Jonathan J Kingston is a video game enthusiast, gamer, and a veteran video game news writer for Games.lol
What do Apple, Google, and Amazon all have in common? Well, plenty of things if we’re being honest. It’s easier to list the things that they don’t share. But one thing that people don’t usually associate with any of these big tech companies is how deeply involved they are with an increasingly relevant sector in technology: video gaming.
It’s true; last year, both Apple launched their own gaming-related service with Apple Arcade—a Netflix-like subscription service that offers a huge number of selected games from the App Store, playable completely ad-free.
Earlier this year, Google Stadia came out of beta, and brought cloud-based gaming to Google Chromecast-powered TVs, supported Android phones, and any computer that can run the Chrome browser. Amazon first started making headway into the gaming sector with their 2014 acquisition of Twitch.tv, the Internet’s most popular game streaming website, and is also rumored to soon be launching their own game subscription service.
Why now? The question should be, “Why not?” Matthew Ball, former head of strategy at Amazon Studios, wrote in his blog post entitled “7 Reasons Why Video Gaming Will Take Over” the following: “It used to be ‘what to watch’ and now it’s ‘whether to watch’ –, and the answer is increasingly ‘no, I’m going to play a game’.”
The numbers support his observations as well. With $120 billion in revenue generated last year and predictions of it shooting up to $200 billion by 2022; more people watched the 2019 League of Legends World Championship with a record-breaking 100 million viewers, which was a larger turn-out than the telecast of the Super Bowl; and projections for next year show that 2.7 billion people—a third of the global population—will be classified as gamers.
It’s also not just the FAANG companies feeling the pressure by gamers (and yes, Netflix is scared too, with CEO Reed Hastings considering Fortnite as a bigger threat to his company than HBO Go). Of course, there are the usual suspects with Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo working on improving their online platforms.
Sony has had PS Now, a game streaming service that allows players to run their favorite PlayStation games on PCs, for a few years now. Nintendo launched their Nintendo Online subscription service which brings not only multiplayer connectivity to supported games on the Nintendo Switch, but classic virtual console titles from the NES and SNES as well. And Microsoft, perhaps the most ambitious of the bunch, just launched their Project xCloud service which, like Google Stadia and Nvidia GeForce Now, allows customers to stream live, full Xbox-quality gameplay straight to their mobile phones.
So far, that all makes sense. After all, Apple, Google, and Amazon have been known to experiment in tech for years. And gaming companies will make gaming things, of course. But following the footsteps of the above-mentioned companies is another unexpected player: Walmart, who is looking into launching their own cloud gaming service.
And before you assume that all this gamer-catering be limited to one digital gaming platform after another, here’s another digestive for you to chew on. What was looking to be a rather mundane Architecture Day 2020 was suddenly electrified as “Intel announces Xe-HPG" became headline news in the tech world that morning.
Everybody is aware of Intel as the 800lb CPU-manufacturing gorilla, but less known is the fact that they haven’t really competed in the enthusiast graphics card market since the extremely disappointing i740, i750, and i752 AGP cards back in 1998. Since then, they tried discrete graphics once again with their ultimately cancelled Larrabee project, but other than that, they’ve preferred instead to develop their integrated graphics architecture.
That Intel is not just making announcements but showing benchmarks of their Xe-HPG architecture is no small thing.
1. Confirmation that the HPG series will support hardware-accelerated raytracing, which is a marquee feature of competing high-end video cards by NVIDIA and AMD. Further emphasizing the role of ray tracing are the upcoming console launches by Sony and Microsoft, which both feature the technology. Finally, its inclusion in the DirectX 12 Ultimate graphics driver standard all but secures its place as a critical component in next-gen graphics processing.
2. Opting to use GDDR6 instead of HBM for their memory configuration, which ensures the memory bandwidth needs of high-performance graphics processing are met without incurring the excessive costs of HBM memory—a problem suffered by AMD with their previous generation of flagship cards. Xe-HPG will be the only member of its family that will receive this treatment, with all other Xe products utilizing HBM memory instead.
3. Partnering with an external fabricator to manufacture specifically their HPG series of chips whilst all other Xe chips remain in-house. This is a company first, and it will be extremely interesting to see which major fab Intel partnered with—whether TSMC or Samsung, both of which have had experience manufacturing cores for both Nvidia and AMD in the past.
When one considers all that, it really seems that this is truly going to be a
gamer-first (and perhaps even gamer-only) dedicated graphics card from Intel. They will soon join Nvidia and AMD to compete for the hearts, minds, and wallets of gamers in the PC-building world.
It’s clear, when accounting for the pivots and movements of these trendsetting companies, that they are reacting to the sudden explosion in video gaming. The timing is perfect; next-gen consoles are due to be launched this year, next-gen graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD are just around the corner with the former already having been announced, and widespread adoption of fiber internet as well as the continuing rollout of 5G mobile data is making cloud-based game streaming more viable than ever. It’s time to start paying attention to the gamers. They’ll soon be calling the shots.
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