Does Nvidia’s Position on Consoles Really Matter?

geforce

So Nvidia’s explanation for why they, for the first time, passed up offers to develop chips for any game console, basically ended in them talking crap about consoles in general. What they say may be true, but it also doesn’t really matter that much when you think about it.

Nvidia’s senior vice president went on about the power gap between the upcoming consoles and gaming PCs. That gap does exist, and this may actually be the first generation where, right out of the gate, game consoles are inferior to gaming PCs, but that in itself has never really mattered. It never really mattered by itself for the same reason console-to-console comparisons never mattered.

The obvious reason is that the games are what matter — what software actually runs on each console. We don’t live in a world yet where all gaming devices run the same games, and how well your game runs depends primarily on the hardware. You may be able to compare one PC to another PC or one Android device to another Android device, but cross-platform comparisons are really useless for the majority of people buying games. It’s not like comparing cars.

It doesn’t matter whether or not a gaming PC will be able to run Killzone Shadow Fall better than the PS4 can. That game is never going to be available on PC. Journey — a PS3-exclusive of modest technical prowess, is equally inaccessible to gaming PCs.

Of course those are just platform exclusives we’re talking about. In the world of multiplatform games, the power of each individual platform only matters to the extremely discerning gamer who wants to buy the best version of a game. The vast majority will stick to one platform and buy that platform’s version of a game, regardless of how much better other versions might be. If this weren’t true, the PC versions of most games – which always look and run the best, wouldn’t be selling the least copies.

The only situation in which consoles would prove to be a hardware power threat to PCs is if they were so ahead-of-their time upon launch that the PC versions of multiplatform games required prohibitively expensive systems to look as good as the console versions. This may have happened around the launches of previous game consoles, but we’re pretty sure it’s not gonna happen with the PS4 and next Xbox.

The only situation in which you can say consoles are “too weak” is when a significant number of PC games come out that absolutely can’t run on consoles. That did start to happen towards the end of the PS2 era, but it didn’t really happen towards the end of the current console generation.

As we saw with current generation games, most developers are probably going to develop for the lowest-common denominator in terms of hardware power, and then make slightly better versions for more powerful machines, never taking full advantage of the additional headroom. During this generation the only truly stunning-looking PS3 games were all developed by Sony’s own studios. There are almost no PC games right now that are truly impossible to run on an Xbox 360 or PS3, though there are quite a few that look significantly better on PC.

The only hardware aspect of consoles right now that looks truly impressive by all measures (including gaming PCs) is RAM. The PS4’s 8GB of unified GDDR5 RAM gives it more and faster memory than any PC graphics card has access to right now. This could theoretically give some serious advantages to PS4 games, but most likely only exclusive games since multiplatform games will likely be optimized for the lowest common denominator. Those exclusive PS4 games will be inaccessible to other platforms 8GB of GDDR5 RAM or not. That said, we don’t know what the next generation Xbox is doing in that department as of this writing.

What I’m basically trying to say is: if you get a PS4, it shouldn’t be for how powerful it is, but what games are on it that you can’t get on the PS3 or PC or Xbox.

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3 thoughts on “Does Nvidia’s Position on Consoles Really Matter?

  1. darrenmacnally says:

    Very true. I think price is a huge factor for the consumer. A PC game, such as Far Cry 3, will only look better on PC over PS3 if you spend about 500-600bucks on the machine to boost it to max settings, when now, you can get a PS3 for 300. It’s also ease of use aswell. Nice post.

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