The making of PlayStation 4

Sony revealed the PS4 controller, its spec and some of its network capabilities at PlayStation Meeting last week. We sat down with Sony Worldwide Studios senior vice president Michael Denny after the event to gain further insight into the philosophy driving the creation of Sony’s fourth PlayStation and how developers fit into its vision for the platform.

Why reveal PS4 now?

I think there’s been a lot of speculation out there about when nextgen is coming. It just felt right. We wanted to do the announcement in stages, as it were, throughout the year leading up to launch, and this event was very much about just introducing people to the concept of PlayStation 4, the philosophy behind it, why make the choices of architecture we did, why we wanted to get the world’s development talent on board, and why we wanted to place gamers very much at the heart of what we’re doing. I know there’s lots of questions that come from people in terms of other areas and business models, but, for us, that’s later in the year.

Can you explain the thinking behind the new controller?

Obviously the game interface is a crucial part of any gaming system, and so, the starting point is what can we improve on the current DualShock 3. So the sticks and the trigger buttons have been tightened for more control, there’s less latency. The control’s rumble has been improved, the Sixaxis has been improved on it, and then there are the extra features on it as well. So, there’s the Share button, the light bar, and the touchpad.

When we started this process, we got development teams in early and, as you can imagine, there’s every feature in the world that’s on the smorgasbord for us to choose from, and it really depends on developers’ feelings for what they can do with the different interfaces.

So, there are many prototypes that haven’t been announced and [we] aren’t here to announce, but, for example, you understand how a touchscreen works on a lot of mobile devices and mobile gaming. Translate those to some games in terms of some grab moves, perhaps, some pinch moves, some melee moves, but also in terms of going to more of the GUI and perhaps an inventory system just off button. So there’s lots of ways of playing with it and in [the] prototype stage, the feeling was for most developers that they could use that to good effect. Wait and see, get your hands on the demos as they come out.

Is the hardware more cost-effective than, say, the PS3 was on launch because it mainly consists of standardised PC components? We’re aware that the CPU and GPU are also on one chip.

I think that’s a fairly good assumption, but the reason for choosing the architecture we did was first and foremost informed by what the game development community wanted, to produce a system for ease of development and richness of development. For example, clearly decisions like having 8GB of on-board high-speed system memory is a fantastic win for the ease of development, but [also] the richness of the content they can produce.

That 8GB, how was that decision reached? There were rumours of it being only four, and it’s more expensive than DDR3 obviously. How was the cost-effectiveness balanced with what developers wanted?

Those are exactly the sort of choices you’re presented with, and you make those decisions. As Mark [Cerny, lead on PS4 hardware] was explaining, it was absolutely vital to us as we’re putting the gamer at the heart of this new system as our clear focus, that we wanted the best content possible on there. So that legislates, that leads to the decisions, informed by all our great development teams and third party partners as well, as to what the best choices should be. Of course there [are] implications of all those choices, but absolutely that’s the right decision for PlayStation 4 for the system we want to devise.

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