PCR speaks to Nvidia's director of GeForce gaming Jason Paul about the resurgence in PC gaming.
Hardware lives in a chicken and egg relationship with content. Without software, there’s nothing to show off things like new graphics cards. And without new graphics cards, there’s no reason to produce new software.
Execs at Nvidia, then, must be punching the air: earlier this year it released the first of its line of Kepler next-gen graphics cards, such as the GTX 680 and GT 640M, and the timing was perfect. As developers turn their attentions away from ageing consoles like the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, some of the biggest hits in games are either PC-only, or PC-first in their development.
“Developers are no longer just thinking of console and porting to PC,” explains Nvidia’s Jason Paul. “They are developing for the PC as a platform and taking advantage of PC-only tech that will really shape the experience. And that is helping to encourage gamers to switch from console to PC to get the full experience.
“You’re seeing developers more readily build in DirectX11 support, 3D, multi-monitor support, and hi-res texture elements, just to make PC gaming superior to console. Even the games that are typically console-first, like Max Payne 3, the publisher is investing in making the PC version better because they understand how far ahead PC is in terms of technology.”
THE TIME IS RIGHT FOR PC
It really has been a ripe time for quality games on PC, says Paul. Nvidia has seen first-hand how games like Mass Effect 3, SWTOR, Diablo III and event recent releases like The Secret World have pushed high-end PC games back to the top of the agenda for gamers and retailers.
Rich pickings lie ahead, too. Call of Duty Black Ops 2, World of Warcraft expansion Mists of Pandaria, Far Cry 3, Assassin’s Creed III, MechWarrior Online and Hawken are all hitting PC with advanced DirectX11 functions that won’t be found on console and need a good card to run.
And, even further into the future, developers have been using Nvidia technology to shape the games of tomorrow. Stand-out titles at this summer’s E3 games expo in Los Angeles, such as Star Wars 1313, Watch Dogs and other next-gen tech demos, were even showcased using a GTX 680.
“A lot of the big demos were running on 680s as they wanted to put the best foot forward to show what the next-generation of gaming would look like,” says Paul.
It helps that all the big hot genres in core games right now are also a good fit for PC. And that we are at the point in the games life cycle where PC is leading the way as consoles stagnate before their successors arrive.
Plus, Paul points out, even those making the tools to produce new games – such the team behind the ubiquitous Unreal Engine – are using Nvidia technology as its base.
“The big step is that the tools continue to get better in terms of games development. Unreal Engine 4, for instance, was shown running on 680s at E3, and natively uses advanced functions like Direct X11 or Nvidia PhysX from the off.”
“Today it’s very clear that PC is leading the way in games - early in a console lifecycle there’s some debate about that, but today even when a game is multiplatform it leads the way on PC,” asserts Paul.
And while dedicated games consoles and PC games hardware are also locked in their own symbiotic relationship, it’s arguable that with new hardware like the Kepler architecture and low-end games successes like Facebook or free-to-play games, PC has a bigger edge than ever over other platforms.
“I’m sure when the new consoles come out they will innovate – although often a console’s innovation is in areas to do with interface or online,” says Paul. “And even then, after that early bump in performance, PC keeps growing and widens the gap a bit.
“It’s been the classic lifecycle.” But maybe the cycle is starting to be broken...
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