PS4's Mark Cerny explains why Sony opted for the x86
We've already heard quite a bit from PlayStation 4's lead architect, Mark Cerny
, about the hardware behind the upcoming next-generation console. Now, speaking with Official PlayStation Magazine
, Cerny elaborates on what went into the selection process of the console's (seemingly unwieldy) x86 processor.
"There was definitely a first-party voice that said [the x86 chip] probably couldn't be used for games," Cerny tells the magazine
. "Because of its very long history, the x86 is rather complex... If you read an x86 manual, it takes pages to explain all the different ways that you can move data from one register to another, based on all the additions to the architecture over the years. It's a bit overwhelming from that perspective."
Cerny and Sony's internal technology teams went to work researching the chip as early as 2007, before the PlayStation 4 was a glimmer on the horizon. Cerny says the research began as "a post-mortem" for the PlayStation 3.
"Actual work on PS4 didn't start until 2008. [At first] I wasn't deciding whether the x86 would be the chip. I was trying to work out whether it would be an option. If your only option is the Power PC, it's very restrictive in terms of hardware vendors. If you can also use the x86, you can talk to anyone out there who makes technology."
For this reason, despite concerns over the x86's complex architecture, Cerny and his team argued in favor of the chip, believing it was "finally useable in a console."
"We made 15 separate presentations [with first-party teams]," Cerny explains. "The presentation we did was so long that one of the teams was stranded on the tarmac for five hours, and they still arrived before we finished going through all the materials we prepared."