by Anton Shilov
03/14/2013 | 04:22 PM
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.