Fully-Custom Hardware for Game Consoles Not Feasible Anymore – Head of Nvidia

Jen-Hsun Huang: The Age of Exclusive Game Console Hardware Is Over

by Anton Shilov
01/16/2013 | 11:51 PM

Video game consoles have always managed to offer exceptional quality of graphics and details at launch since they were powered by custom-designed chips that usually that could provide more functionality than any off-the-shelf solutions and also were architecturally different. However, the age of fully custom integrated circuits (ICs) is over and going forward everything will be based on common architectures, believes the head of Nvidia Corp.


Nowadays graphics processing units and application processors are so powerful and their architectures are so efficient that it is possible to create virtually any quality of graphics and visuals. As a result, it does not make sense for game console developers to spend hundreds of millions onto creation of custom microprocessors with odd architectures, such as Cell chip developed by Sony, Toshiba and IBM. Today, it is easier to use off-the-shelf chips or design around common architectures to get performance and feature-set necessary for almost any product.

“You cannot make a game console such as the PlayStation 2 anymore. When it emerged, PS2 had a 100 times higher performance than the most powerful PC. I wonder whether it is possible to make something 100 times powerful than GeForce GTX 680? If possible, Nvidia will make it,” said Jen-Hsun Huang in an interview with PC Watch web-site.

Mr. Huang is in many ways correct. The forthcoming Microsoft Xbox Next and Sony PlayStation 4 are based on custom chips heavily rely on PC architecture and technologies developed by Advanced Micro Devices. Even PlayStation Vita features system-on-chip with ARM Cortex-A9 general-purpose cores and PowerVR SGX 5XT series graphics. Not surprisingly that Nvidia designed its own game console around Tegra 4 application processor, which will power numerous tablets and smartphones this year.

Nvidia’s Shield will hardly compete against any portable game console simply because the latter feature exclusive titles that only work on them. Moreover, Nvidia does not rule out any possibility to develop custom chips (featuring its CPU and GPU architectures) for game consoles, should platform holders need.

“We will cooperate with the developer of any game console. I want to keep the relationship,” said Mr. Huang.