Part of Ken Kutaragi’s vision of the PS3 was for the console to ship without a dedicated graphics processor, with the now infamous Cell chip handling ALL the processing.
The intention, IGN reports, was for PS3 to arrive alongside Xbox 360 in 2005. However, Kutarai and his team were eventually convinced that a GPU was a necessity, leading to the launch being delayed by one year.
For a while, [PS3 had] no GPU,” an un-named source stated. It was going to run everything with SPUs.
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. 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.”
Cell, once heralded by Sony as the future of computing, was certainly an advanced bit of kit but former PlayStation boss Kutaragi’s dogged belief in the technology has now become the thing of legend.
Seven years into PS3’s life developers have finally got to the stage there they are able to utilise it fully, meaning many multiplatform titles now favour PS3 over Xbox 360. But for many years this was not the case.
Cell, and the architecture it demands, is hard to work with. It was the same story with PS2 and its unusual innards, but such was the success of that console that developers had little choice but to stick with if they hoped for any meaningful level of commercial success.
It’s all change with PS4, however, whose entire structure has been designed on the idea of ease of use for developers.