Mark Cerny Explains Why The Cell Processor Was Not Included In The PS4

He researched 30 years of x86’s history!

Posted By | On 28th, Jun. 2013 Under News | Follow This Author @GamingBoltTweet

Yesterday’s Gamelab had Mark Cerny as a special guest. Cerny is the lead architect on the PlayStation 4 and is one of the important figures behind the development of Sony’s next gen console.

At one point during his presentation he talks about how he came to the conclusion that the PS4 did not needed a Cell processor but something more standard i.e. the x86 architecture.

“After the PlayStation 3 shipped, the hardware team immediately started working on reducing the manufacturing costs of the console. And in 2007 they also began a post modern analysis of  PlayStation 3. What had worked and what had’nt, with the goal of beginning of the basic direction to take with the next console,” he said during the presentation.

He talks about how he had two ways in approaching the CPU for the PS4. Either make the Cell more powerful or go for the x86 architecture.

“In other words this was the initial step in creation of PlayStation 4. And for the first time in Sony Computer Entertainment’s history, this process was inclusive and collaborative, the ICE team, the other tools, the other technology teams were invited to participate. Now the most obvious path though was to continue using CELL. Though the learning curve was steep, it was clear that mastery of SPUs was leading to some amazing titles like Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, so it was an definitely was an option to continue using CELL. Perhaps even enhancing it to make it more powerful or easier to use. But there were other options too, we can move to a more conventional architecture with just a CPU and a GPU. If we went with that approach, choosing a CPU will be a very big deal because that will determine which vendor we work with and thereby determine  pretty much every aspect of our project. Timeline, business structure, development cost in a way. So there were two main possibilities for the CPU, the power PC architecture that we used in the PS3 and the CELL, and the x86 architecture used in pretty much every modern PC.”

“The conventional wisdom as expressed by the number of  first party game programmers was that the x86 architecture was unusable in a games console. Now I took this very seriously and thought that a console needs to be competitive with a much more powerful PC  and if game programmers need straight forward power PC architecture to make that happen. I understand. I just wondered whether this is true, cause the potential design space for the PlayStation 4 was going to pretty limited for using the x86 CPU.”

He then talks about how he spent his holidays researching 30 years of x86’s history and finally concluded that this is something that programmers can embrace.

“So I spent my 2007 holiday in researching the 30 some year history of the x86, all the way from its creation in the 1970’s to the recent enhancements. My conclusion was that the conventional wisdom had been correct but progressive enhancements by Intel and AMD have finally resulted into something console programmers can embrace. And then I started thinking. I just sacrificed my holiday to investigate some philosophical points of a console that I am not really assigned to be working on and won’t be releasing for another 5 years. That’s passion, that’s enthusiasm and may be I should consider working on this project more deeply.”

He then talks about his skill sets and expertise and how he met Shuhei Yoshida and Masa Chitani to eventually become the lead system architect on the PlayStation 4.

Quite a story, right? What do you guys think?

The 49 minute long presentation can be seen here.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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  • BimmerLover

    Well first, please proofread your submissions. Second, looking past that I believe that system/game companies will always aim for the biggest “bang for the buck” while considering how easy it is for developers, both indie and not, to develop games for it. Since the x86 platform has been around for decades, I can only assume that it’s easy to develop for, cheaper than a proprietary platform, and very well may be the cheapest way to go.

  • polysix

    post modern? LOL

    • Axe99

      Your comment may make sense, but I’m not convinced you actually know what post modern means ;).

    • spideynut71

      I think the “LOL” comes from the use of “post modern” at all, when it’s largely considered a BS term, unless you’re discussing literature/philosophy. It would have made more sense in the context of “cutting edge”, but that’s not what he was talking about at all. Like the word “dynamic”, “post modern/postmodern” gets thrown around way too much, often without real meaning.

    • Axe99

      Aye, I’d say – but post-modern thinking isn’t just about literature/philosophy, it’s a particular perspective on understanding knowledge. It would be possible to have a post-modern themed assessment of anything, including a PS3 launch. Of course, I agree that it’s probably used here incorrectly (Cerny’s a great guy, but I’m not sure how strong his epistemology is) but the term wasn’t inappropriately, it just wasn’t elaborated as to how the assessment was undertaken in the context of a post-modern understanding of how the knowledge and understandings interrelate with each other.

    • spideynut71

      LOL…. I think you need to do a postmodern assessment of what you just posted. Maybe edit out some of the verbosity. 😉

    • Axe99

      Haha, I left a couple of words out because I just popped the post up quickly (and had a couple of typos), but in terms of the construction of the arguments, it’s not that verbose at all. Verbose is using lots of words to say things, often repetitively. Happy for you to provide a less verbose paragraph that covers the same logical points ;).

    • Killzoned


    • Axe99

      Sooo….don’t understand what’s being talked about, post a meme? It is the internet, and your helping it maintain it’s reputation well :P.

    • jackfaktor

      The LOL comes from the ignorant author misquoting Carny’s statement of doing a “postmortem of the PS3”. Thought the joke was pretty obvious….

    • Killzoned


  • spideynut71

    That’s all really a fancy way of saying “We invested all that $$ in Cell, only to have our clocks cleaned by the 360, and it’s PC-centric design, when it came to 3rd party (the lion share of game sales).”

    • Jason Mounce

      Unsure how you can honestly say that when the games on the PS3 still look better than anything the Xbox 360 has shown…..that and the fact that PS3 already sold more consoles than the 360 globally even though the 360 had a ONE YEAR head start.

      Kevin Carey, there’s a Time for ignorance in your stupor as a fanboy, and then there’s a time of Reality Checks. PS3 hardware was complicated and was the final design by the Playstation Godfather, but he left and Kaz came in charge and stopped the charade of trying to ‘Challenge’ developers and instead embraced the common sense that would be to ask and give what is wanted to make gamers happy. Quit being a fanboy and be a family man.

    • spideynut71

      Ah, selective reading…the ammunition of an internet tough guy. Yes, go ahead and completely ignore that I was SPECIFICALLY talking about “when it came to 3rd party (the lion share of game sales)”. Only a “fanboy”…like yourself…could deny that. I’ve played every major PS3 exclusive, son (I’ve purchased 3 PS3s this gen)…though I’ve only just started TLOU.

      My point was, Sony recognized that to be competitive in the games SALES (you know, the reason the industry exists), they needed hardware more like PC/XBOX architecture, so 3rd party devs could do proper ports. If YOU weren’t so ignorant, you’d know that’s a GOOD thing.

    • honestly 3rd party games have been performing very similar over the past few years on both consoles saleswise. maybe the xbox “cleaned the clock” playstation early on, a year head start will do that, but like i said last few years its been neck and neck with the ps3 pulling ahead in sales. seems like you’re kinda hostile because ppl dont see it your way oh well. .

    • spideynut71

      BLOPS2 : 2 million more on 360
      Madden13: 400k more on 360
      Fallout 3 & NV : 1.8 million more on 360
      BF3: .400k more on 360
      Skyrim: 3 million more on 360

      Assassin’s Creed III… and the franchise (originally touted by Sony as exclusive)… is about dead even. Same goes for GTA4 and RDR from R*.
      Those are just some of the biggest 3rd party releases of the “past few years”. Not to mention some of the other PS-only franchises that Sony lost sales on because they went multi-platform.

      It’s not about “seeing it my way”….just about seeing it without fanboy goggles on. Which goes back to my original comment: The PS4 architecture is about Sony regaining some of what they lost in 3rd party this gen. They want PS2-level dominance, not a debatable 200k lead in a global sales battle for 2nd place, behind Nintendo. That they have still only managed to pull even, or slightly ahead, in 7 years…with MS dealing with RROD, charging for XBL, and “inferior hardware”…is pathetic. Sony knows this, and it’s time fanboys accept that fact too.

    • Michael Norris

      Sony lost those exclusive because the development costs .It’s all about how many consoles are sold.MS got the 360 out a year ahead,it paid off for them.Sony is doing everything right it seems.Better hardware cheaper price,1st party support is amazing, indie support will be great.MS seems to have turned into the Sony of old.Skyrim and Fallout are two broken games for Ps3.

    • Cole Tamblyn

      You know, 3rd party sales wise, you may be right. I’m just having trouble reading what you’re posting because you’re an unbelievably big d-bag about the whole issue.

    • spideynut71

      I AM right…there’s ton’s of statistical sales data and news articles that proves it. You can’t just fabricate something like that.

      I love how I’m the d-bag, when my initial comment wasn’t even directed at anyone here. Fanboys have to back one another I see. Mounce was the one who attacked ME with the “ignorant fanboy” crap. I don’t apologize for anything I posted afterward. I stick by initial comments…and will add that if you can’t comprehend English, you have no business commenting anyway.

    • steve

      Ok ill bite Kevin, the games you listed are aimed towards American crowds are they not? The very same crowd where the 360 is leading in sales is it not? Now for a better look at things lets show the big franchises where Ps3 is leading.

      Fifa 13 – leading by 1.8million
      Final Fantasy 13 – leading by 3 million
      Resident Evil 5 – leading by 1.5 million
      Need for speed most wanted criterion – leading by 900k

      Those are just some of the biggest 3rd party releases of the “past few years”.

    • Turner Will

      Kevin, the 360 lost Mass Effect, Bioshock and Portal to multiplatform. I noticed you only listed the games that sold better on the 360. There were multiplats that sold more on the PS3 as well. The 360 came out 1 year before and is currently in 3rd place globally and being outsold worldwide every month by the PS3 in both hardware and software. Yes, I can look sales numbers up too.

    • Michael Norris

      Well you are wrong about Ps3.360 didn’t clean its clock,maybe in America but world wide Ps3 out sold it.This being a whole year behind.Sony has the best 1st party developers this gen.The Last of Us is my GOTY,and for this gen.Also the failure rate on 360 was super high something around 33%.I am sure MS counts replacement consoles as well.

    • GuyWhoKnowsHisShit

      First of all, the 360 CPU was easier to develop for but it wasn’t x86. It was PowerPC, same as PS3. But whereas 360 had traditional PC-style cores, PS3 had SPUs (think of them as mini-cores).

      Secondly, before you people say I’m some PS fanboy, I’m not. I have both, and I’m a software developer. I know my shit.

    • spideynut71

      Did I say it was x86? No. Just that it was “PC-centric”, as in the “PC-style cores” you mention. I really don’t like quoting myself, but you people can’t f’ing read.

    • You’re dumb

      You’re a fucking idiot.

    • spideynut71

      That’s all you’ve got? Really? Well I can’t say I’m impressed by your display of intellect either, kiddo.

    • Michael Norris

      Hey Kevin ,you are talking about 3rd party sells.Other then Madden and BF3 the rest of those games had some issues on Ps3.If you are a Ps3 owner and you bought Skyrim,Fallout,RDR,COD for Ps3 you got screwed big time.Those games were poorly coded,Skyrim was broken to the point it was unplayable.Fallout had some really bad bugs.RDR was GTA with horses also with performance issues.Look at games made in the past three years,Saints Row the 3rd,Tomb raider,Bioshock infinite both FF 13 and x2,BF3 too name a few.

    • spideynut71

      Well no shlt, Sherlock…hence my stance that the real reason for the PS4 design being more PC-like has to do with improving development of such games.

      Seriously, this is quite sad. It’s like these responses are coming from people with a sub-3rd grade reading level.

    • guest


      Enjoyed this comment thread as an outsider. Agree with your original comments 100%

    • Turner Will

      Kevin, your arrogance is astounding! You are clearly a 16yo xbot! I can’t read any of your ignorant comments without giving you a thumbs down first. Schools definitely out folks!

    • thatguykevin

      maaaan..kEvin be dum and I kant evan litsen to dis rubbish. 360 is the dubmest sisyem eva!..all tew of mine went down da drane!..playstashen and nintindew fer lyfe!

    • RJ

      Come on

      someone say something else to Kevin

      I’m really loving these pathetic hillbilly responses to Kevin’s facts

      he put numbers on the table

      360 did a number on Sony

      Firstly, 360 didn’t lose as much on console sales as PS3, I believe the 360 console became profitable way before the PS3 did.

      Secondly, as Kevin said, its about game sales. Game sales is what makes money not the hardware.

      Now I await to hear the next uneducated response from the Sony fanboy community

      oh and PS. I also owned 2 PS3 this generation and I’ve seen first hand how the 360 ripped Sony a new A- Hole

    • lt.dan

      I wouldn’t say clocks cleaned, the ps3 still sold more. The xbox 360 definitely took out a massive chunk from Sony’s fanbase.

    • spideynut71

      1.) AGAIN…talking about 3rd party games here, not consoles or 1st party games.
      2.) Considering Sony’s PS2 dominance, MS’s problems with RROD (which would have put any other company out of business), and Sony not charging for online, like MS….YES, they got their clocks cleaned.

      I’m beginning to think deficiency in reading comprehension skills is an epidemic.

    • tovarichyuri

      and despite that, the PS3 outsold XBOX 360 globally speaking.

  • Nathan

    His ability to tell an engaging story is well received by this gamer.


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