While working on a news story noting the 10th launch anniversary of the Xbox 360 recently, I came across a story I could hardly believe. Wikipedia suggested that the 360’s core processor was only a “slightly modified” version of the Sony PlayStation 3’s Cell Processor technology, and that IBM engineers had to “hide” this from Sony during the hardware’s development. The source link sent me to a Wall Street Journal article that not only corroborated this story, it introduced me to a whole book about it.
“The Race for a New Game Machine” tells the story of IBM architect David Shippy and his colleague Mickie Phipps as they carried out parallel development efforts of these console processors while sometimes trying to keep the companies separated inside the same building. If this isn’t surprising enough, manufacturing foresight on the part of Microsoft actually allowed them to ship their processor well ahead of Sony, causing huge trouble for the PlayStation team in the following year.
I love books like this. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the epic struggle between Sega and Nintendo detailed in Console Wars by Blake J. Harris. Video games are fascinating far beyond what we experience at the controller; if you’ve never looked at the business behind your favorite pastime, you’re likely missing out.