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Life at the top: Nvidia interview

Jonathan Easton
Life at the top: Nvidia interview

Nvidia has long been comfortable at the top of the gaming tree, but now for the first time in years, the company has genuine competition.


 

How has Nvidia’s year been so far?

It’s been a busy year – fantastic, if anything. Following the launch of our Pascal architecture last year, we’ve seen some great innovative graphics cards come to market from our add-in card partners which continue to drive the components market. After almost a year and half in production, Pascal is now realising its full potential. Consumers now have a breadth of products to choose from to get the fastest, smoothest and most power-efficient gaming experiences.

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At Computex earlier this year, we introduced a couple of things. The first is a gigantic breakthrough with our new Max-Q design for gaming laptops. It’s a new approach to how high performance, thin gaming laptops are built and the results are impressive. A typical high-end system from only a few years ago was over 50mm and 10 pounds. OEMs and system builders are now able to design a gaming notebook a third the size, three times the performance, half the weight, and based on a flagship GTX 1080 – delivering some truly amazing performance in a very thin and light platform. Gaming laptops are coming from every major OEMs utilising Max-Q design over the next few months, so it’s an exciting time if you’re in the market for a thin and light gaming laptop.

The second announcement at Computex was the introduction of our first G-SYNC HDR gaming monitors. They basically combine the brightest panel, highest contrast ratio and cinema grade colour gamut for an unparalleled HDR gaming experience. Typical HDR TVs, for example, suffer from high input lag during HDR mode and do not support variable refresh rate for a smooth gaming experience – G-SYNC HDR, however, has been optimised to provide the best possible performance and gaming experience when in HDR mode. We work with the entire industry eco-system – that includes panel-makers and monitor OEMs – to engineer G-SYNC displays for the best quality and performance. 

There are three things that define G-SYNC displays. First is on-screen image quality – no tearing, stuttering or artifacts, but with advanced technologies, such as HDR, wide color gamut and Ultra Low Motion Blur. Second is performance – to deliver the highest refresh rates and minimise input lag for responsive gaming across the full range of the monitor’s refresh rate from 0Hz to the maximum refresh rate. Last but not least is the GeForce platform as a whole– making sure everything works for the best end-to-end gaming experience, from the content, to the GPU, to the drivers to the display. And then certify it. 

At E3, we announced a partnership with Bungie, creators of the award-winning Halo and Destiny game franchises, and game publishing giant Activision, to bring the Destiny franchise to PC for the first time. Bungie has fully embraced the PC platform and taken advantage of the advanced technology features it provides, such as 4K resolution support, uncapped framerates, full mouse and keyboard support, adjustable field of view, etc. and we’ve worked closely with them to lend our gaming and PC development expertise to help bring these features to Destiny 2 and to maximise the performance benefits of the GeForce GTX 10-series GPUs.

We’ve also added more features to our GeForce Experience software, with Nvidia Ansel and ShadowPlay Highlights. ShadowPlay is like a DVR for your game – it’s constantly recording your gameplay and with the touch of a button you can save the last few minutes of your game and share your best moments with your friends. It’s a popular feature and we see over 200 million videos created by gamers every year. We’ve now introduced even more functionality with ShadowPlay Highlights – it knows precisely when that magic moment will happen, whether it’s a boss fight or killing spree, and automatically records it and compiles it all into a highlight reel. When the session is over, you can then relive your victories or share them with friends via social channels. The beauty is you don’t have to do a thing – it’s all automatic. You’ll be able to experience this Highlights feature in the upcoming Raiders of the Broken Planet, Absolver and Lawbreakers.

Nvidia Ansel is a powerful way to capture in-game photography. You can compose your shots from any position with free camera movement, set post-process images filters, shoot in super resolution HDR formats and then even share your images in 360 via your smartphone, PC or VR headset. There have been over a million images captured with Ansel so far from over a dozen titles and it will also become available in some upcoming games. It is supported in the Unity Engine and in the Unreal Engine as a plug-in and will also be coming to Amazon Lumberyard.GeForce remains the number-1 choice in PC gaming because it delivers the best gaming experiences. 

Over on the SHIELD side of our business, we announced the new SHIELD TV, designed for those wanting the best entertainment streaming experience. It offers 4K HDR support and enables a range of gaming experiences, such as GeForce NOW, our game-streaming service that connects SHIELD owners to Nvidia’s cloud-gaming supercomputers to play PC games easily and instantly, as well as the ability of stream games from your PC straight to your living room TV. And with its new AI home capability, you’ll be able to interact with content through the magic of AI from anywhere in the house.

 

In general, how is the PC gaming market doing?

PC gaming is thriving! At $100 billion, computer games is the world’s largest entertainment industry and continues to grow at an incredible rate. There were around 3,500 games released on the PC last year – that’s over three times any other platform. Immersive new gaming technologies like 4K, HDR and VR are all pioneered on the PC. There are also 100 million MOBA gamers in the world, double the number from just two years ago. GeForce is the largest gaming platform with around 200 million gamers and we’re lucky to have some of the most dedicated and passionate gamers in the PC industry. 

GeForce also offers the industry’s best special effects. We have over 300 visual computing engineers dedicated to creating the most realistic gaming effects, from lighting and shading to hair, water, shadows, grass and fire. Our GameWorks technologies defines state of the art in gaming effects and is used in over a thousand games by the biggest developers in the industry as well as in all major game engines. 

 

“The global esports audience is expected to reach 385 million in 2017, with 191 million enthusiasts. That’s huge”

 

 

How big a driver is esports, and how big do you think it’ll be?

Esports is an important business segment for Nvidia and GeForce GTX is the defacto gaming platform of choice for esports professionals worldwide. The top three most watched esports titles on Twitch are League of Legends, DotA2, and Counter-Strike: GO – titles that are only available on PC. The top world championship tournaments for these three titles are also played on GeForce GTX GPUs. 

We recently supported ‘The International’ DotA2 world championship, which had the world’s largest esports competitive prize pool of over $24 million. GeForce GTX and G-SYNC monitors are the official graphics platform of choice for The International. If you include both the onstage and the backstage warm up PCs, over 150 GTX 1080-based systems were used.  

Newzoo, one of the industry analysts that tracks and makes predictions on the growth of esports, published their 2017 report which highlighted that in 2017, the esports economy grow to $696 million, a year-on-year growth of 41.3 per cent. Brands will contribute $517 million in 2017 and brand investment will double by 2020. The global esports audience is expected to reach 385 million in 2017, with 191 million enthusiasts. That’s huge. 

 

Earlier this year, Nvidia announced a high-profile partnership with Nintendo, with CEO Jen-Hsun Huang saying that the partnership ‘will likely last two decades’. Have you been surprised by the overwhelming initial success of the Switch, and how will this partnership develop?

The first thing to know about the new Nintendo Switch home gaming system is that it’s really fun to play. With great graphics, loads of game titles and incredible performance, the Nintendo Switch provides people with many hours of engaging and interactive gaming entertainment.

But creating a device so fun required some serious engineering. The development encompassed 500 man-years of effort across every facet of creating a new gaming platform: algorithms, computer architecture, system design, system software, APIs, game engines and peripherals. They all had to be rethought and redesigned for Nintendo to deliver the best experience for gamers, whether they’re in the living room or on the move. The Nintendo Switch has been a great showcase of both company’s technology.

 

Last year saw the full 10 Series make the leap to notebooks and we just recently heard about the eGPU option for Titan X and Quadro desktop cards. How important is mobile to Nvidia?

Well, there were more than 10 million gaming laptops sold in 2016 and it’s the fastest growing gaming platform with a market bigger than the Xbox One. Mobile is incredibly important for us as it’s a strong desire among gamers.

 

Talk us through Nvidia’s efforts and commitments to VR and AR.

From 3D gaming to product design, to cinematic experiences and beyond, VR will revolutionise how we interact with friends and family, how we consume entertainment, and how we get business done.

But delivering VR is complex, especially since immersive VR requires seven times the graphics processing power compared to traditional 3D applications and games. We work with every part of the VR ecosystem to help deliver amazing experiences and our GPUs power the vast majority of the world’s pro and consumer VR-ready PCs. Our VRWorks SDK (a set of APIs, libraries and features) is used inside the world’s leading VR headsets, game engines, and apps to deliver physically realistic graphics, sound, touch, and behaviour to virtual worlds and it’s all powered by Pascal’s Simultaneous Multi-projection and Pre-emption architecture.

 

“VR will revolutionise how we interact with friends and family, how we consume entertainment, and how we get business done”

 

 

With the 10 Series fully on the market, what’s next? Can we expect to see anything before the year’s end?

We will see some great games come to PC this year, which we’re really excited about, and there should be plenty of choice for when you start drawing up your Christmas wish list.

We will also be making a number of game partnership announcements at this year’s Gamescom, so stay tuned! 

Tags: Nvidia, gaming, interview, esports, Richard Lee

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