Quietly unveiled at yesterday's PSN session was PhyreEngine, a new "free to use graphics engine" from Sony Computer Entertainment. According to the presentation, the package includes full documentation, "70+ samples" and "full source code and artwork" of sample game templates. Working on both OpenGL and Direct3D, this engine will allow developers to more easily develop for the PS3 by using PC environments they're more familiar with. A "simple recompile" is supposedly all that's needed to make the game run on the PS3. Sony is promising "ongoing development and support" for the PhyreEngine.
The ramifications of this subdued announcement are actually quite significant. Three titles have been revealed to have used the PhyreEngine for development: flOw, GripShift and DiRT. Of those three, only one is exclusive to PlayStation. It appears that the PhyreEngine is truly cross platform -- Sony is indirectly contributing to the development of PC (and Xbox 360) games.
But why make it potentially easier to make games on a competing console? Well, it's undeniable that developers are increasingly focused on multiplatform development. It's been rather commonplace for developers to neglect PS3 with inferior and oftentimes delayed versions of multiplatform games. With PhyreEngine, Sony is making a much more attractive plea: make games on PS3 first, guaranteeing high quality games that will not only match their 360 counterparts, but in many cases can exceed them. Sony's message is clear: start games on the PS3, and they will be better for both PS3 and 360 owners. It appears to us that PhyreEngine is a crucial part of that plan.
More details of PhyreEngine will undoubtedly be unveiled later today at a GDC dedicated to what Sony has dubbed "the new hotness." Stay tuned.