Following the announcement of PlayStation 4's release date and price in Japan, Famitsu magazine sat down to speak with two of the main leaders behind the console's birth — Shuhei Yoshida, president of SCE Worldwide Studios, and Mark Cerny, game-design veteran and the PS4's lead system architect.
"I just couldn't wait until we could announce PS4 details [in Japan]," Yoshida told Famitsu. "Ever since the February unveiling, we weren't able to give Japanese users details about release date and price, and with the software as well, our overseas presentations were chiefly centered on Western studios. I can understand how Japanese users are getting impatient; for us, we didn't have an opportunity to give the news, so I'm happy that we can do it for good now."
"It's been five years since we began thinking about what kind of system the PS4 should be, so I'm happy we're able to reveal it," Cerny added. "We had two goals for PS4 development. One was performance. Boosting the performance of the CPU and GPU means prettier graphics and more interactive worlds inside the games — in other worlds, we can have game experiences that put you in the world like never before. Our performance goal was to produce specs ten times those of previous consoles, and as a result, I'm confident this is the best-performing game system in history."
The second design goal? "Ease of development," Cerny replied. "We asked assorted creators what kind of functionality we should put in, and we used their responses as a base when we finalized the hardware architecture. We're aiming for not just performance, but also an environment setup that allows for smooth PS4 game development."
As Yoshida explained to Famitsu, this ease of development allows studios to take an idea they're developing on computers and turn it into a playable PS4 prototype at a far quicker pace than previous systems. "Small-scale projects don't even take a month [to reach that point]," Cerny said, "and even big titles can get rolling in two or three months. As a result, I think we've built one of the neatest launch lineups in game history. With our PS3 experience, we understand the factors needed for powerful, effective development, so that's why we treated our twin goals of performance and ease of development so seriously. Thanks to that, I think we were able to reduce development time on Knack by around a year."
A lot of care was paid internally to the design of the DualShock 4 controller, too. "We created a lot of different shapes before we settled on this controller," Yoshida said. "You see new devices and sensors go on sale every year, and the way games are played change along with that. So instead of just making the DualShock 3 into the DualShock 4, we just tried to get as many ideas out there as possible. The hardware team would say 'We have this device' or 'We could do this', and the dev studios would say 'Make the R2 button easier to press' or ' Make the analog sticks more sensitive'. In the end, the grips are longer, the center of gravity in a different position, and overall it's a fair amount different from the DualShock 3."
What if a strong launch lineup results in a drought of new titles post-launch; a phenomenon that plagued Sony after both the PS2 and PS3 debuts? "That's why we're trying to give our help out to indie titles," Yoshida countered. "Huge titles from large makers take time to develop; they can't just be brought out immediately. However, with the indie scene, especially in the West, we're seeing really neat games coming out from there pretty much every week. I'd like to get that indie flow going in the Japan market as well, with unique titles coming out one after the other. More and more users are making digital purchases these days, so even studios making games with small teams can make it into a business."
Between the PS4's specs and its ease of development, Sony's new console is generating enthusiasm among game creators worldwide. "The PS4 is really easy to build games on," Cerny said. "I think we'll see a variety of products coming out from lots of creators. I'm confident that the system will allow many creators to get involved."