PlayStation 5’s SSD-Focused Design Came About Because Epic’s Tim Sweeney Wanted It

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The PlayStation 5 is a fascinating and unique piece of hardware, and while we’ve already heard some details about the creation of the system, it’s always fun to hear more. Thankfully, system architect Mark Cerny has provided just that in a new video for Wired, which you can check out for yourself, provided you have around 15 minutes to spare.

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Cerny touches on a number of topics we’ve already heard about – the PS5’s GPU, controller, 3D audio, ect. – but he also reveals some interesting new details. When discussing the PS5’s solid-state-drive, which has been pushed as one of the core features of the machine, Cerny revealed that it was Epic’s Tim Sweeney that pushed hardest for the new tech.

We'd been getting requests for an SSD all the way back to PlayStation 4. In particular, Tim Sweeney, who is the visionary founder of Epic Games, he said hard drives were holding the industry back. He didn't say hard drives though, he said, "rusty spinning media." [...] Developers asked for an NVME SSD with at least 1 GB/s of read speed. And we looked at that and we decided to go maybe 5 to 10 times that speed. It's always good to have a high target there.

Interestingly, Cerny also specifically calls out Epic’s new Unreal Engine 5 Nanite technology, which depends on the SSD to stream high-quality assets to games. It really does seem like the PS5 was, to a certain degree, designed around the demands of Epic and Unreal Engine 5. The fact that the engine was first shown on the PS5 was more than just a PR stunt.

Cerny touches on a few other subjects he hasn’t really detailed before, including the PS5’s “invisible compression,” which is what developers are using to reduce PS5 file sizes. Many assumed the more efficient SSD was the cause of the smaller files, but no, it’s just a very efficient compression system built into the PS5’s Integrated I/O. If you’d like to get more interesting little tidbits like this, do check out Mark Cerny’s full discussion.

Around a year into the PlayStation 5 era, what are your thoughts on the design of the system?

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