AMD engineer tells the tale of when the PlayStation 4 saved the chipmaker from bankruptcy

Recap: Those familiar with AMD’s history likely know that the years from the middle 2000s to the mid-2010s were the company’s darkest, but a few recent employee comments have revealed just how close the company came to bankruptcy. Red Team enjoys a stronger market position than ever, partially thanks to PlayStation.

A LinkedIn resume footnote has brought renewed attention to AMD’s dark days during and after 2008 financial crisis. According to the CV and comments from an engineer, sales of consoles based on the company’s hardware were a crucial lifeline.

The online resume of Rentaro Fragale, AMD’s senior director of Consumer & Gaming Client Business, states that the PlayStation 4’s 2013 launch was one of the most successful in the company’s history, helping AMD escape possible bankruptcy. Engineer Phil Park responded to a clip of the resume on Twitter, confirming that those years were highly precarious for the company.

Everyone suffered from the 2008 recession, but rival Intel recovered relatively quickly through the success of IPs like Merom, Conroe, Woodcrest, and Nehalem. Meanwhile, the economic downturn only compounded AMD’s trouble.

Team Red was struggling to respond to Intel’s Core series CPUs. It had paid far too much money for its ATI acquisition. To make matters worse, Intel paid OEMs billions to keep AMD chips out of pre-built PCs. The struggling chipmaker raised cash by selling off IPs and divisions.

Imageon was one example, which eventually became Adreno – the core of the graphics hardware in Qualcomm’s Snapdragon series. Team Red also spun off its foundries into “Global Foundries.” Park said most of those he worked with suffered temporary pay cuts.

Also Read: The Rise, Fall and Renaissance of AMD

The first sign of recovery was Bobcat, an architecture designed for netbooks and other low-power systems. Furthermore, Bobcat nearly failed to launch, but it performed better than expected. Imagining a future where it hadn’t is difficult.

After that, Sony and Microsoft chose AMD’s Jaguar to power the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles. As of 2022, Sony had sold around 117 million PS4s, likely making Jaguar one of AMD’s most widespread chips. Park credits this success with keeping the company afloat until Zen brought it back to competitiveness with Intel. He also teased other interesting stories from the period that he can’t expose without permission from chief PS4 designer Mark Cerny.

Red Team’s current Zen and RDNA architectures are leaders in the industry, powering the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series machines. Later this year and next year, AMD plans to introduce RDNA 4, Zen 5, and RDNA 5.

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