September 18, 2013
Xbox One VS PlayStation 4 VS Wii U: Similar Hardware Designs Will Help PC Gaming?

Will the Xbox One and PlayStation hardware design from AMD help PC gaming flourish again?

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the Xbox One vs PlayStation 4 hardware matchup may be interesting to fanboys, but game developers are largely saying they offer the same capabilities.

The statement that a Xbox One, PlayStation 4 hardware comparison results in too many similarities is not marketing hyperbole, either. The reason is because both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 GPU and CPU are made by the same company: AMD. While, yes, there is a significant difference in performance between the two overall the features list is about the same.

The situation was startlingly different with the last generation of consoles. The PlayStation 3 GPU was made in a collaboration between Nvidia and Sony, plus the Cell CPU was notoriously difficult to program for since it was so different from the x86 CPUs. The Wii and Xbox 360 GPU were made by ATI back before they were bought up by AMD. But the feature set difference between those two ATI GPUs was so vast many Xbox 360 and PS3 games could not conceivably be ported to the Wii without a major overhaul to art assets and overall game design.

The situation all changes when it comes to the Xbox One vs PlayStation 4 vs Wii U. While, yes, the Wii U GPU speed of 0.352 TeraFLOPS/s is way slower than the other two consoles, the Wii U GPU supposedly supports tessellation, compute shading, and other DirectX 11 features. To summarize, both newer consoles will have about the same features checklist as the Wii U. This should mean porting games between consoles should be dramatically easier this generation even if the Wii U will be using less hardware intensive global illumination methods (if at all) and lower resolution shadow mapping, HDAO, etc.

AMD Vice President Matt Skynner explains how the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 hardware similarities help PC gaming:

"PC gaming is alive and well. That's a segment that's growing. Whenever new consoles come out it gives a boost to gaming overall. Because the architectures are similar, it reduces cost, makes it easier for a developer to create for console and PC. Gamers aren't console or PC gamers. In my mind gaming is gaming, and any advance in one area helps things across the board. The new consoles too triggered a rush in game engine development. Anytime developers are spending new effort and new focus on designing new engines, then of course they're going to release PC games that feature these technologies. Because it's our architecture there, it's easier to port the games. And because they're first developed on our hardware, there should be a performance advantage. They should run better on our hardware. So if we can create that performance advantage on the PC, from a graphics point of view, then we can give our customers a better gaming experience and grow our market share."
AMD has been helping game developers by releasing technology like TressFX, which allowed for the better looking hair in the new Tomb Raider. Microsoft also helped revitalize PC gaming by allowing the Xbox 360 controller to function on PCs. Many PC games support it natively and the original Kinect can be hooked up to a PC as well.

Valve is responsible for the Steam digital games platform, which recently introduced a Family Sharing option. Steam also has a Big Picture mode that brings PC gaming to the home theater system. Valve is working on the SteamBox, which is essentially a PC hardware specifications standard for video game developers to shoot for. The operating system will be Linux instead of Windows and it's possible Valve might choose Nvidia as their choice for GPU and Intel for the CPU, but if they happen to choose AMD then every major gaming platform would share the same hardware features.

Do you think PC gaming will flourish with Wii U, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 hardware comparisons being so similar?