Sony announced its Playstation 4 console last month, with most of the firm’s event devoted to the AMD accelerated processing unit (APU) that will drive the console. Now Nvidia has said that despite its chips not powering Sony’s next generation games console, games developers programming for the console can use its Physx technology.
Nvidia’s Physx technology is a physics library that works on PCs and current generation consoles. It’s no longer limited to the firm’s own GPUs, meaning that AMD’s APU can execute Physx code properly, though perhaps Nvidia would argue slower than its own chips.
Aside from Nvidia’s Physx software, the firm’s Apex SDK also boasts support for the Playstation 4. Nvidia’s Apex is a set of tools that allows games designers to rapidly develop models and interactive game content. Mike Skolones, product manager for Physx at Nvidia said, “Great physics technology is essential for delivering a better gaming experience and multiplatform support is critical for developers. With Physx and Apex support for Playstation 4, customers can look forward to better games.”
Nvidia still wants games developers to use its tools despite not being in at least two of the three next generation games consoles, because it gives the firm a chance for its desktop graphics cards to win benchmarks when games are ported to the PC.
Since Sony decided to keep it simple and talk about games and everything except the actual hardware inside the Playstation 4, AMD’s John Taylor not only decided to write a blog post and elaborate on it, but also gave quite a good hint on what we can expect in the near future.
First of all, we noticed that John Taylor, previously working as Director of GBU Marketing has now become the Vice President of Global Communications and Industry Marketing at AMD, so we are quite sure that we will see quite a few interesting things from him down the road. In case you missed it, John Taylor was leading the product communications at AMD from 2006, before joining the GBU marketing team.
Although he does not reveal any precise details regarding the APU itself, John did shed some light calling it a semi-custom APU. As you already know, an APU is a single chip that combines the CPU And GPU with various system elements including memory controllers, specialized video decoders, display outputs and similar things. What makes it interesting is the actual level of customization that can be done for customers that have a very specific demands.
If you read between the lines, it is quite clear that the APU inside the Playstation 4 will not be the last custom part will see. It pretty much all but confirms that AMD has scored the Xbox Next win as well completing the “Holy Trinity” of consoles. The customization might be an interesting deal as it also means that Xbox Next APU might be a bit different than the one found in the PS4. Of course, it could still end up with the same AMD Jaguar CPU cores that are the main part of the PS4 APU probably the similar GPU part but with such a level of customization, anything is possible.
AMD’s VP of Global Communciations ans Industry Marketing, John Taylor, finished its blog post with quite an interesting line stating that this is going to be a very exciting year for gamers, especially for those with AMD hardware in their PCs and consoles as AMD has even more game-changing announcements still to come.
The fact that Sony didn’t show the actual PlayStation 4 hardware at the press conference yesterday has met with more than a little wonder. The company did show off the new DualShock 4 controller, but didn’t show even a mock-up of the final PS4 console, and this has made many question Sony’s decision to announce the PS4 at all.
Sony will apparently debut the actual PS4 hardware in June at E3, according to a number of sites on the Internet. This seems to be logical, because if Sony doesn’t have it finished by then they have little hope in producing enough to make the launch for this holiday season.
The delay of the actual hardware showing as well as lack of pricing details has presented an interesting dilemma for retailers that are anxious to start taking pre-orders. GameStop, for example, has announced that PowerUp Rewards members can join what they are calling the “PS4 First to Know List,” which will give members the latest information on the PS4 and PS4 related titles as well as the all-important pre-order details when they become available. While getting on the list does not guarantee you a PS4, it does at least make sure that you should be in the loop when the retailer expects to start taking pre-orders for the PS4.
Sony will be ending the free online lunch with the launch of the PlayStation 4. As we have been suspecting for a long time, Sony will be moving to a subscription model just like Microsoft with Xbox Live Gold.
According to our sources, just like Microsoft’s Xbox Live, PlayStation 4 users will be locked out of the majority of the good stuff without a subscription. The subscription service is expected to be called PlayStation World, according to our sources. Like Xbox Live, it is suspected that updates to both the console and PS4 games will be free.
What is not clear about Sony’s new strategy is if similar to Microsoft, it will restrict access to third party services like Netflix behind this subscription model; or whether Sony will stick to just the online features that are directly related to the console, such as online play and perhaps the compatibility streaming that has been talked about.
All eyes will be on Sony next week, as the company intends to show the world the future of the PlayStation business during a New York press event. While we get a glimpse of the upcoming PS4 hardware, it’ll be interesting to see what Sony does to keep consumers invested in its current PS3. It’s likely that a price drop will be announced either at the February 20th event or shortly thereafter.
In fact, analyst Michael Pachter believes we should expect a PS3 price cut in the near future, he tersely responded, “February 21st.” In a second email, he told us that it should come down to $199 and that Microsoft will probably match that price on Xbox 360 by this year’s E3.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that PS3 will see a price cut next week, but it’s certainly a safe bet that Sony will cut the MSRP before the PS4 hits the market. Sony’s strategy thus far has been to bundle in more games and bigger hard drives, and the company briefly sold PS3 bundles for the low price of $199 during last year’s Black Friday period. Most bundles now are selling for $299 (there’s a $269 Uncharted 3 bundle) but it wouldn’t surprise us to see a $50 cut and new bundles soon, especially with God of War: Ascension coming in March and The Last of Us in June.
Sources are reporting that Sony is planning to announce Killzone 4 as part of its reveal of the PlayStation 4 console. Developers at Guerrilla Games have been lucky enough to see the latest in its shooter series to be announced alongside of the latest Sony hardware reveal.
According to those who can’t seem to keep quiet… Killzone 4 is said to be the first title for the PlayStation 4 to show off an excellent example of what the new console is able to do. The game itself is said to be stunning and looks much better than what we have seen in previous generations of the game.
As for a release, apparently Killzone 4 will be announced and it will arrive for the PlayStation 4 yet in 2013; but it will be late this year before you will be able to own it.
A new report by GameTrack shows that America is still the Western world’s gaming superpower. We US gamers still outnumber our UK counterparts, they play across more devices and mediums, and they also show the largest appetite for online gaming.
Thanks to the study, run by Ipsos nMediaCT, we know that almost half of the American gaming audience (48 per cent) play online games, compared 42 per cent who played packaged games. And while it’s still easy to think of big MMOs like World Of Warcraft when online gaming is mentioned, 27 per cent of that online gaming in the US is through browsers. 31 per cent also played games through apps on their phones and tablets, a figure that seems surprisingly low considering most people have a mobile phone capable of hosting those apps.
By comparison the UK gamers are still traditionalists, with packaged games still the biggest part of the audiences’ gaming diet, followed by online and apps. In the online category play is distributed evenly over downloads, social, multiplayer and browser.
This order of importance for packaged, online and app games is mirrored by France, Germany and Spain. In monetary terms, packaged is still the most important player, although the report notes this share is falling in both the UK and Spain.
What is also interesting is how many gamers in each country play all three, packaged, online and apps. Again, Americans are the most button happy, with 17 per cent. The numbers are significantly smaller elsewhere, with a paltry 5 per cent in the UK, 3 per cent in France and Spain and 2 per cent in Germany. It’s a stark reminder that outside the hardcore market gaming everywhere and anywhere isn’t too much of a concern to your average person. Although this may be a generational difference, according to results gathered from the younger participants.
“Amongst kids, gaming across categories is more common than it is amongst adults, pointing to a future gamer comfortable playing across different platforms. Kids’ convergence is strongest in the UK, where 36 per cent of kids play all categories,” says GameTrack.
“This is some way ahead of Germany, where for example, only 9 per cent of kids play all three categories. The US doesn’t have quite as much difference between adults (17 per cent) and kids (22 per cent) playing all three gaming types.”
When it came to devices, it’s a draw for computers and consoles as to which machine is the most popular device for gaming in the UK. Smartphones, handhelds and tablets followed. In the US, perhaps reflecting, or even causing, their love for online and browser titles, computers come first, followed by consoles. In fact PCs came top across all the listed countries.
As well as what they were playing and how, the report focused on how many people were playing. The UK comes in third on that score, with 35 per cent, equivalent to 20 million people, stating that they had played a game in the last twelve months. In second place was France at 49 per cent (29 million people) and the US boasting 165 million with 68 per cent.
The study surveyed over 6000 people per country, using a mix of interviews and online surveys, and included both adults up to the age of 64 and children aged six and over. This added up to around 24,000 interviews per quarter across Europe alone.
Sony is proudly announcing another Playstation 3 milestone. The outfit has managed to sell 70 million units over the past six years. Interestingly, Sony also claims that it sold upwards of 15 million PlayStation Move controllers to date.
Sony unveiled the PS3 six years ago and back in 2006 it was way ahead of its time, with 1080p support and Blu-ray to boot. In fact, it does not sound too outdated even by today’s standards.
However, the good old PS3 is ageing and Nintendo’s Wii U should give it a run for its money. However, it is still unclear when Sony plans to introduce the fourth-generation PS3. The economic crisis forced Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo to revise their upgrade plans, so the PS3, Xbox 360 and Wii ended up in service a lot longer than initially expected.
However, even when we get to see the next-gen Playstation, the Playstation 3 will probably remain on store shelves for years to come.
US games sales, according to The NPD Group’s retail data, were down 25 percent in October – not exactly the strong start you’d like to see for the hugely important fourth quarter, when the industry typically generates a bulk of its annual revenues. Sales were even down sequentially from September by about $100 million. It prompted Macquarie Securities’ Ben Schachter to question the importance of this year’s holiday shopping season. “At this point, beyond a limited number of major releases, the holiday game season does not look like a major catalyst for the industry in aggregate,” he said.
Does this mean that buying patterns are changing and that the holiday season is no longer that important? Has digital, which represents roughly half of revenues, lessened Q4′s relevance? Or does the industry simply need a wave of new consoles to spur sales?
Interestingly, Nintendo’s part in all of this is actually quite critical. A lot is weighing on the launch of the Wii U a week from now.
“I suspect that this holiday season will see relatively weak overall spending totals in the US. The reality is that sales of Xbox 360 and PS3 physical products this holiday season will probably be off 10 percent to 20 percent compared to last year, a noticeable but manageable decline,” commented IDC Research manager Lewis Ward. “Nintendo is the wild card that will determine whether the holiday season is viewed in retrospect as one of ‘treading water’ or one of sharp decline.”
“Most of the drop off in aggregate retail sales in the US in 2012 was the result of weak Wii hardware and disc sales – the HD platforms held up okay. If the Wii U storms out of the gate it will lift the video game industry back into ‘treading water’ mode – and allow Nintendo to breathe a giant sigh of relief. If Wii U doesn’t preform well, total industry sales could be down 20 percent even once digital console game sales are taken into account. The holiday season will always be critical for gaming. In the past decade I don’t think there’s been a single year where at least 40 percent of all dollars spent on consoles hasn’t been in the fourth calendar quarter and 2012 shouldn’t be any different.”
“Since 2006, only one October (’08) has outsold September (the month prior). In ’09, the delta was also about $100MM. In ’07, September was about $150MM higher than October. Lately, we’ve had Madden hit September which contributes to the last couple of years,” she explained.
“I think the root of what we’re seeing with retail game sales lies with the age of the console lifecycle as well as the more limited (notably more limited) amount of new content being introduced to the retail market, which is having an impact on not only launch month sales, but on catalog sales down the line too since this has been happening for a number of months.”
Indeed, the length of this console cycle is certainly playing into the sales problem.
“We are late in a console cycle and 71 percent of new console purchases are done by consumers who are either replacing a broken console or are purchase a competing console–turning them into multi-console homes. In either case, these consumers are already part of the ecosystem, so their contribution is minimal. Those that are buying their first console, so late in the cycle, are generally extremely price sensitive and contribute little to software and digital sales,” EEDAR’s Jesse Divnich told us.
“The best way to describe this holiday season is ‘status quo’. The holiday season is incredibly crucial to interactive entertainment, and its importance is just as much now as it has ever been,” he stressed. ”Who it is important for, however, is relative and depends on where we are at in the cycle. Early in a cycle, the holiday season is crucial for new IPs and new hardware, but as we progress and get deeper into the cycle, the importance shifts to established brands. Just because we are viewing the 2012 holiday season as ‘boring’, it is far from being considered unimportant.”
RW Baird analyst Colin Sebastian agrees. “I think the traditional video game industry is showing the same trend as it has the past two years,” he said. ”There are only a limited number of high quality, recognizable franchises that sell well, and everything else is basically underperforming. This is not a new trend. The reasons for this are multiple, but the console business won’t really get a shot in the arm until new hardware is released next fall.”
Of course, it’s also important to recognize the big impact of a much-weakened economy. Billy Pidgeon, senior analyst at Inside Network, remarked, “The significant declines in revenue from packaged software are due to a combination of factors, including a sluggish economy. The current console cycle is far longer than previous cycles, so hardware is fairly saturated. This is slowing sales of new packaged console software, while gamer spending is shifting to pre-owned console software and to digitally distributed console game add-ons and PC games.”
“I do expect increasing revenue from November into the new year with releases of strong titles like Halo 4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops II. Also, the Wii U launch will bring in stronger hardware and software revenue.”
So what do the months ahead actually look like? Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter believes “there is finally light at the end of this almost four-year tunnel of declining video game sales.” He continued, “We believe that good games will continue to sell well, and November is off to a solid start with successful launches of Assassin’s Creed III and Halo 4.”
That said, he doesn’t believe Wii U software sales can offset expected sharp declines in year-over-year Wii software sales. Ultimately, November, December and January software sales should “moderate at close to flat, with slightly negative sales likely,” he said. The big jump should come in February. “We expect results to rebound into sharply positive territory in February, when Take-Two releases BioShock Infinite, and we don’t think that results will revert to double-digit negative sales growth again in 2013,” Pachter noted. It’s still going to be a bumpy ride, however, until 2014.
“We think that the industry is positioned for a rebound in 2014. Until then, there will be occasional huge months (from the release of games like Grand Theft Auto V, for example), and occasional modest months,” he said.
Sony has decided to curtail its involvement with the Folding@home project with the next PS3 firmware update, 4.30.
The decision was arrived at after discussions with the project’s originator, Stanford University. Over 100 million hours of PS3 computer time have been contributed to the study since participation began in 2007 but the project’s leaders say that the machine has contributed in other ways, too.
“The PS3 system was a game changer for Folding@home, as it opened the door for new methods and new processors, eventually also leading to the use of GPUs,” said research lead Vijay Pande in a post on the EU PlayStation blog.
“We have had numerous successes in recent years. Specifically, in a paper just published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, we report on tests of predictions from earlier Folding@home simulations, and how these predictions have led to a new strategy to fight Alzheimer’s disease.
“The next steps, now underway at Stanford, are to take this lead compound and help push it towards a viable drug. It’s too early to report on our preliminary results there, but I’m very excited that the directions set out in this paper do appear to be bearing fruit in terms of a viable drug.”
Folding@home was designed to contribute to the highly computer intensive study of protein folding in the human body, problems with which can lead to conditions such as Alzheimers, Parkinson’s and cancer. By distributing small chunks of analysis work to CPUs and GPUs around the world, the project was able to process the vast swathes of data much more quickly.
The story of each and every console generation is one of evolution – increasingly more complex, visually exciting games coming to market year-on-year. The benefit of fixed hardware architecture is that game-makers get to know the machines they are working with and are able to squeeze out more performance with each successive project. The current seventh generation of consoles has been longer than most – and the technological advances we’ve seen over the last seven years have been truly remarkable.
A quick tour of the major titles on site at the Eurogamer Expo last week was testament to this: in terms of the technological nuts and bolts at least, it was virtually impossible to find any kind of “bad game” on the show floor whatsoever.
Flashback to late 2004/2005 and the twilight of the PS2/Xbox heyday and there was never the kind of consistency in technical excellence as that seen in today’s AAA market. Of course, the games, the budgets – and the industry itself – are bigger than they were back then, and equally of note is the increased importance of events such as GDC and SIGGRAPH, where we see developers sharing technologies, workflows and philosophies.
But it’s interesting to see the emergence of a number of technologies, initially defined by the limitations of the current-gen machines that will continue to evolve as we move into the era of the next Xbox and PlayStation 4.
One of the most impactful changes we see in the wave of current and upcoming games is the shift to what’s referred to as deferred rendering. The actual technology isn’t actually that new – a vintage 2001 Xbox 1 Shrek game from a North American division of DICE is thought to be the first console title to implement it and variations in the technique were seen in Xbox 360 launch title Perfect Dark Zero along with a more impressive roll-out for the tech in GTA 4 before it really hit its stride in Guerrilla Games’ Killzone 2. However, the technology is becoming increasingly more popular for the way in which a vast range of light sources can be added to any given scene, without anything like the performance penalty associated with traditional “forward” rendering – where light sources are calculated in turn with rendering load increasing accordingly, rather than considered as a whole.
The emergence of deferred rendering has also brought about innovation elsewhere. Heavy on memory, the current-gen consoles simply don’t have the bandwidth or the RAM to handle anti-aliasing in fully deferred game engines, leading to the rise of post-process AA. Instead of generating multiple samples during the rendering process as per traditional MSAA, post-process solutions tend to treat the screen as a flat 2D object and processing it accordingly. While edge-detect and blurring solutions have been commonplace across the generation, it was SCEE’s work with MLAA – first seen in the brilliant God of War 3 – that convinced developers that post-process anti-aliasing was a viable way forward.
NVIDIA’s subsequent work with FXAA proved to be the more popular approach for Xbox 360 developers, but it has also cropped up frequently on high-profile PS3 titles in recent times too. It’s to the point now where most of the titles we see on current-gen platforms eschew multi-sample anti-aliasing in favour of FXAA, simply for the RAM and GPU performance benefits.
Deferred rendering is here to stay – it’s a key component of the cross-generational Frostbite 2 engine, for example – so it’s safe to say that post-process anti-aliasing is far more than just a sticking plaster to mitigate for the lack of power and memory in the current-gen consoles. NVIDIA, AMD and other independent developers are already working on more advanced next-gen solutions based on the same principles, and while current-gen results can be mixed, more advanced algorithms in concert with 1080p resolution should produce some impressive results – something we’re already seeing on PC now.
Dynamic resolution is also an interesting technique being used by several developers. While operating in resolutions below native 720p is as old as the first Xbox 360 launch titles, studios are now adjusting pixel count on the fly in order to free up precious graphical resources for more demanding scenes. First seen this generation on WipEout HD in order to help maintain a 1080p60 update, a number of games have since implemented it – Evolution Studios with MotorStorm Apocalypse, and id software with Rage to name just two. More recently, Ninja Gaiden 3 and Tekken Tag Tournament have both used it, and at the Eurogamer Expo, Metal Gear Rising also appeared to be utilising the idea. For GPU-bound games in particular it’s an interesting technique, and we’ll almost certainly see it utilised on next-gen consoles too. Indeed, Ninja Gaiden 3 on Wii U already seems to be using it, despite the new Nintendo machine enjoying a boost in GPU power over both Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Of course, there are plenty of technologies that have evolved that aren’t rendering-specific, though they are intrinsically linked to improvements in visual quality. The bad old days of lower resolution textures and missing environmental detail on PS3 titles are all but over, despite the fact that the Xbox 360 still has more available memory to developers than its PlayStation counterpart – a lot of this is down to major advances in background streaming technology. It goes beyond texture and art assets of course – the quantum leap in terms of animation tech we’ve seen across the generation is linked to this, as is the arrival of games that feature no intrusive loading at all: God of War and Uncharted being good examples.
So is the story of the current generation one of uninterrupted progress? Unfortunately not. If the rumors are true and PS4 is using AMD x86 processing cores in its next console, it will mean the end of the Cell architecture and with it development for the unique SPUs – the ultra-fast satellite cores found within PS3′s central processor. Without the SPUs, PlayStation 3 features an unremarkable CPU core and graphics hardware that falls short of the performance found in Microsoft’s competing console. With them, developers have been able to match and at times exceed the limits of the Xbox 360 by hiving off GPU tasks – vertex processing and post-process effects like anti-aliasing and motion blur – onto SPU. Bespoke SPU coding is what makes games like God of War 3, Uncharted 3 and The Last of Us as spectacular as they are, while third party developers have also made good use of them: Battlefield 3′s state-of-the-art lighting system runs from SPU. While some cross-platform developers may breathe a sigh of relief at the end of Cell, it is a shame that the skills built up in the industry won’t be that useful going forward.
The good news is that while we can fully expect each new console to have its own particular strengths and weaknesses, the chances are that developers will not need to re-invent the wheel in terms of their current coding processes. It’s safe to say that the migration from Xbox and PlayStation 2 to their current-gen equivalents was fraught with problems – the major challenge common to both systems (PS3 in particular) was the move across to multi-core development – running systems in parallel in order to get the most out of the processing power available. It’s here where all that knowledge working with Cell’s SPUs may pay off – it effectively forced coders to get to grips with a many-core approach to game development.
Elsewhere, also easing the upcoming transition is the fact that PC development has effectively offered coders a preview of the next generation – Intel CPUs offer up to 12 logical cores (two threads per core on a six-core processor), and developers such as DICE have optimised their code to make use of the larger range of cores available. While many games are still targeting dual-core processors, our own experiences with our cheap as chips Digital Foundry PC demonstrate that the latest titles are gradually moving across to accommodating an ever-increasing amount of processing cores – music to the ears of AMD, now offering eight-core CPUs at mainstream prices, but also good preparation work for getting more out of the next-gen consoles too.
On top of this, Microsoft’s DirectX 11 API – fast becoming the standard for PC gaming – takes centre stage in the next Xbox, currently codenamed Durango. Our sources have suggested that existing PC game engines using DX11 require porting to 64-bit architecture but otherwise run with no problem at all on the new console. Microsoft profited immensely from the close links between DirectX 9 and the Xbox 360: the link appears to have been strengthened still further with the new console. Sony’s strategy with PlayStation 4 is less clear – our understanding is that the OpenGL API will be utilised, but only in recent weeks has this been upgraded to provide a similar level of functionality as DirectX 11.
It seems clear that the console makers have learned from the lessons of yesteryear, and that the progression of gaming technology will be considerably smoother from this generation to the next than it was seven years ago – barring any surprises in console design, there will be no fundamental shift in the way games are made; the next consoles will simply be a generational increase in horsepower, but based on the existing principles of a multi-core CPU and graphics processor. While the price we pay may well be a more conservative approach to design, and a move away from the Kutaragi-inspired exotic hardware that characterised three generations of PlayStation hardware, developers should be able to hit the ground running – and for a time at least, develop the same titles across current and next-gen consoles simultaneously.
Sony’s Game division posted an operating loss of $45 million as sales of its PlayStation hardware line continue to fall.
In the first fiscal quarter – ending June 30 2012 – the company’s Game segment posted revenues of ¥118 billion ($1.49b), down 14.5 per cent year-on-year. The decline was partially aggravated by the strength of the Yen, but overall sales were still down 10 per cent on a constant currency basis.
The segment posted an operating loss of ¥3.5 billion ($45m), versus an operating profit of ¥4.1 billion in the same quarter last year. The company claims that further losses due to the ailing fortunes of its PlayStation 3 and PSP hardware were “partially offset” by revenue from the PlayStation Vita.
In light of these figures and trends, Sony has tempered its full-year expectations for its games business.
“Primarily due to the lowering of the annual unit sales forecast for portable hardware, sales are expected to be significantly lower [for the Game segment] than the May forecast,” the company stated. “Sales are expected to be essentially flat and operating income is expected to decrease significantly year-on-year.”
Overall, Sony posted revenues of ¥1.5 trillion ($19.18b) for the quarter, up 1.4 per cent over the same period last year. The company made a net loss of ¥24.6 billion ($312m), significantly more than the loss of ¥15.5 billion in the prior quarter.
The company has lowered its revenue expectations for the fiscal year ending March 31 2013 by 8.1 per cent to ¥6.8 trillion.
UPDATE: Sony’s hardware and software sales both saw year-on-year declines. The company posted only combined sales figures for its console and hardware lines, rather than separate totals for each platform.
Sony sold a combined total of 2.8 million PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 units, down from 3.2 million units in the same period last year. The Vita and the PSP sold a combined total of 1.4 million, a significant drop from the prior year quarter’s 1.8 million units given that the Vita had not been launched at that point.
Software sales also declined, with 20.1 million units sold across PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 2 (down from 27.6m y-o-y) and 5.8 million units sold across Vita and PSP (down from 6.6m, despite the absence of the Vita).
Marvell has shed some light on its new Avastar 88W8897 802.11ac low power WiFi chip. In addition to up to 867Mbps of WiFi transfer throughput, the new chip also integrates Bluetooth 4.0, near field communications (NFC) as well as Wi-Fi certified Miracast and integrated location engine. Aimed at notebooks, ultrabooks, tablets, gaming consoles and smart TVs, the new Avastar 88W8897 is expected to show up in various devices around this time next year.
The implementation of 802.11ac standard and Bluetooth 4.0 in the same chip is not something that we have not seen so far, but with NFC, it is certainly becomes a quite interesting chip. As noted, the new Avastar 88W8897 will feature 867Mbps of transfer throughput which is not as fast as we are other chip manufacturers but still faster than 802.11n. Marvell reckons that 802.11ac is still young but should become a big thing as of next year.
Marvell also claims that the Avastar 88W8897 SoC offers the highest level of integration available enabling a rest of bill of materials footprint reduction of 40 to 50 percent and cost reduction of 75 percent when combined to previous wireless solutions. The Wi-Fi certified Miracast, expected to be certified later this year, 802.11ac transfer speeds and Marvell’s dynamic rapid channel switching (DRCS) technology will allow users to stream video from a smaller device like tablet to a larger display while simultaneously surfing the net without losing the connection in 2.4GHz. The last, but not least, is the integrated location engine that enables accurate indoor positioning by implementing 802.11v time of flight protocol inside the hardware.
In any case, it sounds like a “well integrated” SoC and although it will not reach transfer.
Unreal Engine 4 was shown to some of Epic’s partners behind closed doors at GDC this year, but it’s only now that we’re starting to get the first taste of what can kind of graphics it’ll push. Wired has an interesting look at the next-gen engine, along with beautiful screenshots and comments from Epic.
As Wired puts it, “UE4 represents nothing less than the foundation for the next decade of gaming. It may make Microsoft and Sony rethink how much horsepower they’ll need for their new hardware. It will streamline game development, allowing studios to do in 12 months what can take two years or more today. And most important, it will make the videogames that have defined the past decade look like puppet shows.”
Indeed, Epic design director Cliff Bleszinski believes Epic is in the driver’s seat when it comes to next-gen. “There is a huge responsibility on the shoulders of our engine team and our studio to drag this industry into the next generation,” he said. “It is up to Epic, and [CEO] Tim Sweeney in particular, to motivate Sony and Microsoft not to phone in what these next consoles are going to be. It needs to be a quantum leap. They need to damn near render Avatar in real time, because I want it and gamers want it-even if they don’t know they want it.”
It’s very well possible that Epic has seen the proposed specs of the new consoles from Microsoft and Sony, and the company may be actively pushing the platform holders to make the hardware more powerful. Epic is famously quoted for asking Microsoft to include double the RAM in Xbox 360, costing the company a billion dollars, so there’s certainly a track record there.
Wired’s description of the engine certainly sounds amazing, but the consoles will need to be able to handle the engine. “…the Epic team has packed all the show-off effects that have flummoxed developers for years: lens flare, bokeh distortion, lava flow, environmental destruction, fire, and detail in landscapes many miles away. Plus, it’s breathtakingly photo-realistic-or would be if demon knights were, you know, a real thing,” the article states.
We can expect much more on UE4 at E3 next month, when Epic unveils it to the world.
Leveraging the power of 5,000 stores, Walmart had decided to expand its Vudu cloud video service from U.S. shores to as many as 30 countries starting in June, including Eurpoean, Asian and Central and South American nations, according to reports.
The new cloud movie service, officially debut earlier this month, is expected to be a worthy competitor of Netflix.
Vudu has already surpassed Sony and Amazon in digital video distribution market share, according to IHS iSuppli, while still lagging behind Microsoft’s Zune and Apple’s iTunes services.
Walmart expects to expand into Mexico first, followed by other Latin American nations, according to a report in Variety magazine. Walmart also plans to offer the service in the UK and Ireland and then Asia, according to Variety.
The Vudu service allows owners of DVDs or Blu-ray movies to bring their content to a store, pay a small fee, and gain access to the same flicks through any device from the cloud.
The Vudu service, is similar to Apple’s iTunes Match service launched last month. The iTunes Match service allows users to upload CDs and have them stored in Apple’s cloud from where they can be accessed through any Apple device.
Unlike Netflix, which requires a credit or debit cards to purchase titles, Vudu allows users to buy pre-paid cards with which they can access new movie content.
The Vudu service, which Walmart purchased in February 2010, offers over 4,000 titles and is now available in about 3,500 stores.