News Article

Reaction: Why You Should Stop Bleating About the PS4's RAM

Posted by Sammy Barker

Everyone's gone baa-rmy

While the topic has quietened down a little over the past couple of years, cross-game chat was just one of the many failings of the PlayStation 3. For years it was touted as a reason to purchase the Xbox 360 over Sony’s flagship machine, and even used as a justification for the premium price attached to Microsoft’s online service. However, it wasn’t the infrastructural cost of running the constant communication link that squandered the feature’s future on the Japanese giant’s current generation machine – though we’ve no doubt that it may have played a part – but more the fact that the computational resources simply weren’t available on the console. And the reason for that is because Sony surrendered much of the system’s memory in the early days of its life.

It wasn’t the infrastructural cost of cross-game chat that squandered the feature’s future on PS3, but the fact that the resources weren't available

And that – as we’ve already alluded in our other story – is why today’s news about the PS4’s supposed RAM restrictions may actually be a blessing in disguise. For those that missed the memo, Digital Foundry reported this afternoon that the impending next generation console will use just 4.5GB of its on-board 8GB GDDR5 RAM. The remainder of the console’s memory will be reserved for system-level functions – but it’s not entirely cut and dry. Studios will be able to request an additional 1GB GDDR5 RAM – though the stipulations are not quite clear – suggesting that the platform holder is simply providing itself with a buffer while it streamlines the machine’s operating system, and gets a feel for the overall next generation landscape.

It’s a cautious tactic, but a smart one. The company was caught with its pants down when the Xbox 360’s impressive feature set started to worm its way into gamers’ expectations. Functionality such as achievements and cross-game chat became a standard, and while Sony managed to hastily incorporate Trophies, the latter eluded it throughout the entirety of the generation. That’s because, as previously mentioned, the company had already promised developers a specific amount of usable RAM, and once that’s the case, there’s no going back. As soon as games start to take advantage of those precious resources, they simply can’t be reclaimed, because previously released software will suddenly cease to operate.

By creating a buffer, though, the organisation is merely buying itself time. It now has a window to look at the state of its competitors, its own goals, and its immediate and long-term plans. Over time, as it begins to streamline the operating system and analyse the console’s lifespan, it will be able to slowly give those resources back to developers, without affecting the performance of previous games – or the system’s longevity. In other words, if some amazing new feature analogous to cross-game chat should rear its must-have head over the next couple of years, the company will have the opportunity to incorporate that, because it will have the resources available.

It’s disappointing in the sense that the first batch of software will not necessarily be taking full advantage of the machine, but when has that ever been the case? Many of the console’s launch titles – Watch Dogs, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts, the list goes on – are all set to deploy on the PS3, meaning that they’ll be targeting the current generation console first and foremost. Furthermore, it’s not like there’ll be a dearth of memory available to blockbuster exclusives – it’s worth remembering that the stunning The Last of Us is powered by just 512MB of RAM. The jump will be immediately noticeable, as footage of games such as inFAMOUS: Second Son have already proved.

It’s an expensive piece of hardware that we’re all eager to see pushed to its absolute limits, but no console has ever been truly tested on launch day

And those releases will get better and better as more resources become available to developers, and third-party studios – who will eventually dump existing consoles – begin to focus their efforts solely on next generation machines. But the best thing is that Sony will be able to ensure throughout that the console has an ample amount of memory available to ensure a quality experience. It will streamline the operating system’s footprint over time, but the days of staring at spinning symbols every time that you push the PlayStation button in the middle of a game are set to fall by the wayside. Theoretically, the company should be able to keep the system snappy – even as it layers new functionality on top.

So, while it may seem a little disingenuous the way that the company’s flaunted the PS4’s on-board 8GB GDDR5 RAM, this snippet does not really make the console any less enticing than it was yesterday, last week, or on 20th February. It’s an expensive piece of hardware that we’re all eager to see pushed to its absolute limits, but the developers aren’t complaining yet, and no format has ever been truly tested on launch day. And yet, by thinking ahead, the platform holder has at least ensured that the system’s ready to adapt to almost any scenario. And that’s something to celebrate, rather than outright criticise.

What do you make of the reports regarding the RAM that will be available to PS4 developers at launch? Are you worried about this, or do you think that it’s being blown out of proportion? Let us know in the comments section and poll below.

What do you make of the PS4’s current RAM scenario? (57 votes)

All’s wool that ends wool


Who gives a flock?


I think it’s really bad ewes


Please login to vote in this poll.

User Comments (37)



Batman said:

Some excellent points in here.

It is crazy to think the The Last of Us was running on less than a gig of ram and Sony are surely going to lessen the restrictions once they're comfortable with how new features can be incorporated, and run, on the new OS.

Also, top sheep-punnage there, Mr Barker.



TerrorByte said:

Sammy in this article you said exactly what I was trying to say in my post in the news article. Just with better language and in more detail. Well done sir.



Snorky said:

How much ram does the X1 have and how much is dedicated to the OS?



MadchesterManc said:

Im not too fussed at the moment. I read the DF article earlier n its mainly just conjecture at this point as Sony hasn't announced anything. As I stated in the forums it is a tad baffling the amount when you factor in the Os is based on a BSD/Linux kernel. When you see that the Ps3 was able to run linux on a paltry 256MB of system ram you can see where Im coming from. Still, theres more than just the Os to factor in with regards to RAM usage on the Ps4. All will be become clear soon enough but even so, 5GB of GDDR5 is still more than enough for a console

@Snorky The X1 has 8GB DDR3 with it split up to 3GB Os/5GB games



get2sammyb said:

@Snorky We're pretty sure it's 5GB for games, 3GB for OS. But it's worth noting that it's DDR3, rather GDDR5. The Xbox One also has an additional 32MB of super fast ESRAM, too.



Snorky said:

Is that 32MB dedicated for the OS?
I'm actually glad that the ps4 OS is getting a decent chunk, as much as I love my ps3 it's just so cumbersome.



Zombie_Barioth said:

I'm not bothered by this, I though they'd reserve some RAM and a couple cores. Its not a big deal at all really, most PC games don't use more than a quad-core CPU and 4 GBs of RAM right now, nevermind what consoles have been stuck with.

What this means though is that the PS4 and Xbox One will be much closer perfomance-wise than people think.



ShogunRok said:

If I could link everyone who's currently going on a bender regarding this rumour to this very article, I would. Then I'd tell them to sit down and zip it, done, it's over.



IIaprghwrughapiw said:

@ObviouslyAdachi That's just developers sucking up to Sony to boost sales. Same thing happened to the PS3, and when the sales were low, they backed off and/or insulted the PS3. Same thing is happening to the Wii U I suppose, and it will happen to the PS4 if it gets low sales.



Cloud7794 said:

@HeatBombastic The fact remains that, unlike last gen, the PS4 doesn't have a RAM deficit. How are devs going to complain about RAM on PS4 when it's about the same amount as (and faster than) Xbox One? Besides, look at the Amazon bestsellers sales (both current and of the year so far), PS4 is not getting low sales. @ObviouslyAdachi Your pic seriously looks like Adachi is about to smoke something fierce, which would explain a LOT of in-game happenings.



Hokage17 said:

I wouldn't be surprised if Sony allowed that information to get leaked to see the fan reaction in order to give them a time loop to respond. By nothing being official, people can speculate all they want. For all we know Sony comes out today and announces it has 6.5 gigs of ram for devs just to shut people up, but there's nothing wrong with 5.



Gemuarto said:

I don't know for what they need 2,5-3,5GB.for OS. Even Windows with browser, skype and setera, eats around 2GB.



Gemuarto said:

I think that PS4 OS will eat 1GB of RAM at max. And 4.5GB is more than enough for first wave of PS4 games. Maybe they will use those 1,5 - 2,5 GB for writing gameplay or something.



Reverend_Skeeve said:

This is actually good news in my book. I only own a PS3 since recently and I love the XMB in general and the look and feel, but the way it handles downloads and installs is a nightmare compared to the 360. On the 360, if you download a game, you download the game, not the install file...and gamepatches on 360 tend to be a few MB in size, whereas on PS3...urg.

BF3: 13gig download, 1 hour install, 3gig patch download, 3gig patch install. Are you kidding?

So above news to means that PS4 will have the sleek, seamless OS Sony's promised us. Again: excellent!



sammy760 said:

I thought that this was a major problem yesterday, but as I thought about it it's not that big of a deal . I'm sure the developers with have plenty to work with. It's a shame the rest of the Internet can't calm down and come to there senses.



Jaz007 said:

I think Sammy did come down my inital panic lol. I chose who gives a flock because it still is more powerful than the XBone by .5 GB of RAM and the RAM is faster too. It's still an unfounded rumor too.
On a side note, I have to say, those poll puns or whatever were just painful today, first time in site they really have been. I mean "I think it's really bad ewes" What the heck is that supposed to be!? rant/



charlesnarles said:

Not to be the guy who won't shut up about his computer, my laptop has 8 gigs of DDR3, and I've never seen it max out freeze even while running Skyrim, Fallout 3, and Sims 3 all at once. There are other factors (vRAM etc) but nobody has to worry about PS4 behaving like its freaking ancestors. 256 = laughable. 8,000 = okay maybe I trust you.



Visiblemode said:

It's not even disingenuous in the least. Is it misleading that if you buy a gaming laptop like the Alienware 14 (which also has 8 gigs of GDDR5 btw)that they don't specify that the pre-installed Windows 7 operating system uses up 216 mbs? It's not how it works. Ram is a technical spec not a usage spec. For those griping about how ps4 was supposed to have 4 gigs A: says who? B: even if it's true it just meant that some of that was going to o/s so less than 4 for games, of course, and no doubt all the sharing features would have been toned down. Read: less

Conclusion, play games, don't design consoles.



hYdeks said:

I don't care about specs, but I'm happy Sony put enough ram towards the interface this time, unlike the PS3. Don't get me wrong, I love my PS3, but the menu/interface is severely lacking compared to 360's. Happy theyare fixing this problem.

@Magolor agreed, but with a pain in the butt interface isn't fun to deal with though. Spec talk bums me out though, game consoles should always be about gaming first, this is basicly saying all the problems with the PS3 will be fixed thanks to dedicated ram to the OS, so problems like syncing trophies will be a thing of the past (thank god)



Solatorobo said:

@hydeks Actually you have a point there. The main thing the 360 has over the PS3 (The 360 has a really lacking Library imo.) is that the PS3's interface is awful. I might as well say that Games first, then interface, then specs. I agree that people need to stop it with the whole obsession with the console's specs.



Slapshot said:

OK, not being a pain here, but just a few minor flaws in your piece Sammy (sorry bro).

  • Developers having less RAM is not in any way a, "blessing in disguise." A restriction is a restriction and a so called, "blessing in disguise" would be Sony sneaking in an additional .5 GB of RAM, that will open up another .5GB of RAM as the system streamlines. More is better in this business - not a restriction. I see where you were going with that sentiment, but I have to admit that I think that's a weak argument.
  • The PS3 actually has 512 MB of RAM. The Cell Processor uses 256MB XDR RAM, which is amazingly fast and is completely shareable. Then the GPU has another 256MB of GDDR3 (RSX) RAM.

The key point with the PS3 is that it doesn't need much RAM, because the Cell Processor computes so rapidly that it doesn't need to store much random memory - remember, RAM is (in part) where information is placed while the CPU is computing other things. Developers are used to needing to utilize RAM and weren't used to information being processed so rapidly (this completely changed typical development cycles), which is the main reason that the PS3 struggled so badly with developers in the early days of its lifestyle.

Without the Cell Processor, there is most likely no way that The Last of Us could run on a mere 256 MB of RAM. In fact, saying that it runs on merely that is not a factual statement, because of the architecture of the PS3.

Hate to be a stickler mate, but as they say: "them's the beans."

EDIT: Also, I'd like to point out that Sony could jam 32 GB of RAM into the PS4, but a CPU can only compute so much information. At some point, you can indeed have too much RAM. Is it 8GB though? I think that is doubtful.



Dathon said:

I want to hear more "bleating" about the RAM. More please, more!



Visiblemode said:

@Slapshot Can't really agree. While Cell is less Ram dependent, that doesn't mean that a more ram dependent architecture requires beyond 10 times more Ram. That is to say that running modern games at 1080p shouldn't require more than 4 gigs of dedicated Ram. Proof of this is found in the very likely true rumours that as little as 6 months ago both companies were planning on using 4 gigs. The reason? Because 4 gigs wasn't an insane choice. Also consider the more Ram dependent architecture of the 360, sure PS3 trounces it in Cell optimized software, but they sit firmly in the same generation as peers.



Slapshot said:

@Visiblemode The cap right now is somewhere around 4 GB. The reason for this is because PC users out there are still using 32 and 64-bit OS systems.



JaxonH said:

@HeatBombastic A valid point indeed. It's all a game of public perception, and tactics used to align themselves with what's popular.
@Cloud7794 While you're probably right, HeatBombastic's hypothetical still holds water. IF the PS4 indeed ever does encounter a slump, developers/publishers will back off. It's happened with Vita, it's happened with Wii U, and although highly unlikely, it can and will happen to PS4 if the platform fails to keep momentum. It's unfortunate, it really is. Because if these devs and publishers would stand their ground with regards to supporting a platform in the face of a temporary slump, it would help those said platforms recover more quickly. But because of their capricious attitudes, they only serve to feed the negativity and contribute to stalling demand, making it even more difficult for a platform to regain momentum.



JaxonH said:

@Magolor Wisdom of a true gamer. If only we could talk some sense into these fanboys that determine a console's worth by whether or not it has the biggest specs. And convince them to stop hating specific consoles, for any reason. A true gamer loves gaming, and to achieve the highest level of gaming, you really need all 3 consoles, both handhelds and a PC. Most can't afford all, but you buy what you can with what your budget allows, prioritizing the consoles that cater toward the games you like. I think a lot of the console war hatred stems from individuals who can't afford all the consoles- but instead of acknowledging they're missing out on excellent gaming experiences, they rationalize with themselves by bashing anything they can't afford to own.



Cloud7794 said:

@JaxonH I know, my main point was that, should the PS4 somehow not quite sell as well as it should, developers would have no choice but to be completely open-faced about it and say it's because of sales numbers. They can't hide behind the "Not enough power" or "Not enough tech" excuse thrown by every dev who's abandoned Wii U.



JaxonH said:

@Cloud7794 True. Or they'll just go back to PS3/360 development and give some hogwash reason like Namco Bandai is doing concerning the Tales games.

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