Microsoft had almost a year as the only new generation console before Sony’s PS3 released in 2006, so there was little competition at the 360’s launch. If Sony had stuck to their original plan however, we could have seen a different tale entirely.
According to IGN, “multiple sources” have confirmed that the console was delayed from a 2005 release, with Jak X – the racing game put together by Naughty Dog – intended as a stopgap, after the “entire [PS3] system was delayed by a year” according to one source, and that might not have existed if the PS3 had released as intended, with Naughty Dog instead moving focus to their PS3 project, codenamed Project Big.
A further source confirmed that this project evolved into Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, which was in development alongside Jak, though was put aside to focus on the racer while the PS2 was the only option for release. That’s why the writer of Uncharted was involved with the last PS2 Jak game, it seems, and it all starts to make sense now.
As for the PS3 system itself, it appeared to be quite the mess at first:
“For a while, [there was] no GPU, it was going to run everything with SPUs. The ICE team proved to Japan that it was just impossible. It would be ridiculous. Performance-wise, it would be a disaster. That’s why they finally added the GPU, closer to the end.”
It would be a disaster.
Yet another source describes how Sony were “still trying to figure out the hardware” and backed up the lack of GPU claims, highlighting these as the reason for the delay. This delay might’ve come quite late into production, but it was likely still before the reveal at E3 2005.
The ultimate downfall of the system? Sony’s focus on the CELL-powered architecture, according to another source: “I think that the hardware guys focused too much on getting the CELL working that the GPU project ultimately fell behind.”
It’s an interesting tale for sure, even eight years later, and raises questions about how different things would be if Sony had launched the PS3 in 2005 when it wasn’t quite ready – would we be seeing games that are as good as Beyond: Two Souls and The Last Of Us, visually? I highly doubt it, and in the end it all worked out for Sony, with PS4 on the horizon – and releasing at the same time as the Xbox One – showing how they’ve learned from past mistakes.