Sony to Ditch Cell for PS4?


It seems that Sony is to drop its Cell processor architecture, used in the PlayStation 3, for development of a successor, named aptly enough, the PS4.

Sony’s PlayStation 3 suffered a slow start this console generation, and never quite picked up the same kind of momentum as Nintendo’s Wii or even Microsoft’s Xbox 360. Indeed, much of the blame for this was placed at the feet of the Cell processor, which was said to be giving developers all kinds of headaches that they weren’t seeing with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 architecture, being more similar to a PC.

According to TechRadar, Sony had been looking to work with Intel’s Larrabee, but has since moved on to considerations of more current-PC-styled multi-core processing. Certainly, game developers would be pleased with the shift, given the difficulties they had had with the Cell, but it’ll likely be a bit of a disappointment for those who felt the Cell was never used to its fullest potential.

Now that Nintendo is considering Larrabee, we’ll be curious to see what news comes from Sony when there’s more solid word on PlayStation 4 development. For now though, we’re expecting not to hear too much about a next-generation PlayStation for quite some time.

Sony’s own word on the PlayStation 3 was that it was expensive at launch because that was the cost of “future proofing” the device for what it felt would be an unusually long console life-cycle. Here we are, almost four years since the device’s launch, and there’s still no solid word on a next-gen PlayStation, so certainly that extended life-cycle is happening.

We’re curious to see how well Microsoft’s Xbox 360 weathers the extended life cycle, but there have already been complaints about the capacity of a DVD and the fact that developers aren’t allowed to make a hard drive mandatory. If nothing else, we’re expecting the fight between the two to heat up now that they’re more similarly priced.


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2 Responses to “Sony to Ditch Cell for PS4?”

  1. Wizartar Says:

    The PS3 shot itself in the foot with new hardware that wasn’t like anything else out at the time so had a very large learning curve. This wasn’t helped by the development tools being very difficult to use.

    While Microsoft’s Xbox CPU was standard stuff and the development toolkit was much simpler to use. One of Microsoft’s strengths is putting out quality development tools. It was the same with Nintendo, the Wii was an unscaled GameCube so it was very simple to develop for.

    The PS3 is at a disadvantage because computer games aren’t easy to convert to SMP type CPUs. Meaning you many have 4 CPUs to do the work, but to get a computer game to use all 4 CPUs at the same time is very difficult and that’s why very fast dual code CPUs are still better overall for gaming then slightly slower quad core chips. Computer Programers are still learning how to split up the game into smaller tasks that can then be shared across all the available CPUs. How the PS3 makes this even more complex by the fact each Cell isn’t a complete CPU but only a smaller more simple type calculation type chip, not all tasks can be done by Cell so it’s causes lots of headache to program for.

    • Kevin Says:

      Having worked for a games company in another life I couldn’t disagree more. It’s quite easy to port your code base but often you’ve to do a bit of extra optimisation. It comes down to cost, reliability of your code (game code is usually absolutely awful with very little effort put into “code poetry” and optimisation at a basic level) and effort. It can take an extra 6 months to port a game properly. Large places have the facilities to do it but others don’t bother so do hap-hazard jobs of it.

      As for Cell, it’s more complex but no one gets into computer science because you’ll be stuck doing 1 thing forever. It’s a series of new things to learn. Also, one core is redundant and one handles OS operations, which can be used at a development level to control load balancing etc.

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