While the Xbox One and PS4 took a lion’s share of the limelight at E3, there was more to the event than the console launches and their Day One games lineups. While catching up with NVIDIA about SHIELD at E3 I also heard about some of their plans for PC gaming. Arch-rivals AMD also have plenty to say on that subject, and an AMD spokesperson took a few moments to fill me in on their perspective too.
AMD was quick to tell me that “AMD makes [the] technology that powers the X-Box One and the PlayStation 4, and we also make technology in our Radeon graphics that powers the Wii U. So we’re in all three of the new next-gen consoles.” In the case of the new Xbox and PlayStation, AMD provides the central APU (integrated CPU/GPU) engine, while the Wii U uses AMD graphics. Not surprisingly, this makes AMD console fans.
NVIDIA, meanwhile, don’t have a seat at the big consoles’ table. With Tegra aimed at the Android mobile market and their own SHIELD portable Android console, the company has their mobile strategy in place. But for high-end gaming, NVIDIA now only has the PC as a platform to target. This is an interesting turn of events, because it means NVIDIA, unlike AMD, now has more at stake in pushing PC gaming forward.
NVIDIA’s Jason Paul, director of product marketing, told me: “I think PC still going to be the premiere gaming platform. For game developers who want to deliver the richest, best experiences, they’re going to develop for PC. I think that’s going to keep PC very healthy through this new generation of consoles, and obviously PCs are going to continue to take off in terms of innovation.”
AMD are justifiably proud of their console hat-trick, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care about the PC. After all, the next generation of consoles can now easily game at 1080P, but many PC gamers have been playing exclusively at that resolution for half a decade or more, and are ready to move on to better things.
As I’m standing in the AMD booth, AMD’s spokesperson points across the aisle to a Sharp 32 inch 4K [3840×2160 resolution] display: “Something like that can be plugged into a PC today. You can do 4K gaming right now with the games that are out there now. So on the PC continues to lead and really define the leading edge of gaming. So I don’t think it’s going anywhere; in fact I think it’s actually grown quite a bit because [for] the consoles that have been out there…it’s been a long console cycle.”
As AMD and NVIDIA make high-end GPUs for which a single 1080P display is no longer a challenge, for gamers looking for the next big thing, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One might not be as compelling as Sony and Microsoft hope.
Paul said “…New consoles come out, and they catch up a little in performance, but then they get stale over a while and the PC sort of goes through a Renaissance. PC’s been really strong over the last few years as the consoles have aged. Consoles will close that gap a little bit. But one of the things that’s different about this generation is generally the consoles will catch up to the PC in terms of performance. With this next generation, at least what’s been released so far in terms of specs, it doesn’t look like they’re going to close the gap with PC this time.”
AMD concurs. AMD’s spokesperson told me: “A lot more people have been taking a look at the PC and saying ‘Oh wait, I can get better graphics over here. Oh wait, my experience over here can be different’ like with AMD’s [multi-monitor technology] Eyefinity…. Gaming with a mouse and a keyboard is very different from gaming with a control on a sofa.”
Or as Clay Causin, a senior software engineer at NVIDIA, puts it: “Personal opinion: Consoles they have a place. if you need something basic, you don’t care how your game looks, alright, I guess it works for you. PC gaming is…bigger and better. Consoles are a downgrade.”
There’s plenty of demand, in other words, for the kind of high-end PC gaming parts both companies produce. Boutique PC rig builders will sell you machines for many thousands of dollars if you want, but that doesn’t mean gamers have to break the bank, unless of course they want to.
AMD’s spokesperson said, “You can totally build a gaming PC for $1000 or even $600-$700…. It all depends on what type of performance you are looking at and what you want to do with the product. Although the primary purpose of a user building their own PC might be to game it’s still a computer. It still does everything a computer can do, you can do multimedia steaming, you can do file crunching, you can build and create things, you can use it for work or play.
“It all depends on what you want to do and how big you want to go.”
Just how big? AMD’s spokesperson mentions a Maingear machine that’s using the company’s latest Radeon HD 7990 and Eyefinity to drive five 65-inch video TVs simultaneously. Rather like one of those TV cooking shows where the chef is standing in a kitchen bigger than your house, “It’s fun and a little obnoxious…showing people what kind of cutting-edge technology you can do in big bold ways.”
So, at the end of the day, how important is PC gaming? As Causin puts it: “Well, it pays all of our checks.”
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