The Console War and Impact on PC Gaming

So the news is out on the New Xbox console, Project Scorpio.
With it, comes interesting news such as touting a x86, 8 custom core clocked CPU and, 12 GB of GDDR5 VRAM. All things considered, these are quite a jump up from Sony’s PS4 Pro offering, but I imagine they’re already prototyping the next gen consoles as well and not too far behind.

It’s the first major shift I’ve seen from mostly clearly defined, synchronized gaps between console generations. From seeing platforms release in the span of a 6 month window to each other, we’re now seeing more incremental iPhone X and Xs type model upgrades with actual performance gaps between those offerings from Microsoft and Sony.

The one thing I remember when Microsoft and Sony came out with they’re new gen consoles and their first launch titles started dropping was that they actually raised the bar on minimum PC specs for those multiplatform titles on PC.

For example, prior to the PS4 and Xbox One, titles ran fine on sub-2 GB VRAM GPU setups. A fine example at this time was Watch Dogs, where games before were fine, but with the titles being predominantly developed with the focus on the “next-gen” consoles, required 2 GB of VRAM as a minimum and that was quite a choppy minimum in terms of performance especially when compared to other titles released not too early compared to the time. And now, look where we are, with GPU cards with 6 GB or 8 GB for the 1060 and 1070, respectively. 12 for the Titan X. (Who needs this?)

Now, jump over to the PC market with AMD and Nvidia now. With AMD taking the mainstream route and not providing any enthusiast to high-end offering, Nvidia is coasting along with their 10XX series cards without much pressure for the next gen jump unless AMD jumps in or devs catch up to effectively utilize more processing power on 1080p setups that even the 1060 GTX can get away with pretty high settings.

On the developer-side, if you go multi-console and include the PC, there isn’t much motivation to implement new graphics features that can only be taken advantage on PC, unless we’re talking marketing support or such. As such, devs stay comfortable with he bottom line set by the consoles, and the PC market as a whole slows down just a tad bit. That’s not to say they don’t innovate! In the current gen, with it came processing power to make tech ubiqitous in modern releases we didn’t have enough power to implement so easily in game engines to run well on a PS2 or Xbox 360.

Physically Based Rendering was a huge jump in texture fidelity and realism.

Post-processing effects like those in Silicon Studio’s YEBIS middleware.

Or physics effects like those provided by Havok or Nvidia.

What is exciting is with both Microsoft and Sony adapting to 8 core CPU’s as standard, further migrating towards a PC-like architecture with beefier specs like higher VRAM,  and continuing to raising the bar on each other, they’ll have a more direct impact on raising that bottom line across all platforms including the PC. With more processing resources to start with on all consoles as a baseline, I’m excited to see how engineers, artists and the industry as a whole will innovate on existing tech or create new approaches to world-building in the following generations of games to come.

Let us know, does this interest you as well?
What other aspects of world-building are you looking forward to in the future of games?

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