PlayStation 4 has been generally well-received since launch and is currently enjoying a comfortable sales lead over Xbox One, but it was almost a very different console. We already know that just prior to PlayStation 4’s official reveal, the latest development kits had just 4GB of RAM, but Sony decided to match Xbox One and double it for the final product. However, in addition to the RAM changes, Sony also toyed with the idea of launching PlayStation 4 without a hard drive. Additionally, the PlayStation 4 camera was originally planned to be bundled in with the console much like Xbox One’s Kinect. Read on to see how PlayStation 4 came to be what it is today, and why.
PlayStation boss Andrew House was initially opposed to including a hard drive with PlayStation 4 for financial reasons, but eventually decided it was necessary to fulfill promises of a next gen experience. PlayStation 4 lead architect Mark Cerny added that games like Watch Dogs were influential in the decision as well.
It’s such a large decision, because it’s a commitment not just to the initial launch but for the life cycle. That has massive implications for how it will shape the business model for a number of years. Yes, we debated. But it became extremely clear to me that financial issues aside we had to be struggling for a certain level of experience that would get people to embrace a brand new platform.
If we were going to fulfill our promises as a company, but if the industry as a whole was going to move on… we were starting to get a lot of nay-saying, ‘what’s the role of a console? Is there a role for a console?’ Those two things came together to point out what was needed for the transformative experience. — Andrew House
For the hard drive, we thought does every player need downloadable content? Not every player does. But does every player need to play Watch Dogs the way it was intended? And you know, if you want to save money, unfortunately the answer is yes. Watch Dogs is a title that needed 15GB cached, very fast media on a hard drive or it wasn’t going to be able to be played at the level the creator’s wanted it to be. It was embedded on such a basic level. — Mark Cerny
Cerny went on to explain that PlayStation 4’s camera peripheral was originally intended to be bundled with the console, but the added expenses of extra RAM and a hard drive meant something had to give if Sony wanted to hit that $400 price tag.
It’s pretty obvious if you do the math, it’s more than a billion for the hard drive, and more than a billion for the extra RAM, so it was pretty obvious to me that something was going to have to give. But at the same time the camera makes sense as an independent proposition. It does not need to be included with the hardware to be a success. If it offers something that is perceived to be of value, then it’s a great thing to add to your PlayStation 4 ecosystem. — Mark Cerny
It’s hard to imagine PlayStation 4 with no hard drive, and launching with just half the RAM currently included in the system could have made for a much less flexible development environment. This young generation could have been very different.