Ambition to ship GPU-less console delayed PS3

Ambition to ship GPU-less console delayed PS3
Aaron Lee

By Aaron Lee

October 9th 2013 at 3:26PM

Desire to ship console without a graphics chip pushed it back an entire year

A flawed ambition to ship PlayStation 3 without a graphic processing unit was a major reason for the console’s year-long delay, fresh interviews with Sony staff have revealed.

Speaking to IGN, members of Naughty Dog, said that PS3 was intended to launch in 2005, but the Sony’s hardware team – lead by Ken Kuturagi – originally wanted the system’s Cell chip and SPUs to handle its entire graphics processing.

“We had started this ICE [Initiative for a Common Engine] team with the intent of developing some core technology that could be shared amongst all the first parties, back at the end of Jak II,” said an unnamed source.

“We thought, ‘okay, Jak 3 will come out – that was 2004 – and then we’d have another year.’ Then we’d get our PS3 game out.”

Naughty Dog soon got Amy Hennig, creator of Uncharted series, involved to start coming up with ideas for the new console. But with the system delayed, she worked on Jak 3.

Jak X, the studio’s last PS2 game, was only supposed to be a “stopgap” before it moved on to after “the entire [PS3] was delayed by a year”.

“For a while, [PS3 had] no GPU, it was going to run everything with SPUs,” the source said.

Sony poured at least $400 million into the development of the Cell processor. For sometime, the company’s ambition, another source said, was for PS3 to go without a GPU at all; Cell was expected to do all the heavy lifting.

“The ICE team proved to Japan that it was just impossible. It would be ridiculous. Performance-wise, it would be a disaster. That’s why they finally added the GPU, closer to the end.”

PlayStation 3 was revealed for the first time at E3 2005 in Los Angeles. By that point, Sony had struck a deal with Nvidia to supply its console with a GPU and plans for a 2005 launch were abandoned, leaving Microsoft to get a head start with Xbox 360.

Another source added: “I think that the hardware guys focused too much on getting the [Sony’s proprietary processor] CELL working that the GPU project [for PlayStation 3] ultimately fell behind.”