Why AMD's next-gen console victories are a big win for PC gamers @ PCWorld
PC gamers are used to being second-class citizens. Sure, we get our share of MMOs (such as World of Warplanes and Star Wars: The Old Republic) and complex real-time strategy games (like Company of Heroes 2) and the occasional gloriously detailed first-person shooter (hello, Crysis 3!). But in general, most big-name games have bypassed the PC to land on consoles and consoles alone.
“In the past, consoles have had very unique architectures compared to the PC,” says David Nalasco, a technical marketing manager with Radeon’s GPU business. This situation has made cross-platform development more difficult, and making a game for a single platform already takes a ton of time, effort, and moolah. And with all that said, Nalasco notes that the very nature of consoles makes them appealing to developers.
“If you’re a game developer trying to get the most out of your platform, you’re going to work on the one that’s most straightforward—the one you’ve worked on for years and hasn’t changed, and has a huge install base,” he says.
Hence, the PC’s aura of neglect. But with x86 blood now coursing through every platform’s virtual veins, those days may be ending.
Okay, the future of PC gaming looks bright—but don’t console ports suck? They’re always buggy, and they never look as good as good as native PC games, right? So is a flood of ports really worth getting excited about?
In this case, yes. We’re starting to get theoretical here, but the presence of a Radeon CPU and GPU in each and every console promises to make it easier for developers to optimize their games for the PC. Better optimization means better graphics and performance.
Nalasco points to the performance of the latest console games as testament to what extreme optimization can provide. The current console designs are seven years old and have a fraction of the power of modern-day gaming PCs, yet still pump out fairly impressive graphics.
“The opportunity that we see is to get that fit and level of optimization, or something close to it, in PC games,” Nalasco says. “If you’re developing a game or a game engine and want to port it over to the PC, you don’t have to start over from scratch with your optimization. You’re starting from a base that has CPU cores that are much more similar, GPU cores that are much more similar, and other feature sets that are much more comparable.”
AMD representatives stress that the company will continue pushing the envelope on PC hardware, but say that games created for the x86-based consoles will hold up well years down the line thanks to their optimizations.
Of course, you’d expect an AMD representative to say that—but Nvidia SVP Tony Tamasi said something very similar at his company’s E3 press conference.
“The PC will keep growing, but the consoles will give us that next bump,” Tamasi said. “Developers can now build really awesome content that can then scale to the PC.”
If it’s weird hearing Nvidia saying somewhat positive things about consoles powered by its rival, consider that AMD’s inclusion in consoles can benefit the general PC-gaming industry, not just AMD. Both Microsoft and Sony have announced that their consoles will support the industry-standard DirectX 11 programming language.