The Race for a New Game Machine: Creating the Chips Inside the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3

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The Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 game systems have changed the face of home entertainment. But few know the amazing story inside the consoles-how David Shippy and his team of top-notch engineers at the Sony/Toshiba/IBM Design Center (STI) forged the tiny miracle at the core of it all: a revolutionary microprocessor chip that set a new paradigm in personal computing. It's a thrilling, all-or-nothing race to deliver the industry's fastest chip in record time. At stake were the livelihoods-and sanity-of an unsung group of tireless visionaries. At war were the giants Microsoft and Sony.

The tough road to market started in 2001 when Shippy assembled the talent to design the chip for Sony's hotly anticipated PlayStation 3 game console, planned for a late 2005 release. In 2003, a gigantic wrench was thrown into the operation in the form of Microsoft-the software behemoth wanted the STI team's microprocessor for its own Xbox 360 and targeted Christmas, 2005, as well. As they desperately served two masters, balancing Microsoft's "victory or death" attitude and Sony's slow patience and caution, Shippy and his team endured 80-hour workweeks, flaring tempers, crumbled friendships, despair, and finally-triumph.

The Soul of a New Game Machine is a dazzling, behind-the-scenes account of life in the tech world, featuring memorable characters, high-level corporate intrigue, and cutthroat business dealings. Driving the technical accomplishment was the bold vision that inspired the designers at STI, and throughout the book David Shippy and Mickie Phipps reveal the leadership lessons they drew from this experience, including team motivation, fostering innovation, and demanding hard work whileencouraging fun.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806531014
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corporation
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

David Shippy was the chief architect and technical leader of the PowerPC microprocessor for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 game machines. His experience designing high-performance microprocessor chips and leading large teams spans more than 20 years. His work encompasses microprocessor designs for notebook computers, desktop computers, game machines, high-end servers and mainframes. Currently, he is a Vice President at Intrinsity, a company that develops microprocessors, based in Austin, Texas, where he lives.

Mickie Phipps worked for IBM for six years, two of them spent as second-line manager and project manager at STI, where she and David Shippy led the team that designed the microprocessor for the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. She spent 20 years in the United States Air Force, where her active duty and reserve service centered on research and development of air-to-air missile seekers. She recently left IBM to pursue a writing career. She now lives in Kingsland, Texas, with her husband, Jerry.

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Read an Excerpt

The Ultimate Technology Challenge

My team and I had worked tirelessly at IBM for two and a half years, breathing life into the Sony PlayStation 3 "Cell" central processing chip. We ordered our lives around the idea of beating Microsoft to market with a Christmas launch.

Now Chekib Akrout, IBM's senior vice president responsible for the PlayStation's chip team, told me another customer wanted our secret-weapon, record-smashing PowerPC microprocessor core. It was Microsoft.

"How did this happen?" I grumbled through gritted teeth.

"Let's just say it was a blockbuster, an offer IBM couldn't refuse," he answered. Over a billion dollars were involved, spanning the entire spectrum from development to chip manufacturing.

"There's more," Akrout said. "Microsoft wants something very similar to what you designed for Sony but with some unique enhancements, and they want it on the same schedule." He then described the design changes Microsoft needed for a super-aggressive, market-shaking Christmas launch.

Akrout didn't blink. It took me a second, but I got the message.

My goals were very clear when I joined IBM in the mid 1980s. I wanted cutting-edge microprocessor design projects that really pushed the state of the art. I wanted to lead design teams and leave my mark on the industry. This vision was the focal point of my whole career. Akrout handed me one of the top technology leadership positions in the entire industry and at that moment, I saw the top of the mountain, everything I wanted. Would I have to stake my claim by screwing Sony and extending Microsoft's dominance of digital life? Or could I help them both succeed?
-from the Prologue

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 10 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 8, 2009

    Heroes run the race along the cutting edge of technology

    From my first understanding of the concept of the "impossible" goal I couldn't stop reading this story of how a widely diverse group of people came together to accomplish the impossible. As the leadership gathered the team, I was amazed at the respect and accomplishments of each member. Creating something new that takes the game world to another level didn't come easy. It took innovation, risks, complex ideas and some of the greatest minds in the world working together to meet huge demands all in the space of a little processor chip. The project faced a time schedule that put the team into a vortex of deadlines, reports, updates and meetings, as the list of all that this new chip needed to do grew longer and longer. The coordination of speed, space, power, graphics, heat and design was enough to tax any engineer, but when the pressure really came on was when both super powers commissioned them to produce similar products on the same timeline. The people in the book are so real that I feel that I have been through long hours into the night with them, slaving to get it right, eating on the run, figuring out how to make it reach all of their goals. My favorite part of the book is the way the leaders keep everybody going with positive feedback, encouragement, dedication, focus, persistence, imagination and a firm belief in the team. They faced controversy, obstacles and "bugs" as they continued to forge ahead, determined to succeed. I don't play the games, design chips, manage projects or do I.T. but I learned a lot along the way as I followed this race.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2009

    The Race For a New Game Machine is a fantastic read!

    Race for a New Game Machine reads like a Dan Brown novel. It has corporate intrigue, plot twists, and heroes. The reader is hooked from the opening page and the adventure doesn't stop until the end! It is a story of four technnology superpowers vying for supremacy in the gaming market, as well as making their mark on home computing history. David is a likable hero who takes us along on this ride, as he leads a team of engineers in the creation of the microprocessor that defines the technological advance these superpowers seek. This design team, brought to life in this book, is the soul of this new technology. The story is loaded with funny, interesting, and exciting moments that give the reader the experience of knowing and being a part of the adventure! I think it would make a great movie!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 1, 2009

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