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Nvidia Corp. claims that it deliberately turned down opportunity to develop system-on-chip for Sony PlayStation 4 video game console as the deal was not as lucrative as the chip designer would like it to be. Instead, Nvidia decided to concentrate on existing projects, such as new graphics and compute architectures, mobile application processors as well as emerging technologies like cloud-based rendering.

“I am sure there was a negotiation that went on and we came to the conclusion that we did not want to do the business at the price those guys were willing to pay," said Tony Tamasi, senior vice president of content and technology at Nvidia, in an interview with GameSpot web-site.

While Nvidia Corp. has been less successful than its arch-rival ATI Technologies and then AMD in landing orders to develop graphics processors for video game consoles, it designed chips for Microsoft Corp.’s original Xbox as well as Sony Corp.’s PlayStation 3. With the new generation of consoles, AMD managed to win all three designs (with Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony), which means that its graphics architectures will dominate on the market for years to come. While AMD may be getting a limited amount of profit from console platform holders, it will benefit from the fact that video games developed with consoles in mind will be optimized from the ground up for its CPU and GPU architectures.


Screenshot from Killzone Shadow Fall, a PlayStation 4-exclusive game

“Having been through the original Xbox and PS3, we understand the economics of [console development] and the tradeoffs. We are building a whole bunch of stuff and we had to look at console business as an opportunity cost. If we say, did a console, what other piece of our business would we put on hold to chase after that?” asked Mr. Tamasi.

It is necessary to note that both Sony PlayStation 4 “Orbis” and Microsoft Xbox “Durango” are heavily based on PC architectures and thus hardly required a lot of R&D work. Sony PlayStation 4 is based on a semi-custom AMD Fusion system-on-chip that integrates eight AMD x86 Jaguar cores, custom AMD Radeon HD core with unified array of 18 AMD GCN-like compute units (1152 stream processors which collectively generate 1.84TFLOPS of computer power that can freely be applied to graphics, simulation tasks, or some mixture of the two), various special-purpose hardware blocks as well as multi-channel GDDR5 memory controller. The PS4 will come with 8GB of unified GDDR5 memory sub-system (with 176GB/s bandwidth) for both CPU and GPU as well as large-capacity hard disk drive.

"In the end, you only have so many engineers and so much capability, and if you are going to go off and do chips for Sony or Microsoft, then that is probably a chip that you are not doing for some other portion of your business. And at least in the case of Sony and Nvidia, in terms of PS4, AMD has the business and Nvidia doesn't. We will see how that plays out from a business perspective I guess. It is clearly not a technology thing," said the senior vice president of content and technology at Nvidia.

While there are no doubts that Nvidia can develop a competitive graphics solution, it is completely unknown whether the company can also offer microprocessor technology powerful enough to handle video games for many years to come. AMD won both PS4 and Xbox Next not only because of graphics technology, but also because of advanced and inexpensive x86 microprocessor technology, a combination that Nvidia simply cannot deliver because of lack of x86 license as well as limited experience in CPU development.

Tags: Sony, Playstation, Nvidia, Geforce, Kepler, Tegra, Denver, Boulder, AMD, Jaguar, GCN, x86, Orbis, Durango, Xbox, Microsoft, Nintendo, Wii U

Discussion

Comments currently: 13
Discussion started: 03/14/13 05:01:40 PM
Latest comment: 03/15/13 11:21:51 AM
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1. 
Truth is simple - NVidia doesn't have CPU technology to compete with AMD Desktop CPUs, which is used in PS4. thats why they don't participate in PS4 project
10 1 [Posted by: jijibu  | Date: 03/14/13 05:01:40 PM]
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That's right. Longer term, NVIDIA are going to get squeezed without a x86 CPU. It can't pair its graphics IP to ARM CPU for high powered gaming. It is no wonder that its strategy is to get into phones and tablets - because they had no choice as evidence of this AMD/Sony deal. NVIDIA will become a takeover target for Intel in 4 years.
4 0 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 03/14/13 08:39:48 PM]
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show the post
1 5 [Posted by: Skidmarks  | Date: 03/15/13 01:03:37 AM]
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you probably missed 'downfalls of x86 and world domination of RISC architecture for ever and ever' from 90's and 00's
5 0 [Posted by: snakefist  | Date: 03/15/13 01:50:02 AM]
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Except for the whole part where Intel and AMD will be just as power efficient as a powerful ARM chip within the next year.
1 0 [Posted by: KeyBoardG  | Date: 03/15/13 07:52:03 AM]
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(young) people doesn't understand key fact about CISC (x86) and RISC (ARM, Qualcomm etc) architectures, namely:
neither architecture is superior. they are different. similar to CPU and GPU - both are architectures capable for doing tremendous amount of calculation - and that's what processors do. the CPU didn't disappeared when GPU was introduced (for the record, it was with S3 graphic cards, who took some load of CPU for first time). first CPU even had an option to be upgraded with additional "math coprocessor" - eg. 80386 and 80387, later being math unit sold separately and increasing calculation power - and then 80486 was first CPU with integrated math coprocessor). google it for more info

bottomline: there are best, fastest and most efficient ways to do certain task, but not one-size-fits-all one (at least for now)

we may have RISC/x86 combos, CPU+GPU are already integrated etc., but demise of x86 is unlikely - about the same probability as the disappearance of GPU in favor of RISC. first RISC/x86 combos already exist, and super-computers use CPU/GPU combos.

so, architecture integration rather than disappearing of one...
2 0 [Posted by: snakefist  | Date: 03/15/13 08:32:37 AM]
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They have ARM core pretty powerful. They also developing their own custom ARM core, with performance at desktop/server level.
1 0 [Posted by: Tristan  | Date: 03/15/13 02:49:12 AM]
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2. 
they did not participate because they were not invited back!!
4 0 [Posted by: redeemer  | Date: 03/14/13 07:00:21 PM]
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3. 
"It's not that we lost, it's that we didn't wanted it"

Yeah, sure. It's more likely you had nothing to offer, when was the last time NVDA made custom silicon?

So instead NVDA went with a T4 portable, good luck with that one. Color me shocked if it's not overpriced.
5 0 [Posted by: sirroman  | Date: 03/14/13 08:23:20 PM]
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4. 
This is true. AMD won contracts with SONY and MS, but still does not have money. Deal with Sony and MS is based on single payment, for license particular core, not selling chips.
0 2 [Posted by: Tristan  | Date: 03/15/13 02:55:34 AM]
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5. 
Pretty simple, AMD scored a deal with Nintendo with Gamecube (well ATi that was bought by AMD, well ArtX which was acquired by ATi) and Nintendo sticked with them for 2 more generations. Similar with X-box 360 and the new X-box. Sony got to them with PS4.

Nvidia got X-box and MS walked away with X-box 360, PS3 and Sony walked away with PS4 ... would say their track record is not really that positive.

Besides, the money they would get for consolle GPU/APU development would benefit also other products.

This Nvidia's statement sounds to me like the story of the fox and the grapes.
5 0 [Posted by: uroshi  | Date: 03/15/13 04:22:05 AM]
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Did that story involve sour grapes?
1 0 [Posted by: linuxlowdown  | Date: 03/15/13 05:14:33 AM]
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Yes (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fox_and_the_Grapes), but in this case it's actually a sour "fox".
0 0 [Posted by: sirroman  | Date: 03/15/13 11:21:51 AM]
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