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Why AMD's next-gen console victories are a big win for PC gamers

Brad Chacos | July 9, 2013
What does the inclusion of AMD silicon in next-gen consoles mean to PC gamers? Nothing less than more games, better games, and more powerful PC hardware down the line.

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.

"If you're truly writing Xbox One games to DirectX, I don't know why AMD would necessarily gain an advantage over Nvidia, and I don't know why developers would write anything [AMD] proprietary to their console games," Moorhead says.

In other words: Yay for everybody. And Moorhead, who was a longtime PC-industry executive before founding his analytical firm, agrees with the optimistic optimization assessment that both AMD and Nvidia tossed out.

"You'll see a lot more games that have been optimized better," he says. "You'll be less likely to see a console port with crummy graphics," even though the next-gen consoles already lag behind truly top-end gaming rigs in graphics performance.

I can dig it.

Multiple threads
But with all that said about DirectX and Nvidia, AMD's newfound home among the consoles has the potential to give AMD some big advantages when it comes to PC hardware.

First, there's the simple fact that the consoles will be running on an octacore AMD Jaguar processor. While Intel chips have held the upper hand in raw computing power in recent memory, AMD's PC chips compete well with Intel's processors on multithreaded applications.

Coding multithreaded games is difficult, and in the past that has prompted game developers to create titles optimized for single threads. But with AMD's fairly weak Jaguar cores in the heart of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, multithreaded games could—could—gain traction as developers optimize their games to best take advantage of the hardware at hand. If that happens, AMD's computer processors could—could—become more competitive options for gamers, especially given their traditionally lower price tag.

Single memory pools
But beyond that, the unique structure of the semicustom APUs at the heart of the new game consoles could tip the scales in AMD's favor farther down the line, as they're designed under "heterogeneous system architecture" principles.


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