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AMD's Seeing Red

Ben Parfitt
AMD's Seeing Red

PC GAMING WEEK: It offers the most powerful single graphics card (GPU) in the world and its x86 chips can be found in both PS4 and Xbox One.

It’s hard to remember things ever being better for AMD.

“No position is ever unassailable,” AMD’s head of technical communications for gaming Robert Hallock tells MCV, dispelling any thoughts of complacency at the firm.

“But the PS4/Xbox One deal has given us this out of the gate harmony with developers. It’s put us in an amazing position.”

Late last year a battle raged in the graphics card market that had for some time seen Nvidia’s £800 Titan leading the power race. Then AMD released its R9 290X, offering more power at almost half the price. Within a month prices had tumbled across the board and the sector’s landscape had changed significantly.

AMD, however, insists that technology – and not price – is still what leads the market.

“Price is ultimately dictated by how big and complicated the chip is,” Hallock adds. “With the 290X we had a product that was 30 per cent smaller than the Titan, so there is a saving on material costs. We had a smaller chip but the performance of that chip was sufficiently powerful to exceed the competition.

“Price is ultimately dictated by how big and complicated
the chip is. With the 290X we had a product that was 30
per cent smaller than the Titan, so there is a saving on
material costs. We had a smaller chip but the performance
of that chip was sufficiently powerful to exceed the
competition. That was definitely a decision on our part
to be very aggressive and it paid off in spades.”

Robert Hallock, AMD


“That was definitely a decision on our part to be very aggressive and it paid off in spades.”

While high-end GPUs may get all the headlines they only command a small slice of the market, however. 70 per cent of PC gaming takes place on machines that integrate the CPU and GPU on the same piece of silicon. And the APU sector is one that AMD is aggressively targeting with its new Kaveri architecture.

“Kaveri is going to deliver a tremendous performance and set the bar for what the entry point to gaming should look like,” senior manager for product marketing for AMD’s technology and independent software vendor division Sasa Marinkovic adds.

“Take our competitor’s entry level graphics – they’re looking at something that just powers up your screen. AMD APUs can now be used for real gaming, whether its F2P or triple-A.”

But with the rise of indie gaming and the success of relatively low-tech titles like Minecraft, is the triple-A sector still as relevant?

“The gamers that I know play both,” AMD’s European developer relations boss Kevin Strange explains. “We work with indies as well to help push the technology.”

Adds Hallock: “It’s like opening the fridge and deciding what I want to eat for dinner – I’m not going to have the same meal every day. Sometimes it will be cheap and sometimes it will be expensive and I’m OK with that.

“The growth of indie gaming exposes a broader market to gaming in general. When you lower the barrier to gaming you find it has a really, really broad appeal.”

PICKING UP THE MANTLE

AMD’s Mantle is a direct competitor to Microsoft’s DirectX 11 and aims to free up more hardware power for developers, resulting in even better PC gaming performance.

Mantel was supposed to launch alongside Battlefield 4 back in November but in fact only arrived last week. AMD insists the delay will not hurt its potential.

“The guys at DICE are resource limited like any other studio and they only decide to work on things they believe in on a technical level so to have them commit to Mantle was a big deal,” AMD’s European developer relations boss Kevin Strange says.

“The guys at DICE are resource limited like any other
studio and they only decide to work on things they
believe in on a technical level so to have them
commit to Mantle was a big deal."

Kevin Strange, AMD


“Obviously a lot of developers look to the likes of [Frostbite technical director] Johan Andersson and follow him on Twitter and after he got up on our stage and announced he was supporting Mantle we had a bunch of developers who we were in early discussion with take a lot more notice and bang on the door, including other studios at EA.

“This is the beginning of something that’s going to be industry changing. The developers want their games to run on as many platforms as possible with as big an install base as possible and that’s one of the reasons for Mantle. The idea is they can bring the investment they’re making in the rendering code on PS4 and Xbox and easily bring those features across to PC.”

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Tags: interview , radeon , amd , kaveri

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