The PlayStation 5's SSD is nearly twice as fast as the Xbox Series X's. According to Microsoft's Brad Stilwell, developers will use all sorts of tricks to help equalize this raw performance disparity.
Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X SSD's are revolutionary, and are similar in many ways. But they vary in possibly the most important spec: raw speed. The PS5's SSD can hit 5.5GB/sec base data transfers, and the Xbox Series X hits 3.5GB/sec. That's a pretty big jump. But rather than playing favorites, third-party developers releasing titles for both platforms are expected to find ways to help smooth out that SSD disparity in their games so the PS5 ports are massively better than the Xbox Series X SKU.
First things first. Let's talk about how important SSD speeds are for next-gen. Essentially the SSD is what feeds the system's beastly power--it's the fuel for the fire. Without streamlined, ultra-fast, and more importantly, ultra-efficient software and hardware synergy, next-gen performance falls apart. It's imperative the SSD delivers quick access to specific data through supercharged PCIe 4x lanes across custom memory controllers (like the PS5's 12-channel memory controller), IO blocks (hardware-based decompression on the 7nm SoCs), and specific APIs, like the powerful Xbox Series X's Velocity Architecture.
While we full expect the Xbox Series X to deliver amazing performance, the PlayStation 5 has a theoretical advantage with its rip-roaring SSD.
That being said, some hardware vets like Microsoft's Bill Stillwell still think third-party games will be more equalized than major first-party exclusives. And he's right. Third-party publishers like EA, Ubisoft, Take-Two, and Activision-Blizzard may have marketing deals in place with Team Green or Team Blue, but ultimately they're not going to release games that differ wildly on either platform.
In a recent Iron Lords podcast, Stillwell highlights some ad-libbed words on the subject:
"So the ability of a game developer to look and say 'Ok I am building this game and I want to have a seamless transition with no loading screens on PlayStation, but I am also going to want to sell on Xbox, what am I gonna do to manage that kinda thing?'
"That's where the tricks and the techniques come in. So, I am just making this up, maybe there are elevators in the Xbox Series X version and not on the PLayStation version. I don't know yet how they're gonna address it, but they'll learn to address it and they will figure out ways to work around it."
The mention of elevators in one game and not in the other isn't all that realistic, though. Next-gen Xbox Series X and PS5 games won't have to rely on things like that any more. Mark Cerny highlighted just how transformative the PlayStation 5's SSD is insofar as data streaming, but Microsoft's Xbox Series X isn't shabby in comparison.
Both systems will allow for near-instantaneous loading times and can ultimately change how games are made.
That being said, unless the third-party game is next-gen exclusive, we might not see dramatic changes in specific games. Games released on multiple gens have to be made for multiple gens, and that includes HDDs. So these old tricks might be present in cross-gen SKUs by default, not because of SSD speed limitations.
Microsoft has already said it won't release first-party exclusives on Xbox Series X. So we might have to wait to see the huge performance jump in those games.
But Sony, on the other hand, will launch PS5 exclusives right from the start.
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