Cerny laid out five characteristics that the company hopes will
differentiate PS4 from its own previous PlayStation platforms as well as
those by its competitors. Namely, by making it simple, immediate, social, integrated and “personalized.”
By immediate, Cerny
means not only the speed of the custom hardware but also the immediacy
required for suspend/resume operation in game play. The PS4 will also
come with a secondary custom chip responsible for downloading and
processing games in the background.
By social, Cerny talked of
PS4’s “always-on video compression and decompression hardware.” It will
make “sharing video popular” while a gamer interacts with his friends,
he explained. It enables popular “spectating” function simpler and
easier, since all users have to do is to push a “share” button for
real-time sharing of game play on the remote, second screen, he said.
is expected to be used far beyond the living room, said Cerny, as its
use will be “integrated” with other devices including smartphones,
tablets, PlayStation Vita (mobile gaming platform) and the Web. The idea
is to let people play PS4 games on multiple platforms even while they
are away from the PS4 game console in a living room.
PS4 will also offer personalized services by predicting kinds of games a user prefers and pre-loading it for him, Cerny said.
Lessons learned from PS3
industry observers who attended the press conference here were
generally impressed by the energy and confidence Sony and its developer
partners brought to the event.
More encouraging is that Sony’s
PS4 team appears to be taking to heart the lessons they learned from the
PS3. In particular, by embracing the X86-based platform, they believe
that Sony could address what turned out to be fatal issues of product
delay and the lack of content PS3 faced. Sierra Media’s Dipert,
recalling the PS3 launch, noted that “the CELL processor ended up being a
nightmare to program.” Further, when coupled with the late-design-cycle
add of a Nvidia GPU in PS3, it led to “a dearth of compelling game
content not only at the introduction of PS3 but also for a long time
afterward,” he said.
Then, there is also an issue of a comparative launching schedule.
The PS3 was one year later than the Wii and the Xbox 360,
giving both of these other platforms a big market lead. "Consumers had
already bought the big-ticket-item console," Dipert said. "They were assembling game
content libraries. Therefore, they were reluctant to buy yet another
This time around, though, Nintendo’s Wii U
hasn’t taken off on the market, and the next generation of Microsoft’s
Xbox 360 is not out yet.
It remains unclear how
Sony plans to proceed with the migration of native PS4 games to other
platforms (when connected to smartphones, tablets or Vita), or
converting currently available PS3 games to x86. One obvious way to
solve this is to do software emulation. Dipert called it “a really
really hard problem.”
However, with PS4, there's a heavy reliance
on 'cloud'-delivered content. Dipert noted, “It's conceivable that Sony
could convince developers (at least its own game studio) to create
x86-compiled versions of existing PS3 games, which could then be
downloaded to the PS4, thereby providing a no-cost or some-cost 'bridge'
for potential customers with lots of existing PS1, PS2 and PS3
content," he said.
Two big lessons that Sony has learned from launching PS3.
1) Time to market: Game console has become a congested market. The delay launching PS3 was a big deal for Sony to timely making the development cost of PS3.
2) Game availability and time to market: Cell processor was superior in many way. The graphic quality and performance were incomparable in the early time of PS3. With the same game available in both PS3 and XBox 360, the one on PS3 was so much better. However, gamers are willing to live with 720p with an early availability of the game. The development cost (time and developers) of PS3 game was known to be really pricy.
With all these experience, it is not difficult to understand the direction that Sony has taken. However, I think it is very important for Sony to understand why Microsoft has chosen PowerPC on XBox360 instead of continuing the direction of using X86 as in XBox.
The game console folks have no loyalty to any specific architecture. Sony itself used MIPs, then moved to Cell and now x86. Xbox uses custom powerPC cores from IBM and may also move to x86 or ARM. Whoever gives them the lowest cost chip wins. In this instance AMD gave them the APU with both the CPU and more importantly the graphics processing.
While I understand that switching to a different architecture could happen on the game console, I am not sure if the cost of the CPU/GPU is the only reasons that motivate game console guys to do so.
Considering the headache of dealing with backward compatibilty issues of their game titles, I don't think this is a decision that they take it lightly.
Agree. IBM had designed the processors for all the 3 big game console providers and I suspect it was not able to provide a roadmap for them.
Reminds me of the decision by Apple to move away from IBM/Motorola to x86 for the same reason.
How much should they actually care about backwards compatibility?
Yes, they could encourage developers to port older PS3 games, or try to do a software emulation layer.
But the people who would want to play the old games already have a PS3. They might get a PS4, but will the PS3 simply be thrown out/sold/passed along, or will it be kept around for older games while the PS4 gets used for new content?
Backwards compatibility may not be that critical, if the PS4's performance on new stuff is compelling enough.
Move away from IBM should be easily explained by IBM not installing enough wafer making capacity at 32nm and beyond. GF is IBM mfg partner. But they must have gotten a good deal from AMD , which also make chips at GF, using same tech as IBM.
It's the software stupid - something all companies big and small forget. They should have stayed with X86 from the beginning.
The PPC and CELL choices are made by hardware engineers that fall in love with speedy hardware specs, sell it to management and then throw it over the wall for the software community in the "other building"
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