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Revealed: PS3 creators wanted to release console without GPU

PlayStation execs believed Cell processor could handle all tasks

The PlayStation 3 was intended to ship without a graphics processor until executives were told the idea was unfeasible, a person familiar with the project has revealed.

Some Sony executives believed the Cell could act as both GPU and CPU

Ken Kutaragi's grand ambitions for his final system was that its Cell processor would be able to handle the game, system and graphics processing simultaneously.

The eventual realisation that this plan was unworkable meant the console was delayed by a year while Sony looked around for a graphics partner.

"For a while, [PS3 had] no GPU, it was going to run everything with Cell's SPUs," the insider told IGN.

"The ICE [Initiative For A Common Engine] 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."

With Sony brokering a deal with Nvidia to use its GPU, the system was delayed by about a year. Microsoft's Xbox 360 was handed a year-long head start that Sony never managed to overcome. The late addition of the graphics card is also why the system's price was significantly higher than its rivals.

The story has become a kind of folklore within industry circles, with claims that this was the key reason why the PlayStation 3 was significantly more expensive than initially intended.

Ken Kutaragi, the 'Father of PlayStation', stepped down in 2007

Sony's Cell processor project concluded in 2005. At the time, the widely respected IBM engineer Jim Kahle said designing the processor was "the most important project of my career".

It was reported at the time that Sony had invested at least $400 million in the processor, and the corporation was proud to state that the very first home device to have Cell at its heart would be PlayStation 3.

Numerous developers say they hated the processor and the additional tasks attached to working with exotic multithreaded code.

IGN's insider added: "I think that the hardware guys focused too much on getting the Cell working that the GPU project [for PlayStation 3] ultimately fell behind."

Ken Kutaragi resigned from Sony Computer Entertainment following the PS3's release.

Sony has confirmed a PlayStation 4 release date of November 15 in the US and November 29 in Europe.

Further reading: Timeline - PlayStation 3 versus the world