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Mark Cerny Reveals How the PS5 was Built in New Video

Mark Cerny Reveals How the PS5 was Built in New Video - News

by William D'Angelo , posted on 21 November 2021 / 1,666 Views

Mark Cerny, the Lead System Architect on the PlayStation 5, in a new video with WIRED breaks down what went into creating the latest video game console from Sony Interactive Entertainment. 

He discusses how the PlayStation 5 was made and his background in the industry starting with game development in the 1980's. 

"As Lead System Architect on the PlayStation consoles, I focus on the chips on the motherboard, and the software systems that directly use them," said Cerny.

"It's very technical work, but the ultimate users of these systems, are developers trying to make games. So it's great to have worked with a lot of teams over the years. And understand a bit about what helps them and what just gets in their way."

View the breakdown video with Mark Cerny below:

Cerny says PlayStation has been getting requests for an SSD all the way back with the PlayStation 4. 

"We'd been getting requests for an SSD all the way back to PlayStation 4," he added. "In particular, Tim Sweeney, who is the visionary founder of Epic Games, he said 'hard drives were holding the industry back.'"

Cerny added, "On PlayStation 4 fast travel can get anything, depending on the game, from 15 seconds to a minute. On PlayStation 5, much faster, anything from a fraction of a second to a few seconds. That means no more subway rides in Marvel’s Spider-Man, which is really a shame, I liked those subway rides."

The PS5 has sold 14.19 million units worldwide, according to the latest VGChartz estimates.

A life-long and avid gamer, William D'Angelo was first introduced to VGChartz in 2007. After years of supporting the site, he was brought on in 2010 as a junior analyst, working his way up to lead analyst in 2012. He has expanded his involvement in the gaming community by producing content on his own YouTube channel and Twitch channel dedicated to gaming Let's Plays and tutorials. You can contact the author at or on Twitter @TrunksWD.

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SuperNintend0rk (on 21 November 2021)

I really enjoyed this video. Mark Cerny is clearly very passionate about pushing PS forwards in innovative ways.

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EricHiggin (on 21 November 2021)

Cerny - "The most exciting new GPU feature is RT."
Also Cerny - "RT was not one of the key features that the devs asked for."

LOL. This crippled me.

PR - 'You can't say that'
Mark - 'Oh yes I can!'
PR - 'No you can't!'
Mark - 'Just watch me.'
PR - 'How can you honestly believe gamers won't freak out?'
Mark - (Puts on PSVR headset) 'Because I'm Mark Cerny, b*tch.'

  • +1
Sholities EricHiggin (on 22 November 2021)

Gotta remember this console was in development for years. Probably didn't think too much of ray tracing years ago.

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padib (on 21 November 2021)

The feature set that is most attractive to me is adaptive triggers and haptic feedback. I don't believe adaptive triggers exist on the series X (I read they are called impulse triggers that are essentially rumble motors). This unique capability makes the PS5 more appealing to me from a hardware point of view.

The rest are highly comparable between the two consoles and good job everyone for being competitive. Good job listening to developers, I am sure everyone did.

Despite this being a bit of a marketing clip, it's still a decent watch.

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Pemalite (on 21 November 2021)

The SSD is a natural progression of technology, can't give him all the credit for it, he didn't invent it.

But where he does deserve praise is where he worked with his team and industry partners to implement such an elegant and high-performant solution.

But it makes you wonder if it would have been better to increase capacity size but cut the bandwidth in half? Doesn't seem to be a hindrance for Xbox at this point in time. (Might change, might not. Who knows.)
..Would have brought forth better compatibility with commodity drives on the market at the very least.

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mjk45 Pemalite (on 21 November 2021)

A whole of Gen approach where you have a surplus to immediate demand that gives you room to expand is far better than the opposite .
I'm not sure about the praise bit he 's just outlining some of the steps involved and never claims any credit for the SSD in fact he points to others pushing for it's inclusion dating back to the PS4 and as for capacity time and the market will surely take care of that.

  • +6
scrapking mjk45 (on 22 November 2021)

I'm not sure anything is "surely" going to happen. The idea in the PS3-era that the "Cell" architecture would surely take off in many other contexts didn't happen, despite some pilot projects and experiments that took place before the architecture finally died out, for example.

If Cerny pushed for an SSD to be included in the PS5, then good for him! That was a good call by whatever individuals/teams within Sony and/or Microsoft pushed for that.

@Pemalite's point is well taken that Microsoft went with an SSD solution that seems (in real world terms) only slightly slower, despite likely being cheaper/easier to produce. There's a certain beauty to efficiency, IMO.

So no, it's not a "sure" thing that Sony's SSD spec will best Microsoft's SSD spec in the PC marketplace. It's just as likely, if not more so, that it'll be the other way around and that will offer better economies of scale for the Xbox later in this generation.

In most Digital Foundry testing, the load time differences between Xbox Series consoles vs. PS5 are relatively slight, and the few examples to the contrary are likely poorly optimized code on one system or the other rather than the characteristics of one SSD vs. the other (especially since the PS5 doesn't always win the load times test, suggesting that optimizing may be more important than raw throughput).

I can't help but notice that it's a 1 TB SSD in the Series X, and only an 825 GB SSD in the PS5, despite those two systems having the same USD sticker price. I wouldn't prefer to gain very marginally faster load times on average, in exchange for a 20% loss of storage space, all other things being equal. I think most users would prefer about 24% more space and yet load times nearly as fast.

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mjk45 scrapking (on 22 November 2021)

On your not a sure thing we are already seeing 3rd party SSD's with more capacity and the cell architecture is completely different and no way equivalent , the point is as @EricHiggin said it's far easier to add capacity also it's not just about loading times.
As to your point about not be much better I could argue that about the extra power of the Series X not making a marked difference but in the end whether it's extra power or greater bandwidth its all welcome and comes down to how its used.

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scrapking mjk45 (on 22 November 2021)

What is it beyond just loading times? I understand there are other advantages of the new architectures, such as removing steps between getting it from the storage to the CPU/GPU. But ultimately that's still about loading times. Unless you mean something else?

The intangible about extra storage and horsepower this gen is the potential for game streaming. I've been streaming games from Microsoft's Series X-based servers to my Series S, for example. Game streaming reduces the value of extra horsepower a little, and faster/extra storage a lot. Who knows where we'll be in several years.

  • -4
mjk45 scrapking (on 22 November 2021)

Beyond the usual how long from boot up to play , it also helps by allowing for more vibrant functioning worlds.

  • +1
EricHiggin mjk45 (on 23 November 2021)

XBSX looks to be built so MS could say, 'we still have the biggest baddest 4k console on the market, right here, right now.'
PS5 looks to be built based on the PS4 moto, "greatness awaits". As in, 'we're working towards unfathomable games, but it'll take time, and great things come to those who wait.'
Though PS5 should be able to take that greatness even further this time. PS4 didn't exactly have up to date, state of the art tech like PS5 does. Cerny even says devs wanted SSD tech for PS4, and everyone knows the HDD was a bit of a letdown.
PS5 could look even better as time goes on for SNY beyond how PS4 outshines XB1(S) this late in the gen.

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scrapking EricHiggin (on 24 November 2021)

I do think Microsoft wanted to keep the mantle of most powerful (overall) system with the Series X, but it's not over-engineered. It's actually surprisingly elegant in its engineering. It's even smaller than the PS5. So I don't tend to think of one as "biggest baddest" and the other as "greatness awaits".

In the same way that the One X started with more fidelity than the PS4 Pro and also ended up that way, I don't see the power relationship changing between the Series X and PS5.

Their (likely inevitable) mid-gen refreshes might be more interesting, though.

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scrapking mjk45 (on 24 November 2021)

Well, yeah, but the difference between a 4 second and a 5 second load time isn't going to be significant in how vibrant a world is, in most cases. And in Digital Foundry testing, the PS5 doesn't always win load times tests suggesting that optimizing may play a bigger role than raw throughput. I recognize that better I/O is always better than worse I/O, don't get me wrong. :)

I actually don't think either the extra horsepower of the Series X, or the better I/O of the PS5, offers a sufficiently significantly better end-user experience on a well-optimized game that the average player would even notice the difference. :)

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EricHiggin scrapking (on 24 November 2021)

XBSX is clearly designed to be as compact as possible vs the PS5, which clearly isn't designed to be as compact as possible.
XB1X offered better looking visuals over PS4 Pro? Offering the ability isn't the same as offering the actual experience. XBSX and PS5 aren't much different, with PS5 tending to have a slight edge.
It's not only about load times, and it's not just about now. If a PS5 Pro launches (and possibly for PS6), SNY won't have to worry about poor loading or visual performance on the PS5 when it comes to the SSD. MS won't have that same luxury for an XBSX2 or whatever they call it. Either MS will have to hold back on the SSD advancements for XBSX2, or if they do upgrade the SSD, they'll have to compromise when it comes to XBSX loading and visual performance.
You're likely to end up with the same kind of comparison between PS4 and XB1S right now, where PS4 is struggling a bit and XB1S is gasping for air. Though PS5 having more up to date tech at launch, with an extremely advanced SSD, should mean PS5 can hold it's own better in the future than PS4 is now.
How many games are well optimized though? Those games tend to be first party, and SNY's first party line up has, and continues to be, far better. Maybe MS will solve that by the end of this gen, but they're also known for their 180's before those come to fruition.

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scrapking EricHiggin (on 25 November 2021)

Have you been keeping up on Digital Foundry's analyses? The PS5 had a slight edge for the first few months, but more recently the Series X had pretty consistently outperformed the PS5. The majority of recent games that favoured either system was favouring the Series X, with a fairly common theme lately of 2160p games on Series X being about 1800p on PS5. Though, oddly, those same games occasionally having more foliage on PS5. So they're still learning the respective advantages of each system, but the overall trend in recent months is for the Series X version to be slightly superior. But admittedly only slightly.

Why would a Series X refresh need an SSD upgrade? My point is that I think you're over-estimating the effective real-world differences between their SSD performance. Keep in mind that most games are also designed to run on Windows PCs, and that may not have a drive even anywhere near as good as what either the Series X or PS5 has. And when comparing Series X vs PS5 I/O, remember a big part of it is decompressing the data after the SSD passes it off to the system, and the Series X has the overall horsepower advantage there. I very much doubt a Series X or S refresh would have a faster drive, as it would likely make the system significantly more expensive for minimal benefit. I think Sony erred in its choice of drive, as that spec is less likely to become the norm on PCs, and if that's proven true it won't drop in price as quickly. Sony's drive spec choice likely contributed to the PS5 only getting a 825 GB drive when the Series X got a 1 TB drive at the same retail price. So far Series X owners are getting 24% more space, and nearly as fast load times, for the same price. So it's far from an obvious win for Sony thus far.

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scrapking EricHiggin (on 25 November 2021)

As to your point about One X offering having offered merely the potential for better visuals than the PS4 Pro, as if that potential went largely unrealized last gen, that is not digital Foundry's opinion on the subject. In fact, in a recent DF Direct podcast they remarked at how a very large number of games looked substantially superior on the One X despite the PS4 Pro significantly outselling the One X.

I think the overall power disparity between the Series X and PS5 is less than between the more obvious superiority of the One X over the PS4 Pro, and the more obvious superiority of the PS4 over the Xbox One S, though.

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EricHiggin scrapking (on 25 November 2021)

So games like HZD, GOW, etc, are less impressive than games on XB1X? 4TF vs 6TF, right?

OK so PS5 had a slight advantage for a while, now XBSX has had some slight advantages, but most games are basically the same? Also because of the lowest common denomitor like PC or XBSS or XB1(S)?
So you're saying power doesn't really matter? PS5 does kinda prove that since SNY didn't error like MS in wasting so much extra die space for slow GPU cores. This allows SNY more consoles to sell per wafer of dies made.
The 825GB PS5 SSD is based on the design, not cheaping out on keeping it below 1TB. If they doubled the drive size it would end up 1.65TB.
It's harder to tell future differences this early, but R&C Rift Apart gives a pretty good idea of what the PS5 is truly capable of well into the future.

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scrapking EricHiggin (4 days ago)

I'm not 100% sure of what you're getting at there. Sony went into production of PS5 sooner than Microsoft went into production of Series X. And many Series X units get redirected into the Xblade server channel. And Sony was a bigger console semiconductor purchaser last gen, and is therefore benefitting from those relationships this gen. I am unaware of a significant ongoing overall manufacturing advantage for Sony on the die side. I'd argue the reverse is true, as once we get past the semiconductor shortage, Series S will be able to be produced in far greater quantity than PS5 Digital Editions, and Series S demand is anticipated to ramp up in developing markets like India and Brazil over time.

Raw power matters sometimes, and not other times. Some people favoured the PS4 Pro for being out a year earlier and being cheaper, and others favoured the One X for being significantly more powerful than the Pro. Each spoke to a different market.

It's rare that the most powerful console wins a generation. The Atari 2600 outsold the clearly superior Intellivision. The NES outsold the clearly superior SMS. The SNES won a generation despite some of the competition being more powerful. The PS1 outsold the (overall) more powerful options from Nintendo and Sega. The PS2 outsold the distinctly more powerful Xbox and GameCube. The underpowered Wii easily beat the PS3 and 360 in sales.

Arguably only the PS4 beating the Wii U and Xbox One was a clear victory for the most powerful system in a generation, and even that was muddled by it's weaker mid-gen refresh beating Microsoft's more powerful mid-gen refresh in sales.

Often a less powerful system is cheaper, or comes out earlier, or both, which significantly disadvantages powerful options.

That said, the Xbox One X and the PC suggest this needn't hold things back. PC games are often vastly better, especially late in a generation. The One X received many patches that much more significantly enhanced games for it than what the corresponding PS4 Pro patches offered, despite the One X not selling as well as the Pro. Developers have shown a willingness to both support weaker systems, while simultaneously trying to get the most out of more powerful systems.

Ratchet is likely a fun game (I haven't played it, but it reviewed well so I'm presuming it's enjoyable). But there's absolutely nothing in it that isn't equally possible on the Xbox Series X or on the PC. The PS5's I/O advantage is mitigated somewhat by the Xbox's ability to decompress data faster, and as developer's become more adept at utilizing the Velocity Architecture the load time/streaming asset speed differences between the PS5 and Series X will likely shrink to virtually nothing. Part of the Velocity Architecture spec is coming to PCs now, under the name DirectStorage, which will help more developers learn it and become expert at optimizing for it. Perhaps even Sony will at some point start using it on their PC games! :)

In most Digital Foundry testing, the load time differences are already small between Series X|S and PS5, despite most games not even being optimized for this generation yet. And there are lots of reasons to predict those differences will get smaller as this generation wears on, IMO.

And I'd love some proof that 825 GB is a design decision, rather than a cost-cutting measure. 825 GB doesn't market nearly as well as 1 TB does, so I can only presume they would have preferred to put in a 1 TB drive but couldn't afford to do so at the price points they'd targeted.

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mjk45 scrapking (on 24 November 2021)

The load times are fast for both so we won't see much optimising there ,but when it comes to creating worlds populated with greater numbers of and more unique npc's and other assets the extra bandwidth used in conjunction with ram can make a difference but the advantages held by either console will be best utilised by each ones first party since we know that the path of least resistance rules 3rd party that means parity.

  • +1
scrapking mjk45 (on 25 November 2021)

The Velocity Architecture on Xbox, and whatever the name is for any similar suite of techniques offered by Sony (if any), offers substantial I/O improvements through optimization. I think as developers learn to optimize how they move data around, optimizing will become hugely important actually, with more significant real world gains achieved through optimization than are realized through the differences between the PS5 and Xbox Series drives. And yes, that optimization is going to affect the quality fo streamed-on-the-fly assets, number and diversity of NPCs, and more.

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mjk45 scrapking (3 days ago)

The 825GB is a design decision it was chosen because it is a close match for the custom 12 channel memory controller

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scrapking mjk45 (1 day ago)

Thanks for the link, it was an interesting read. However, I didn't come to exactly the same conclusion as you, I took it to be that they felt they could get away with the 825 GB size, in part due to a theoretical reduction in game sizes (which I'm not sure we're seeing yet, BTW).

But even if your conclusion is correct, then why isn't an 825 GB option the recommended expansion SSD size? And why are people able to get even better performance, especially better write performance, out of high-end expansion drives? Cerny himself went for a larger-than-825 GB expansion card on his personal PS5.

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mjk45 scrapking (1 day ago)

Pasted from the link "Cerny says the 12 channel interface was the main reason Sony chose the odd 825GB storage for the PlayStation 5"

The expansion SSD' is not integrated like the internal so only uses 4 channels so to makeup for that they needed to wait for SSD's to be available in quantity with a throughput around 40 % quicker than the internals unmatched at that time uncompressed rate of 5.5 GBs so iirc speeds of around 7.5 GBs this was to offset the lack of integration with the controller. it's also the main reason why we had to wait so long .

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mjk45 scrapking (on 24 November 2021)

Yes we've already reached the stage now where it's becoming more and more centred on minutia and unless there's some sort of a software bug you need to put them under the microscope by running a battery of tests to determine the difference, and thats why Digital Foundry exists, it won't change anytime soon especially with the consoles budget restraints and using for all intents and purposes the same tech but that doesn't mean the points of difference aren't there just the extent.

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scrapking mjk45 (on 25 November 2021)

From what I can see as a lay-person... For the first time, instead of consoles holding PCs back, PCs are holding consoles back. Almost all games are simultaneously being designed for PS5, PC, and Series X. And they can't count on the PCs having SSDs (or, if they do, they can't count on that PC having an SSD nearly as good as what the new consoles have). And that does have an affect on game design.

PS5 has slightly faster I/O than Xbox Series consoles, and Xbox Series consoles decompress data from the drive slightly faster than PS5s do. But both are probably exceeding what the average PC is doing. If you're building a game around loading a level, that doesn't matter. If you're building a game heavily around streaming assets, it seems to me that would significantly affects your game design decisions.

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EricHiggin scrapking (3 days ago)

You made a point about SNY errors. The PS5 APU is smaller, which saves SNY money due to higher yields and allows them to make more PS5's, which they desperately need. XBSX die is quite a bit larger, so not only does it cost them more due to lower yields, but they have to split that between server and console. PS5 is matching if not exceeding XBSX in performance, while also saving more money and making more units to sell. This would seem like an error on MS part.
You made points about XBSX being more powerful as a good thing and MS wanting that. Yet you also agree it's not everything now and basically always loses the gen?
You already said PC holds things back because you can't rely on having an SSD. Now you're saying the PC won't hold things back?
R&C basically instantly loads entire new worlds that are jam packed, while having CGI like visuals. Much of that is due to the SSD speed. If XBSX can eventually match that due to optimization, then that simply means PS5 is capable of much more yet. It'll be much easier to optimize for PS5, if Pro has the same PS5 SSD, which I would bet it would, while if XBSX2 has an upgraded SSD, perhaps to match PS5, then optimization won't be anywhere near as easy for MS and devs, and XBSX would suffer.
You think only XBSX will get optimization? It's not like devs have completely figured out PS5, or have put max effort into PS5 versions either. BF5 is tied to MS like COD is to SNY, and BF5 is running better on PS5. Where's the MS BF5 optimization?
Mark Cerny explains it in the Road To PS5 video. It's on YouTube and elsewhere. It's the first PS5 video, that people got mad at, because it was too techy and in depth and they didn't understand it. That's because it was made for devs and not consumers. Mark explains how the 825GB is tied to the custom design.

  • +1

I'm suggesting that Microsoft has the Velocity Architecture which is being terribly under-utilized at the moment. So optimization will happen on both, but perhaps there's more room to optimize on Xbox since I don't think Sony has an equivalence to VA (correct me if I'm wrong?). With DirectStorage (PC implementation of a subset of VA) being promoted harder now, I think that will help with VA optimization. My understanding is that PS5 has faster raw I/O, but that the VA opens up more room for optimization. That's why I question whether the PS5 will have a significant long-term advantage on this front.

Fair enough about the APU size. That wasn't my point though. My point was that Xbox Series production is split between the X and the S. The X uses up more per die, the S uses up less per die. Microsoft has projected that they'll sell more S than X over time. If so, that actually gives Microsoft the overall manufacturing advantage.

My comments about the PC is a difference between "has" and "will". I think PC maybe has been holding things back since some PCs have slower SSD (or even hard drives), and game designers haven't had the luxury of assuming ultra-fast storage on PC. But I think that is changing very quickly. As is always the case with PCs, people are constantly upgrading. I think slow drives on PCs are dying out, and to the degree it matters system requirements of some games will just start to require minimum storage speed requirements.

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Well optimization depends on how far devs want to go beyond minimal specs, like lower end PC's and XBSS. That's if we don't take last gen into account, which still is in play. You seemed to think earlier that would be the norm, but now you're saying they'll quickly start focusing on better performance with a lot of optimization? When it comes to third parties, I think you're only going to see minor optimization for any console, unless the game was exclusive.
PS5 has some of what makes up VA, but not all of it. That's because it doesn't need it due to the vastly faster hardware. Also because that means less optimization required for devs, meaning it should be more useful in the future, assuming third parties aren't going to spend a ton of time trying to optimize any console, which is more so the norm.
VA is a lot like the RPM situation in the PS4 Pro. That would put Pro around 5TF of performance when RPM was put to good use, but when it came to third parties it wasn't really taken advantage of. Either way, even with RPM fully utilized, the hardware was still quite a ways from matching XB1X max output. VA will help some when properly utilized, like with MS exclusives, but overall, it will always clearly lag behind the PS5 SSD. You can't match far stronger hardware with considerably weaker hardware + software. You can spend forever optimizing, trying to get as close as you can though. Who's really going to spend that much extra time on a game, other than when it comes to MS exclusives?
MS having two different die's is an extra cost to them vs SNY only having to make just one. SNY is also still selling considerably more PS5's overall though, so as their APU orders get larger, each die get's cheaper per wafer.
Now some of the XBSS sales are people who can't wait for a PS5 any longer. Some will trade back when PS5 becomes easier to get, and when it's easier to get, XBSS sales are likely to slow because of that. The other thing, which is really important, is this is next gen. Yes XBSS has next gen hardware, but it has last gen's mid gen specs, with a slight bump overall. How many of these XBSS owners are actually going to upgrade to an XBSX/2? The higher the XBSS ratio grows, the less reason for devs to optimize for XBSX/2 as time goes on. The higher the XBSS sales ratio were to get over the gen, the more MS will question if the high end console really needs to be as advanced next time around, if needed at all.

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EricHiggin Pemalite (on 21 November 2021)

It would be far easier to add capacity later (or asap if third party NVMe was ready near launch), than to add speed to a fixed max, launch PS5. It definitely should futureproof PS5 beyond PS4 longevity, if that's part of SNY's goal going forward.

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Pemalite EricHiggin (9 hours ago)

Absolutely no reason why they couldn't put faster drives in later.

Xbox 360 had faster HDD's over it's lifetime, so did the Xbox One.

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KratosLives (on 22 November 2021)

Man of the year right there

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