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PS3, More Powerful than the Xbox 360, More Difficult to Program?

By June 15, 2007

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The notion that the PS3 is "more powerful" but "more difficult to develop for" than its next-gen counterparts is a rumor that has been swirling for quite some time. Using the anecdotal evidence of the lack of PS3 games being released many have opted buy into the rumor.

Well, here's a new reason. Dr. Dobb's Portal, a trusted computer research site, published a report that shows that the Cell processor (the heart of the PS3) is up to 22 times faster than the leading Intel super-computer chip, but that since it processes information in a different way, it can be more difficult to program for.

While the Dr.Dobb's report is over a month old, GamePro is providing new quotes from Sony that shed light on the subject. According to Sony officials:

There is a trade-off between performance and versatility, since PS3's Cell processor allows more features -- better physics, more complex graphical processing, lighting or sound -- there is inevitably going to be more cost in supporting those extra features. It's not that PS3 is harder to write for, it's just that you can do more with it. If a game starts life on PS3, then man-hours per feature or costs related to asset production are comparable with industry norms.
Of course, we all know that more and more games are going multi-platform. Even Sony stalwarts like Square-Enix are testing the waters of the Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. Here, both Sony and the Dr. Dobb's report agree. It's tough to port to the PS3. Sony's Dave Karraker offered the following:
If your game starts on Xbox 360 you will have to re-engineer aspects of the game to run properly on PS3. This means additional effort. Some developers have been complaining about this, but I don't believe we can solve that. The 360 is a different machine with good, but lower powered hardware in a different architecture. Developers have to view them as two different machines not as a common platform.
So there you have it. Porting is going to be an issue, and the power of the PS3 may make it worth it to develop from the ground up rather than trying to develop for both simultaneously.

[Sources: Dr. Dobb's Programming the Cell, GamePro]

June 15, 2007 at 8:28 am
(1) Denver A. says:

“a report that shows that the Cell processor (the heart of the PS3) is up to 22 times faster than the leading Intel super-computer chip”

Just to clarify, the 3 chips powering the Xbox 360 are custom IBM G5 (PowerPC) CPUs and are not Intel.

June 15, 2007 at 12:41 pm
(2) R says:

The PS3 is more powerful because Sony says so? This is a sony commercial and not a news article!

June 15, 2007 at 5:19 pm
(3) Jason Rybka says:

Well, I for one have spoken with many developers while we were standing in front of both a PS3 debug unit and an Xbox 360 debug unit… not once have I heard them say “man, thank goodness the PS3 supports all this stuff we haven’t got time to rewrite.” I think the differences in processing power and architecture are minimal in the end product, so developers – from my experience, prefer programming for the 360 because it is a more user friendly structure. Just my two cents though.

June 18, 2007 at 6:24 am
(4) matty says:

The article on Dr Dobb’s Portal has been misquoted, the quote used is – “reaching a performance that’s 22 times higher than Intel’s Woodcrest, comparable to a 256-processor BlueGene/L supercomputer…”
To clarify, Intel’s Woodcrest is not a ‘Supercomputer Chip’, it’s their latest incarnation of their Xeon processor, reduced to 65nm… It’s unfair to compare these 2 very different architectures, seeing the Cell contains 9 seperate cores…
The Cell ‘Engine’ is truly powerful and performs extremely well when running large calculations, just look at the figures on SETI@home, but this does not translate well into games development. The PS3 IS more difficult to program for, compared to the simpler development tools and architecture contained in the 360…

August 23, 2007 at 7:35 am
(5) PS3_fannyboy says:

Ha ha, there’s gonna be a lot of buttsore xbots when they finally realize that all the sh1t about the 360 being as powerful as the PS3 was garbage.

December 17, 2008 at 4:34 pm
(6) tony edel says:

from previous blog from a tech:
The PS3’s vaunted teraflop “advantage” is only an advantage on paper, because the PS3’s performance will be limited by its architecture. Real games are about 80% general purpose code and about 20% floating point code. Xbox 360 has three 3.2 GHz general purpose processors to Sony’s one, and it is these main cores, not special purpose SPEs, that are best suited for game code.
Floating point performance is much more relevant on the GPU, where Xbox 360 has more floating point performance than PS3. Not only does the Xbox 360 GPU have greater raw shader power than the PS3 GPU (240 GFLOPS versus estimated 228.8 GFLOPS on PS3), it will also use more of its power.

January 25, 2009 at 10:54 pm
(7) Owner Of Both says:

Yea and since the xbox360′s gpu is better it also overheats more and burns out. Mines died 3 times. And frozen…god knows how many times. While my PS3 so far has only frozen a few times o.o

October 23, 2009 at 10:19 pm
(8) brian says:

common really u guys are fighting a war that doesnt need to be solved come on it is clear that the xbox 360 is better and looks better im not a computer geek im a 9 year old boy and i just happen to come across your message online it really touched…….my balls hahaha!

October 26, 2009 at 1:26 pm
(9) Elvis says:

You can argue floating points, gigahertz and alleged performance, but what it really comes down to is how the games look and how well they run.

Xbox 360: Gears of War, Forza 3, Halo 3
PS3: Uncharted 2, Gran Turismo 5, Killzone 2

Riddle me this.

And why does Gran Turismo not only look superior to Forza 3 but also run in native 1080p?

May 16, 2010 at 12:05 pm
(10) Hero says:

Bull****! The PS3′s Cell processor is not the full cell processor. Not only is it a processor with fewer transistors, it has one core shut down to run on the PS3. The original Cell processor by IBM, is many more times as powerful as the PS3 and thus, featurs more cores.

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