other hand, AMD can provide both CPU and GPU sides - which makes them the ideal choice for console manufacturers.