It didn’t come as much of a surprise when Sony announced that the PlayStation 4 CPU would be based on a PC design that’s built around the x86 architecture. It did surprise us however, how developer-friendly Sony has made the new console. Not only did they equip it with a GPU that’s about 4.5x more powerful than the one in the PS3, they also stuffed a massive 8 GB of super-fast GDDR5 RAM into the box. All this is very good news for developers.
It’s common knowledge that making games for the PS3 is a tough job. The custom Cell processor, while very powerful, had a steep learning curve which means it took longer for PS3 games to reach the kind of visual quality found on the Xbox 360.
Sony changes that by moving to a much more familiar architecture: x86. Almost all CPU’s on desktop computers today run x86, and it’s an architecture that dates back 20+ years. This means developers are very familiar with it, its features, and how to make games and applications.
PC developers looking to jump into console development will have it much easier this time around. They’ll be making games for the same platform, essentially, as the underlying architectures will be the same for both CPU and GPU.
Moving to x86 means that it’s a lot more likely we’ll see those PC-exclusive titles on the PlayStation 4. And vice versa: developers will be able to quickly port their next-gen console games to the PC.
We’ve already heard from developers on the PS4, and all of them seem very impressed. Sony reached out to its core third party devs and asked them what they wanted. And it looks like they got plenty of horsepower and features to make gorgeous next-gen titles. Not to mention that making games for the PS4 will be easier as well. Easier development means faster development, which results in cheaper development.
Sony is calling the PlayStation 4 hardware a “supercharged PC”, and with a modern 64-bit 8-core CPU, powerful GPU, and 8 GB of fast RAM, the PS4 is exactly that: a supercharged PC. And since console games can take better advantage of the hardware — since there isn’t a heavy OS layer like Windows — those specs are even more impressive.
Which brings us to another important aspect of PS4 development: the tools and APIs. This time around, third party middleware developers will have a much easier time porting their PC game tools to the PS4. Sony has already confirmed that Havok physics will be available on the PS4, and Unreal Engine 4 was showcased running on the console as well. Sony has their own suite of APIs and tools for developers to use as well.
If you’re a developer, the next-gen PlayStation 4 should be very good news to you. Indie PC developers especially will benefit from the PS4, as a familiar architecture will make it easier to port games to the PS4.