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Report: AMD's next graphics architecture built for PlayStation 5

Zen CPU cores paired with next-gen Navi GPU?

UPDATE: 15/6/18 18:25pm: Tech website WCCFTech has been in touch to point out that its report on the same story posted a few hours earlier than the Forbes entry. It has some more detail that's well worth checking out.

A remarkable story has emerged claiming that AMD's upcoming Navi graphics architecture was created for Sony's PlayStation 5. Citing insider sources, Forbes contributor Jason Evangelho says that up to two thirds of the engineering staff was diverted to the project, with a negative knock-on effect on the development of AMD's Vega GPU technology. The report also suggests that this occurred against the wishes of the firm's then-Chief Architect, Raja Koduri, who has since moved on to Intel.

The Forbes report goes on to suggest that PlayStation 5 will feature AMD's Zen core as the basis for its CPU component, which is almost certain to be the case bearing in mind how the current-gen console transition to x86 architecture has benefited games development - and that Zen's design offers superb efficiency and high performance with a relatively small silicon footprint, a perfect fit for console designs. The Zen tech - seen in AMD's Ryzen processors - is also a shoe-in for Microsoft's next hardware, with Phil Spencer confirming a rebalancing of CPU and GPU power more in line with PC in a recent Giant Bomb interview.

If true, the idea of AMD diverting so much of its engineering resources to a Sony project is quite remarkable, but the firm's commercial arrangements with both Xbox and PlayStation consoles are hugely important. According to AMD's 2017 financial report, the Sony and Microsoft deals each account for 10 per cent of the firm's entire revenue. "A loss of any of these customers would have a material adverse effect on our business," the report says. Indeed, adding in AMD's deal with HP, the cash from just those three customers accounts for 44 per cent of the firm's overall net revenues. With that in mind, collaborating so closely with Sony - the current console market leader - may make sense as that income could conceivably dwarf its revenues from PC desktop graphics.

Our video preview of the technologies available to Microsoft and Sony - and when a generational leap over PlayStation 4 can be delivered.

We've asked AMD for comment on the Forbes story, but the notion of a console project leading the development of PC graphics technology isn't entirely unprecedented. When the specs for the PlayStation 4 GPU leaked, we noted the high level of similarity between Sony's hardware and AMD's Pitcairn design that debuted in the Radeon HD 7870 and HD 7850, while PS4 Pro's hardware make-up had commonalities with AMD's Polaris GPU line.

"You may later on see something that looks very much like a console GPU as a discrete [PC] GPU, but that's then being very familiar with the design and taking inspiration from the console GPU. So the similarity, if you see one, is actually the reverse of what you're thinking," Mark Cerny told me during his briefing of the PlayStation 4 Pro hardware.

While we cannot confirm the politics described in the Forbes report, we understand that work on PlayStation 5 is well under way in parallel with its Microsoft rival, which Phil Spencer confirmed to be in development at the Xbox media briefing last Sunday. We expect both to be based on AMD technology - and with the firm's roadmaps a matter of public record, we recently put together this guide about to what expect in terms of power and spec from the next-gen machines.

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About the author

Richard Leadbetter

Richard Leadbetter

Technology Editor, Digital Foundry  |  digitalfoundry

Rich has been a games journalist since the days of 16-bit and specialises in technical analysis. He's commonly known around Eurogamer as the Blacksmith of the Future.


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