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Sony exec details the six years of work it took to create the PS4

PlayStation 4 Interview

Mark Cerny, the Sony engineer largely responsible for creating the PlayStation 4, shared more details on the work behind Sony’s new toy in an interview with DigitalTrends, revealing that he and his teams spent six years developing the product, while aiming for a Holiday 2013 launch. Off to a very good start considering its million-unit debut, the PS4 was conceived with great attention to hardware in mind, even though some of the technology behind it may not have been available at the beginning.

Cerny said that Sony spent two years to come up with a rough sketch of what it was building, two more years to “really nail it down and start custom chip designs,” and another two years to complete the PS4 user experience and make sure everything ran smoothly in time for the launch. The exec revealed that getting the hardware right was crucial for Sony, in order for the company not to miss the targeted launch period.

“The hardware team it’s all about risk,” Cerny said. “You get one shot at it, and if it doesn’t work it’s potentially a six-month schedule to go fix it.” To further emphasize Sony’s focus on hardware engineering, Cerny took an indirect shot at the competition by reminding readers about the “red ring of death” issue that affected some Xbox 360 consoles.

In 2008 and 2009, before coming up with the final spec sheet, Cerny visited more than 30 Sony development teams, trying to figure out what they wanted to see in the future PS4 under the pretense of a questionnaire about future game consoles. However, he admitted that he didn’t fool anybody, as Sony employees knew Cerny was asking questions about the future PS4. According to Cerny, “much of what you see in the console is that feature set,” that Sony employees came up with.

Sony teams across various departments were consulted for the PS4’s user experience in “a long series of brainstorming sessions” to find compelling features for future buyers. But when it comes to software though, things that don’t work as they should from the get-go can be patched up after launch. “So the software team, we shove as many features as we possibly can before we mass drop; and then most of them work, some of them don’t, that’s why we patch,” Cerny said. “In fact we’ll keep shoving features in until day one patch has to go out, right? And the players love it.”

Finally, Cerny also said that with the PS4, Sony had not only a large number of pre-orders, but also “the largest builds of hardware that [it has] ever had over any previous console,” in order to properly launch it in multiple markets across the globe.

Cerny certainly seems to have high hopes for consoles, saying they’re not quite dead yet. “A year or two ago if you asked the analysts, they’d all say how consoles were dead. We were soldiering along, finishing the games and getting ready,” he told DigitalTrends. “By February we announced and it was ‘maybe they aren’t dead,’ and by E3 a million people were just waiting for them to arrive. And then Grand Theft Auto sold 20 million copies in three days.”

Sony has sold 1 million PlayStation 4 units in the first 24 hours of availability, so it’s up to buyers now to put its hardware and software to the test.

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he closely follows the events in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises. Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.