AMD on the future of PC gaming, Mantle and virtual reality

Gaming scientist Richard Huddy speaks to PCR
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PCR interviews AMD’s gaming scientist Richard Huddy about the future of the PC gaming market, from photorealistic graphics to virtual reality and games with 200 million players…

What is AMD doing to push PC gaming?

First of all, AMD is much, much more than just PC gaming, we obviously have a clean sweep of [powering] games consoles which no company has managed before. We have GPUs in the Xbox One, PS4 and the Wii U. 

We have a serious ambition to be the best supplier of GPUs in the world, not just across the consoles but in the PC space as well. 

Our Mantle API has both set the agenda for new graphics APIs and really does deliver a significant step forward in quality of experience for those who own our hardware.

How happy are you with Mantle’s progress and what’s next for that? 

The number of registered developers that we have with Mantle continues to rise quite dramatically. In early July we had got to 75. The first Mantle game, Battlefield 4, arrived in January. We will have somewhere between nine and 12 games at least this year which have Mantle ports. That’s at least as many as there were DirectX11 games in its first year of existence.

So Mantle is a big deal for us. You will continue to see us invest and release interesting updates over the next years.

How do you expect the rivalry to play out between screen-tear-eliminating AMD FreeSync and Nvidia G-Sync monitors? 

One of the most attractive things about FreeSync when compared to G-Sync is that FreeSync is free to all our partners – they never have to pay us anything. G-Sync monitors will cost about an extra $150 for consumers compared to FreeSync, as there’s a licence payable to Nvidia for that and there is also a bill of materials there. FreeSync retail availability will happen from January and February 2015 onwards. 

Some of the upcoming PC gaming Steam Machines are powered by AMD. How well do you think the Steam Machines will be received?

It’s certainly a big investment from AMD. We want to make sure Valve and the consumers who choose to buy Valve’s OSs and games continue to get the best. 

It’s one of the changes to the market that is a little bit unpredictable, but I see these Steam Machines a part of PC gaming and they will be a great place to play. 

Virtual reality and the Oculus Rift are increasing in prominence. How integral do you think that will be to the PC gaming market? 

From a technological point of view, AMD loves it, we’re delighted to be in some of the boxes which are being put together for this. The extra graphics horsepower that gets used for a virtual reality system, which has to render the left eye and right eye separately… we love that kind of stuff. If they could go to something like 2K per eye or 1080p, or doubling that, then it will be awesome.

How will the level of graphics change in the future? Where will it be in the next five years?

We’ve got to the stage where very high-end PC graphics are really getting impressively close to photo-real. Not that they actually fool you all of the time, but they are astonishing compared to where they were four years ago. We’ll close that gap as well. So probably in five years time we’ll be able to produce games that are photo-real (in limited scenarios).

Do you think developers will soon innovate with fresh genres beyond the currently popular MOBA?

I imagine so and I expect we’ll see significant innovation from then on. The number of users you get on games of that ilk is extraordinary – League of Legends had around 130 million players last year. It wouldn’t surprise me to hear a PC game has in excess of 200 million subscribers – something which is hard to see a console title ever getting to.

People should keep their focus on gaming. Never give up on PC gaming – it’s had its death predicted far too many times and actually remains a healthy place for people to
do business.

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