PS4: Cerny and Ito talk about Backward Compatibility and x86 Architecture


Sony’s decision to cut out backward compatibility for the PlayStation 4 was apparently not an easy one. True, Dave Perry (founder of the cloud gaming platform Gaikai) suggested during the PS4′ s reveal back in February that it’s Gaikai’s goal to include the full spectrum of the PlayStation line-up of titles (as detailed in the latter of part one of our report on the PS4’s announcement), but – unfortunately – it seems that PS3 gamers will not be able to play their PS3 games on the new machine via traditional means.

A shame, really, but the PS4’s system architect Mark Cerny explains why. When speaking to a Japanese press recently, Cerny told his story of how he started thinking about a next-generation console in 2007, and how he spent the entirety of his Thanksgiving weekend trying to bounce about ideas of what kind of technologies could be used for it, and how the difficult decision of losing backward compatibility would be done in favour of x86 architecture (a thought in particular which took up most of his weekend). It was during that same interview that Cerny talked about 4K gaming.

The interview was translated thanks to a boffin over on NeoGAF.

“I had started discussions regarding the next generation following PS3 in 2007. At that time, I was investigating what should be done for next generation [technologies]. It was at that time, I wondered if we couldn’t use the x86 architecture for the next generation. I used the entirety of Thanksgiving weekend looking into this. For Americans, this holiday is extremely important. But, that’s how I sacrificed the holidays to think about the future and what possibilities this might bring for our organization.”

“After that, I went to Phil Harrison since he was at the top of the game development division. I was also introduced to Masayuki Chatani who was SCE’s CTO at that time and was directing the next-gen project. What was surprising was that he said “yes” to me being involved with the next generation console.”


Switching to the more developer-friendly x86 meant losing backward compatibility. Cerny admitted that this point was a struggle for Sony. However, they decided to focus on the “positive aspects” that arose from switching to x86. According to Cerny, x86 has “instruction sets which are of significant importance for games,” and that moving to x86 had an “extremely complex set of requirements.

Masayasu Ito (Sony’s Senior Vice President) added how even though backward compatibility is important, the long thought-out decision would have saved manufacturing troubles later down the line. Simply put, in order to support backward compatibility, the PS4 would have had to have the PS3′ s CELL Broadband Engine inside it, which is something that’s doable but not overall practical.

“Backwards compatibility, particularly in Japan, is something that is strongly brought frequently, so we thought long and hard about this. Realistically, to support backwards compatibility with PS3, the CELL Broadband Engine would have needed to been part of the new console. Currently, it’s not possible to simulate this via software. If CELL were the only requirement, that wouldn’t have been much of an issue.”

“We would also need to support the supporting hardware indefinitely. We can freely manufacture CELL if the decision is made that it is needed. However, that’s not the case with supporting hardware. There are parts which will become difficult to obtain since 7 years is already considered to be long in the IT industry…”


It is a real shame that backward compatibility had to be axed. Having said that, it’s not really the end of the world. As well as x86 being more user-friendly for developers, If Gaikai hold their promise and manage to get the full spectrum of PlayStation titles onto their cloud service, then gamers will still be able to play their PS3 classics, as well as whole lot more!

Granted, of course, if gamers wanted those classics on their machine, they’d most likely have to buy them again. However, Perry did say that you will be able to “try for free, and pay only for games you fall in love with.” Regardless of how generous that sounds, though, I think PS3 gamers will still have to fork out X amount of money to actually buy their classics on the PS4. Exactly how much they will have to fork is unknown to me. It’s a digital service, so maybe not too expensive, but that’s wishful thinking on my part.

If some gamers are still uncertain about how they feel about this, they may like to think about it this way: if they already have a PS3, then play PS3 titles on that, and play titles they don’t have (or heard of) on the PS4. That’s just what I’d do, though.

Chirps to PushSquare and NeoGAF.. Thank you for reading, and I’ll catch you next time!

About James Kong

David is a huge gaming fan and has been since an early age. As the owner of TGD David loves providing the best new for the fans when he’s not gaming. Read the TGD About Us page to learn more

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  1. Wanna play ps2 games but want a ps3?? Just keep your ps2. Wanna play ps3 games but want a ps4, just keep your ps3. Guess what I am not keeping all of these machines in my home. There is a finite amount of space and I am not a hoarder. My main reason for the ps3 was blu-ray, hdmi and games. Nothing that the ps4 is offering is worth the upgrade that the ps2 to ps3 was. What about the 100+ games I have on the hard drive of my ps3 thanks to PS+, some free, some bought. Or the 500 to 800 dollars of rock band songs I have purchased thats on the hard drive. It’s a shame too, I’m 43, no kids, good job and have enough money to buy a ps4 on release but whats the need. Being able to move everything over from my ps3 to the ps4 would of made an instant sale. Now??? who needs it.

    • Haha – well, there are a number of pretty slick games coming out for it – given it’s a gaming console, that’s not a crazy reason to get one ;). I do agree it’s a shame they’ve had to let go of B/C, but once the Cell didn’t take off (half a decade or so ago now), it was always on the cards – I’ve been bracing for it for a while.

      On the positive side, I’d bet good money that you’ll have access to anything you’ve already got over PSN for free on Gaikai – would be very surprised if they went any other way with that. Shame it’s not local, but can’t be helped.

    • How *often• do you honestly play games from 5, 10, 15 years ago? If its enough to justify having issue with a lack of backward compatibility, then you’ve got to weigh your decisions when actually buying a current system.

      • bigevilworldwide

        Well Microsoft isn’t going to have it either…..Sooooo those 360 fanboys are going to be greatly disappointed…..

        • No according to VGleaks. Durango is actually going to have a $99 hardware add-on for it (Xbox 360 Stingray). So no lame always online streaming bullshit required, like with Sony).

      • I don’t think it’s a matter of how often, it’s a matter of one day you may get the urge to play that old classic again and then boom, you can’t, not without buying it again, even though you bought it once before. People who think backwards compatibility doesn’t give your console a big edge up over competition are wrong IMO.

        Because lets be honest here, a lot of gamers and such are younger so they live in apartments or dorm rooms or whatever at this moment, you don’t want to have to deal with two sets of hookups, two consoles being hooked up, and various other things taking up your limited amount of space, but at the same time you don’t want to buy a new console at $400-500+ and then the only games available to you at that moment are brand new $60-70 titles, if you’re real working class you’re at most going to have 2 titles at the launch of the system, you’re gonna play through those and then what? Have to pull out your old system to wait til you’re in a position to buy more new games, or it may even be as simple as there are no games out at that time for the new system that interests you, much like the Wii U right now if it didn’t have backward compat.

        It’s a pretty simple thing really, offer backwards compatibility for the first year or so and then remove it or keep it if it gets cheaper.

  2. John Eichelberger

    i noticed that you did not say if ALL backwards compatablity will be removed. since it can read DVD’s, will you be able to play PS2 games on it? or what about ps1…. if all backwards compatablitiy is removed, i dont think i will purchase the system for a long while… i dont want to have to drop 5 thousand dollars to replace all my games from PS1 until PS3 just so i can play them on a ps4…. it just doenst make sense…. i have a bad feeling that sony will take a major hit from its most loyal customers, like me.

    • Just because it can read DVDs doesn’t mean it can read PS2 format games. The type of disc is just a storage medium. It would need PS2 hardware or emulation in order for the disc to communicate with it, which it does not. PS4 also does not read CDs (PS1), though I’m sure that’s all software emulation at this point.

      We don’t yet know how the streaming will work, whether you buy games individually or if it works like Netflix with a PS Plus subscription. If you don’t want to buy games again, then it shouldn’t matter at what point you purchase your PS4, as its not going to change. Keep your old system if you want to play those games. A lot of “loyal” customers bought slim PS3s that also don’t have backward compatibility. I think the crowd that doesn’t buy a new console in any generation because it doesn’t have BC is far fewer than the crowd that buys a new console to play new games, just going by the numbers alone.

      • PS4 does read CDs, but not audio CDs. They were saying that because of the way BR reads data, at a constant speed, it was possible for data to be read on any medium that way, but CDs need to be read at variable speeds from the center to the outer ends of the disc in order to play the audio. That should only account for playing audio directly from a CD, though. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be able to rip the audio from the disc first and then play from the harddrive.

        The reasoning for all of that? My opinion would be that it made sense that cutting out the variable speed capability would lower costs on the optical drives as well as making for a more stable high speed BR drive.

        As for the emulation, they haven’t debunked it for PS1/2 as of yet, although, I haven’t seen the question arise as of yet. Only PS3 BC has been discussed, to my knowledge, hence all the talk about Cell and no talk of the EmotionEngine(PS2) or RISC(PS1).

    • if people absolutely love their old games, what is the problem on having a tiny space under the tv, for a perfectly silent ps1-ps2 consoles ?

      i would like to have BC on the ps4 only if it let me play, for example, uncharted, killzone, etc series, using the ps4 power to have perfect 3d, perfect graphics with huge amazing textures, and an insane 60 or 120 fps. then, BC would be great. but it it’s only for playing the game AS it plays and looks on the original console, honestly, BC isn’t that necessary.

      Also, if you have your ps1-ps2 hooked up, along the ps3 or ps4, you can simply have one disk /game inside each console, so it’s easy to switch games, by turning the consoles on and off. with BC, i want to play 20 minutes crash bandicot.: eject disc, insert crash disk. 20 minutes later, i feel like playing god of war 1: eject previous crash disk, insert god of war disk. then, i want to play god of war 3.once again: eject god of war 1 disc, insert god of war 3 disk. and so on and so on.

      with several consoles, it’s simply easier to switch between games.

      So, about BC, i say yes IF the new hardware let me play the game with much better framerate, with updated “HD HD graphics”, better effects, etc. in that case, BC can be great. But if it’s just a matter of not having a second console hooked up, i don’t think not having BC is a tragedy.

      With BC, the ps4 would need the cell, which would cost us more, and we would get more heat, and, noise. with the low frequency AMD apu, the ps4 should need a weak heat dissipation system, and with low heat comes low noise. adding a cell processor would require a bigger cpu fan, and at the end, all the system would be really noisy. i don’t want that. i remember my x360, when i first bought it, before the ps3, the few months it worked, before dying, like +50% of all the x360 in the world, i was shocked how noisy the system was. i had to run my AV amplifier really high, at close to 10-15 dbs(7x115W RMS at 8 ohm), in order to hear the sounds, dialogues, etc, instead of the x360 spinning fan. man, that was a noisy system. i don’t want that again.

      a silent ps4 would be great. for me, hearing a noisy fan while i’m playing , i just can’t stand it.

      • everyone doesnt have room to have a dozen old consoles hooked up…and any additional cost that would be added would be partly or entirely covered by trading in your ps3…so meh

        • This is literally the epitome of first-world problems.

        • The ps1 and PS2 are the size of 2 dvd-bluray boxes…
          And if the guy already has a new, a super new, a GameCube, etc etc, he loves gaming enough to just put another console next to them.

          But I understand the BC need.having a single system capable of playing several generations of games would be great. But its not possible.
          Manufacturers don’t want you to keep stuff for an eternity…they want you to just buy the latest one.. look at Microsoft and windows. What is inside windows 8 that you absolutely need, that can’t be found on windows 7? The same with office 2010-2013…
          Or a laptop.try buying an professional HP laptop.3 years later, you install windows 7, and you discover the graphic card isn’t recognized.. which makes the laptop useless.they don’t want you to keep stuff, they want you to buy the new windows 8 laptop. Disgusting, but its the way it goes.. 🙂

          With BC on the ps4, people might buy old and cheap ps3 games. But they want you to buy the latest released games..ps4 games.

          • you can play old pc games from the 80s and 90s on a brand new pc…so not a very good argument…and while someone might have the room to store a dozen consoles…what happens when one breaks? can go try your luck on ebay,craigslist etc…but if you dont find another youre just done playing your library for that console…there is a market for BC consoles and even if they only did it in limited quantities at first and see how it goes,it would drive up early buyers of the ps4 at the least and lead to more profits in the long run

          • Kaiyl_kariashi

            Exactly….I’ve got limited space already, and the more back-compatible or multifunction my systems are, the better. While they still work fine, I put my NES/SNES/Genesis in storage, replaced by a 3rd party combo unit that does all 3 to free up space for my other systems. I got a hand-held N64 custom made to free up that slot, which is now used by my Gamecube, and my PS3 is able to play all PS games up to it’s current Gen, so I was able to put up those two up in storage. Still have space taken by by my 3DO, Jaguar, Dreamcast, Saturn, and Neo-Geo AMS in the living room). I traded in most of my X-box games for PS3 versions or sold exclusives towards purchase of other games (except Blue Dragon, which I enjoy replaying every once in awhile) so my 360 only gets drug out every once in a while. As far as I’m concerned, Nintendo died off after the Cube and GBA and doesn’t exist anymore, so those…”things”…aren’t part of my collection…I do have a virtual boy though….(More out of respect to Gunpei Yokoi’s legacy after Nintendo ruined his life because of THEIR bad decisions, then for the system itself, though some of the game are quite fun in very brief doses).

            In short…if it’s not back-compatible, I’m not buying it. Screw them.

  3. This is all fine and dandy, but with that type of processing power, the PS4 should easily be able to emulate PS2 and PS1 games. PS3 would be more difficult but technically feasible even without the PS3’s cell processor.

    • There already is a PS2 emulator that runs 70+% of the PS2 games on the PS3, but Sony decided to keep that from the customers to sell you the same games AGAIN! (proven by PS3hax). This Always online streaming from them will be no different.
      PS3 will never be emulatable full speed in the next 10 years, unless there is a sudden revolution in CPU architecture and speed as Cell is simply a mess of an architecture and that’s why NOBODY outside of Sony used it after the PS3 released.

  4. So Phil DID leave because of the PS4?

  5. I just want to add that what about the people who have never owned a ps3. Like me. I think I want to make the transition to a ps4 but if it isn’t backwards compatible I cant play several ps3 exclusive franchises all the way through like Killzone and Infamouse for an example. They both have planned sequels on the ps4. But I haven’t played killzone 2 and 3 or either of the Infamouse titles. If I plan on getting the ps4 I’m going to have to buy a ps3 to catch up the games I have missed. I personally think (and this is my opinion) that Sony are throwing themselves into a corner by not having the ps4 backwards compatible. They are going to have to rely mostly on customers who have previously bought a ps3. Now it’s not going to make that much of a difference in sales because everyone is different and use their systems now for different reasons, Netflix, Hulu, hobo go, internet browsing, etc.) and not everyone plays these Playstation exclusive franchises but there is still a fairly large percentage of people that picked a side in the current generation boom and stuck with it and I feel like this could hinder the sales of the ps4 and if the next gen Xbox does the same it will also be affected. I think it will really force gamers into picking sides. You can eithe stick with your current side and play the exclusive games you know and love or start from scratch.

    • the streaming service gaikai will be able to play ps3 games on the ps4. so the fact you dont have a ps3 is better because you dont have to rebuy every fucking game. current owners should get some sort of conpensation for the games they already bought when they put them in the ps4. we should not have to rebuy that again.

  6. Well, thats a shame for ps3 owners.

    I own an xbox360, so my losses are minimum, however I would have liked to buy something physical so i could have sold it latter on.

    But as long i can play Demon souls and ni no kuni wrath of the white witch, Im good.

  7. Its just like with the first ps3 sony realized they were losing money by making them backwards compatible so they stopped and made us repurchase games we already owned.
    Well i for one will not fall for this again i am sticking with my ps3 and my pc

  8. I don’t own any generation of play station. PS4 Being able to play PS3 games and later would be a huge draw for me… guess I still wont be getting a play station…

  9. Sony please sell some limited edition ps4’s that will be backwards compatible and ask a premium for them. I would be a buyer.

  10. Longtime (lifelong) Sony fan here. Unfortunately for Sony, backwards compatibility IS practical – this tool is just carrying the corporate schtick for being “cheap.”

    What’s not practical about elegant entertainment components, now requiring an additional footprint? What’s practical about releasing three versions of the PS3 for size only? Nothing, that’s what.

    Sony really has lost touch with their high-end, unpractical, “base;” many of whom will now just wait..

    Where is the old SONY that took risks and were rewarded for being unpractical in a sea of competitors being practical?

    Spare this SONY loyalist the sob story about “giving up Thanksgiving.” Total garbage. Next time stop thinking and eat some turkey if it means poor decision-making on behalf of being cheap and ordinary.

    PS4 no thank you.

  11. Funny that, no matter how you upgrade a PC or change from an older PC to a maxed out “new” one, people are STILL able to play the games that they already PAYED FOR. Im starting to think that consoles are taking us for a ride, making us pay for games we already have under the guise that the new boxes simply can’t play old gen games–but I think that design is a purposeful way of getting us all for a few more dollars. I don’t like being punished for supporting these companies and I didn’t build a library of games to just throw them out and buy them all over again. It’s not like Im trying to plug an old school cartridge into this thing. This is a matter of architecture and code, not form factor. When you put out the PS2 you did it right. It was compatible with PS1 games and played dvds. It showed the consumer that you cared about the fact that we spent our hard earned money on your games and wanted us to be rewarded for doing so, but now you are literally taking something away from us that we payed for. One day the PS3 will be put out to pasture like the PS2 and you will stop supporting it altogether and my old disks will be useless– Im NOT a pc gamer at all, but console makers are doing everything possible to make me into one. Why are you trying SO hard to get rid of your fans?

  12. Oo, and here’s the kicker……… When my PS2 and PS3 finally KILLOVER, and I’m still loving my old gen games! Then what!!???? PS4, can’t help :'(