Both the Xbox One and the PS4 are going to contain AMD graphics chips. Which must be lovely for them, and deeply annoying for NVidia. Of the current gen, the Xbox 360 has an AMD GPU, but the PS3 sports Nvidia’s idiotically named RSX ‘Reality Synthesizer’. The next gen consoles are both basically PCs in a box, and as such both are going to feature a version of AMD’s Radeon – the card that fills so many desktop PCs. And indeed both contain AMD CPUs too. According to a report on PC Advisor, that means Advanced Micro Devices (as I’ve just learned their name stands for) are hoping this means they can make ports far less of a faff.
Called the “Unified Gaming Strategy”, this was an initiative the company mentioned at GDC this year, but of course without being able to talk about what was in the Xbone. The aim is to make porting much easier, letting games run across PCs, consoles, and indeed portable devices, with relative simplicity. That’s in a large part because both new consoles will now be using x86 processors, just like the daddy PC.
It puts AMD in an interesting position. They’ve fallen hugely behind in terms of CPUs, but with their nex-gen console coup, it rather reinforces their position in the GPU market. Which is, it must be said, second place on PC. According to last month’s Steam Survey, Nvidia cards are still in the slight majority of gaming PCs. That’s something they’re hoping to change with their as-yet unreleased chip, code-named Kaveri, due later this year.
The company says they’re working with developers to create this new-found smooth path from console to PC, but it does seem that this is the direction they intend to move things. According to PC Advisor, AMD’s Lisa SU said,
“It is absolutely the end goal to create a development ecosystem where first-party games will be written to the games consoles first … but providing the capability to leverage that investment into PC market, into mobile form factors, into cloud. Definitely there’s that desire.”
Although she did acknowledge that “a lot of console games are developed on the PC first”, and talked about how their tech can make this easier. This tech being something called HSA – Heterogeneous System Architecture. To the best of my understanding, this is a setup where AMD CPUs and GPUs can share resources, better working together. And since that’s likely to be inside both new consoles, their hope is that the utopian design across consoles, PCs and portables (and indeed “cloud” as they insist on saying) means that programming for one will be much the same as programming for another.
I’ve bluffed understanding as far as I can here, but it strikes me that this sounds great, except for that I’ve got an Nvidia GPU and Intel CPU in my PC. Where does this leave me? Presumably with a clumsier port. With AMD still behind on PCs, it’ll be interesting to see just how effective their strategy can be.