With speculation about the PlayStation 5 rife among developers and consumers alike, everyone has many questions about Sony’s upcoming console. Sony gave a presentation recently regarding the specs of its console, but since it was intended to be a replacement for a GDC presentation, it was a little drier than many PlayStation fans were hoping for. Since Sony doesn’t want to give the game away just yet, we thought we’d think about something that’s very important to many users, but that often gets short shrift in reveal events.
The PlayStation 5’s user interface will be incredibly important, but there hasn’t been much word on what it might look like. Sony hasn’t revealed any information about this aspect of its console yet, so we don’t have too much to go on. According to a leaked image of the PS5’s devkit software, the UI will look very, very similar to the PlayStation 4’s, but we don’t expect that to be the case. After all, Sony will likely want to show off the next generation of hardware, and one of the most effective ways to do that would be to create an entirely new look.
First, we need to establish what a great user interface does and what it looks like. For this, we can look no further than the PlayStation 4, which has an excellent UI. The XMB (cross media bar) design of the PlayStation 3’s UI is updated and refined in the PS4’s offering, which conveys information quickly and without fuss. If the PlayStation 5 wants to be as much of a mainstay in gamers’ living rooms as the PS4 has become, then it’ll need to create something competitive. For this, the first thing we think the PS5’s UI needs is multi-tasking.
Think about a PC for a moment. If you’ve ever used a PC with multiple monitors, you know the joy of multi-tasking, of placing multiple windows next to one another while you work. You could be looking for legal online casinos one minute while browsing walkthroughs for your favorite games the next. That’s the beauty of a UI that allows you to multitask, and while the PS4 has made some token noises in this direction, it doesn’t quite fit the bill when it comes to multi-window gaming. We think the PS5 will need to address that.
One way it could do that is with a split-screen option. This is unlikely to work when it comes to gaming, as it could squash the widescreen display, but could be great for web browsing and music players, for example. The PlayStation 5 will be much more than just a gaming machine; it’ll be a media hub, a way for gamers to enjoy their content without needing to move an inch from their sofas. Multi-tasking would allow that to happen, and with the PS5’s powerful new specs, we’re expecting to see Sony try to make the most of that newfound power.
If you want a glimpse of the future - of what the PlayStation 5’s user interface could end up looking like - then look no further than this very intriguing mockup. We should stress here that this is in no way official; Sony hasn’t released any actual information regarding what the PlayStation 5’s user interface will look like, so there’s no official info available at all. A video mockup of the same concept shows the UI in smooth, fluid motion. We know Sony won’t be using this design for their final UI, but we can hope that the company at least takes some inspiration from it.
Despite how excellent the PlayStation 4’s user interface is, there’s definitely some room for improvement. Folders, for example, aren’t handled particularly well on the PS4; they’re a little clumsy and cumbersome. With digital downloads and purchases an increasing priority for gaming companies, it’s reasonable for Sony to implement something a little more useful when it comes to folders. Games are increasing in size exponentially, though, so Sony’s strategy might well be to expect gamers to delete games they’re not really using to make room for those they are using.
Whatever decisions Sony makes about the PlayStation 5’s user interface, we’re betting it’s going to be a knockout. The PS5 really needs to make an impact in the gaming world; even though Sony’s PS4 is riding high at the top of the current generation, some moves by Microsoft have suggested that the Japanese multimedia company can’t get too complacent yet. The Xbox Series X is going to be a very difficult contender to beat, and the one area where Sony already has Microsoft utterly licked is in UI design. We think Sony will continue that trend no matter what the UI looks like.