Here's your reminder how close AMD came to financial collapse and just how much we owe to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

(Image credit: AMD)

It might be easy to forget the rocky road that led AMD to its current steadfast and comfortable position in the server and gaming CPU markets. Well, if we needed a reminder, the senior director of OEM consumer and gaming client business for AMD, Renato Fragale, has us covered. First spotted by X user Bogorad222 (via Wccftech), Fragale's LinkedIn profile states the team he managed oversaw product development for the PS4, which is viewed "as one of the most successful launches in AMD history helping AMD to avoid bankruptcy."

A quick crash course on AMD history for those who have forgotten—or have perhaps blocked out—its tumultuous past. While some of the best gaming CPUs around today derive from AMD's Zen architecture, and while AMD's EPYC server CPU line-ups have been a massive success, between 2011-2017, there were the God-awful Bulldozer-based processors (Bulldozer, Piledriver, Steamroller, and Excavator line-ups). 

These years were certainly far from zen for the red team. Stock prices stuck to the floor as processor architectures missed the mark for various reasons, such as the bizarre decision to optimise for parallelism while somehow making Bulldozer's single-threaded performance worse than many previous-gen Phenom processors (I still look back fondly on my pre-Bulldozer Phenom II X4 955, by the way, partially for this reason). 

In fact, Bulldozer CPUs have such a sketchy history that AMD even agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit back in 2019 stemming from alleged false advertising over their core counts.

This, by the way, was after AMD had divested its own manufacturing arm, which became GlobalFoundries, a decision that was made to save itself from another possible moment of financial oblivion back in 2009. "On the brink" might not even cut it.

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We might think, as is commonly stated, AMD's fate was saved by the glorious Dr. Lisa Su and her stabilising tenure as CEO. And there's certainly much truth to this. Without the circa 2017 Zen and Epyc line-ups, it's difficult to imagine AMD surviving, let alone thriving and creating a rising tide to raise all boats.

Under Dr. Su's leadership the company has consistently delivered, time and again, on the technological and architectural promises it has made. And it's this consistency which has propelled AMD onwards and seemingly ever upwards.

However, it was not ever thus.

Fragale's comment on his LinkedIn resume reminds us that AMD's business life was also previously saved prior to Zen, thanks to its semi custom unit, and the partnership with Sony in developing the Jaguar APU (featuring GCN graphics) that starred in the PS4. Another custom (higher-clocked) Jaguar APU was used in the Xbox One, but the PS4 far outsold the Xbox One, and Fragale's comments seem to point out that this kept AMD afloat until Su could really turn things around for the company post-Zen.

This tumultuous keep-things-afloat history, in which the PS4 partnership seems to have played a big part, is confirmed by AMD architect Phil Park who comments on Fragale's claims, saying, "I lived through this and this is, AFAIK, true," pointing out that the 2008 financial crisis led to AMD selling "multiple IPs like Adreno to raise cash." (Yes, that's the same Adreno now of Snapdragon X fame.)

See? Without consoles, where would we be? Probably sitting on a lot fewer CPU cores, that's for sure.

Jacob Fox
Hardware Writer

Jacob got his hands on a gaming PC for the first time when he was about 12 years old. He swiftly realised the local PC repair store had ripped him off with his build and vowed never to let another soul build his rig again. With this vow, Jacob the hardware junkie was born. Since then, Jacob's led a double-life as part-hardware geek, part-philosophy nerd, first working as a Hardware Writer for PCGamesN in 2020, then working towards a PhD in Philosophy for a few years (result pending a patiently awaited viva exam) while freelancing on the side for sites such as TechRadar, Pocket-lint, and yours truly, PC Gamer. Eventually, he gave up the ruthless mercenary life to join the world's #1 PC Gaming site full-time. It's definitely not an ego thing, he assures us.