The Official PlayStation Magazine recently conducted an interview with Michael Denny, vice president of Sony’s Worldwide Studios. They talked about the hardware behind the upcoming PlayStation 4, revealing that the developer community actually requested the x86-based platform.
Looking back, this demand for an x86-based platform really is no surprise given how many complaints Sony received regarding the PlayStation 3's hardware. Sony co-developed the Cell Broadband Engine Architecture, AKA Cell, with Toshiba and IBM. It combines a general-purpose Power Architecture Core with streamlined coprocessing elements and a memory coherence architecture.
The PlayStation 3's Cell configuration includes one Power Processor Element on the core, and eight physical Synergistic Processing Elements in silicon. Developers have called this environment "challenging" which in turn reduced support for the PlayStation 3 and seemingly allowed the Xbox 360 to win the console wars.
Apparently one of the complaints heard repeatedly by developers, especially in the early days of the PlayStation 3, was that it was difficult to fit Sony's console within a PC-focused pipeline. "That’s certainly one of the points of feedback that developers had in when we were discussing in the early days of what PlayStation 4 architecture should be," Denny admitted. "But, as I say, the main thing was looking at the state of the art CPU and GPU, with ease of development."
Despite the upcoming console's PC-based guts, it's not going to be a desktop PC out-of-the-box, but a dedicated gaming console. Ultimately what this means for gamers is that they'll likely not see crappy ports, as developers can now better use their resources to create one baseline game and add specific platform–based features. Sony actually co-developed the PlayStation 4's APU with AMD, so expect some platform-specific surprises.
"I think that we learn from all the platforms we launch and systems we’ve developed," he told the magazine. "Part of PlayStation 4 is learning from previous platforms and making things better. Then part of it is the new experience as well, adding extra features, and you put those together for a much better package and much better experience for the gamer."
At the end of the day, it's about the output, he added. It's about having the best creators and development teams, the best games and the best experiences no matter what's under the console hood. But having 8 GB of high speed system memory doesn't hurt.
"[That] is just a massive win for developers in terms of the sort of games they can create, and the ease of game development," he said.