Published in Graphics

Nvidia says consoles will never match PC eye candy

by on25 September 2013

FUD and games

AMD scooped up all current generation console wins, except for some handhelds, but Nvidia reckons consoles aren’t that relevant as they are not at the forefront of gaming tech. The PC still reigns supreme, at least when it comes to quality. In a recent interview with PC Power Play, Nvidia Senior Vice President of Content and Technology Tony Tamasi said it is simply no longer possible for consoles to have more capable graphics than PCs.

“I’ll tell you why. In the past, certainly with the first PlayStation and PS2, in that era there weren’t really good graphics on the PC. Around the time of the PS2 is when 3D really started coming to the PC, but before that time 3D was the domain of Silicon Graphics and other 3D workstations,” he said. “Sony, Sega or Nintendo could invest in bringing 3D graphics to a consumer platform. In fact, the PS2 was faster than a PC.”

Tamasi went to on to explain that subsequent generations featured graphics technology provided by AMD or Nvidia. As games became big business, demand for GPU technology skyrocketed and it was no longer the domain of workstation outfits like Silicon Graphics. Tamasi pointed out that Nvidia spends $1.5 billion dollars per year on graphics R&D and during the life cycle of a console Nvidia will eventually spend more than $10 billion. It is safe to assume that AMD’s R&D figures are just as high. Sony and Microsoft simply can’t afford to keep up, hence PC graphics are bound to maintain an edge.

Tamasi also stressed that consoles are designed to consume 200W to 300W, while high-end PCs easily hit 1000W, with graphics cards that suck up as much power as entire consoles. He also pointed out that the PC industry wasn’t operating at its limits when the PS3 and Xbox 360 were introduced, as high end graphics cards at the time were often in the 75W to 100W range. Needless to say, that is no longer the case.

Due to the closed, optimized nature of console hardware and software, consoles can do more with less, but Tamasi argues the difference isn’t as big as many people think. Oddly enough, Tamasi said the decision to use AMD x86 chips in consoles will help the PC, as developers will have to waste less time on optimisation.

Tamasi is of course spot on and he’s just saying what PC gamers have known for years. However, the price of PC-level eye candy is pretty high, and it’s getting higher. Both Nvidia and AMD are selling rather pricey high end graphics cards right now. It is true that they have more silicon and need more power than consoles, but they can also cost more than a console. The platform cost is massive – top notch power supplies, motherboards, memory and storage don’t come cheap. That might be the biggest challenge facing Nvidia and AMD in the long run.

Good enough computing is usually mentioned in the context of office and home PCs, but sooner or later it will apply to gaming. Just one of the previous three major consoles supported 1080p, now they all do. The added muscle promises to deliver exceptional graphics on the PS4 and Xbox One, while the PC will ultimately remain the top platform. Gamers still spend a lot of cash on top notch graphics cards and other high-end gear and this won’t change, but due to the high cost of proper PC gaming hardware, it will be increasingly difficult to recruit new PC gamers, especially in emerging markets.

Kids today are surrounded by smartphones, tablets and other consumer gear. Back in the day, a geeky 12-year-olds could take apart a PC in minutes and put it back together again like a soldier disassembling a rifle. New generations are a bit more interested in rooting and jailbraiking their overpriced phones.

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