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What Happened To Moore’s Law?

January 24, 2012

This post continues the speculation surrounding the next generation of consoles, specifically, the successor to the Xbox 360. IGN is citing sources that say the next Xbox will use graphics chips “derived” from AMD’s 6000 series, released last year, and currently priced at 80 bucks. It is rumored to be about 6 times more powerful than the 360 chipset (or two times more powerful than the Wii U chipset).

Think about that for a minute.

Moore’s Law dictates the after 8 years, it should be between 32 and 64 times more powerful. Common sense tells us that MS should at least be utilizing tech that isn’t yet available as they did with the 360, which is also the reason they are enjoying this 7-8 year life cycle. They should most certainly not be grabbing some component that has already been out for 3 years by time of launch.

The implications are ridiculous. That chipset will be barely capable of running the bells and whistles PC version of BF3, currently available. That is assuming they also provide adequate RAM for which consoles are infamously under-spec’d. MS would be granting Nintendo and their Wii U legitimacy and equality. Even stick-a-fork-in-them-they’re-done Sony would be granted ride-every-ride, eat-all-you-can-eat, season’s passes to the next gen theme park. All gains made this generation would be squandered. In fact, Sony could put out their PS4 in 2015 (fulfilling their original 10 year goal for the PS3) and slap Nintendo and MS silly with eclipsing specs at a reasonable launch price getting the next-gen starved gamers to flock to their then-PC equivalent machine. 6x the 360?! That simply doesn’t compute. They may as well drop the 720 and just call it the NextFlix Doorstop machine.

UPDATE:  1UP just asked devs what they wanted in the next generation of consoles.

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16 Comments
  1. January 24, 2012 8:41 pm

    I understand the that this seems strange, but the 6000 series are actually great cards. Also, the console version is usually heavily modified.

    The thing with console specs vs PC specs is that they are not accurate at all. If you took the hardware of the 360 and tried to play a PC game… you would be on very low settings. In fact, most games require better GPU specs than what is currently in the xbox 360. It would be impossible to see the visual quality of gears of war 3 on PC if we took the hardware out of the xbox and into a PC case.

    The fact that they have a dx11 card is great, there is a ton of potential (remember the unreal engine demo?) The assessment of “6 times more powerful” is accurate, but it doesn’t really hold much ground in the console space (besides storage).

    When the xbox 360 came out, the GPU was roughly equivalent to the current PC 512mb ati card at the time. That card had a hard time running the source engine on high specs haha. Even 512mb RAM was low for the time. All these years later, we have incredible visuals that rival PC specs that are much higher (and costly). There are only a couple of games on PC that the 360 can’t match, and they require 5-6 hundred dollar GPUs alone to get those visuals.

    Game developers will be able to really unlock the power of the gpu with a standardized hardware. Now, they need to make sure that they do not “bottleneck” their performance with RAM (as you mentioned) or especially the processor. In fact i am mainly concerned with things like, will it use SSD for the OS? How much HDD space will there be? Will XBL actually work?

    I expect to see visuals on par with the demo the epic showed. If you remember, epic gave a similar “next gen” look before the 360 came out… gears 3 looks much better than the demo they gave at the time.

    This E3 will be interesting indeed!

    • January 24, 2012 8:45 pm

      in fact, the xbox 360’s gpu literally cannot play BF3 on pc haha. Same with Ram

  2. 3Suns permalink*
    January 24, 2012 10:20 pm

    Zos!

    I appreciate your examples of the strength of the 360. That is exactly what I am saying, and why I am concerned about the spec rumors for the 720.

    The ATI Xenos (the 360 GPU) was very similar to ATI’s “R520” which represented a major change in architecture at the time (the shaders being the big thing). The ATI PC cards with that tech were first released in the autumn of 2005, the same time as the 360 (not 3 years before the launch). These were the cards made for public consumption, made to compete with NVidia’s 7000 series cards, themselves released only a few months earlier. The GeForce 7000 series cards and the Radeon X1000 series cards were cutting edge and in the hundreds of dollars. As you said, however, in spite of a lack of RAM, because of the single purpose design custom motherboard, the 360 well outperformed the equivalent PC. But again, its GPU chipset was bleeding edge, not 3 years old.

    Seriously, after the 360 launched, it was a full 2 years before people on their decked out PCs had anything that could even think about surpassing it. Even then, it was only Crysis, and only the hardest of core PC gamers had the thousands dollar hardware to run it as intended.

    That is what impressed me most about this generation. Usually, even before the consoles launch, the PC people are just flying by console gamers and laughing their asses off. For this generation, that kind of behavior didn’t really start until the announcement of BF3 last year. That was the first time I really felt like my 360’s days were numbered. That was because MS created a machine that performed 18 to 24 months ahead of anything you could get on the PC.

    I understand that they can do amazing things with a single purpose console machine, but the advantage they have always had was in the chipsets, not in extra RAM etc. What they are talking about for the 720 is a set of chips that are already, right at this moment, sitting in the bargain bin! Direct X11 will be 5 years old by then. I would think that all current cards, expensive and cheap, come compatible with that. Two years from now? I would be expecting MS to be talking about Direct X12 – which means their console will be obsolete on launch day.

    Memories of Atari 2600 Space Invaders vs Arcade Space Invaders come flooding back to me – oh, my broken heart.

    Talk about duct taping gamecubes together to make the Wii!

    • January 25, 2012 7:29 am

      I guess the difference is that software is way behind of hardware at this time. The PC industry is really at a different point than it was at the 360 launch. There are only a couple games that even take advantage of DX11 at this point (and it has been out since windows 7 launched). I am sure DX12 will be out in the PC space sometime after windows 8 launches, but at some point there will always be that next “upgrade” coming up. Now people have 12 core hyperthreaded CPUs, 3GB GPUs 16GB of DDR3 RAM and the increased performance they see in gaming can be measured in frames per second over my DDR2 RAM, Core 2 Quad CPU, and 2GB Dx10 card.

      Another factor in this issue is physical GPU card size. Some cards are 10-12+ inches in length and take up 2 to 3 PCI express 16 slots (including the 6000 series). In order to be integrated into a single board (like they do on consoles), they may not be able to “shrink” anything in the 7000 series (which isn’t even physically out yet) due to the fact that it takes time with the hardware to minimize the size (think about the time it takes to release a “slim” console version even. (my x1900xtx which was nearly identical to the 360 GPU, was more than half of the size of my current GPU).

      If you look at the GPU in the PS3, it is a 256 MB card. Although it’s tech was based on a good card at the time, it was dumbed down from the actual PC counterpart, it was outdated when the console launched. Yet when you look at games like Killzone 2… that game is seriously in the same ballpark as Crysis and BF3 (including post processing effects) running on a super high end pc. When the 360 (and especially the PS3) launched, they both were in the shadow of DX10. Yet, of all the Dx10 PC games, the 360 matches the visual quality with its Dx9 card. Same can be said for most Dx11 games like Batman.

      We are at the stage now where hardware is not nearly as important as it was in 05. I think visuals on par with the epic demo can easily be reached with the card they are rumored to be using.

      As long as Microsoft provides adequate CPU and RAM (on top of sufficient cooling this time haha) I am sure we will have extremely compelling visuals. This will hopefully keep the price down as well.

    • January 25, 2012 7:54 am

      My PC also played Oblivion on way higher settings than xbox with crisp anti-aliasing and nearly no load times… 4 months after the xbox launched. 😉 That game was one of the first good looking xbox games as well. Also after researching some more, the GPU xbox 360 is rumored to use got quite good reviews as a budget card. It appears to be a great environment for the console space.

    • January 25, 2012 8:04 am

      PS: Totally get where you are coming from. Ideally the xbox would have the highest end components when it launches, but i think Microsoft is realizing how much hardware is currently available for low cost. Hardware that will create visuals that impress.

  3. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    January 25, 2012 10:26 am

    I have to agree with Zoso. Hardware takes a back seat to bunch of features the next system needs to have.

    I mean look at how gaming is right now with games even struggling to keep 1080p at a stable rate regardless of hardware, and to fully implement a reliable 3D experience.

    Also the reason why the life cycle of this console generation, it’s mainly because it wasn’t until this last fall where multiple fall games started filling DVD discs, and started using the full tech, and that’s just the AAA games. It hasn’t gotten to a point where every release can completely blow out of the water any ’06 of the best games like Gears, or fill a disc like Oblivion.

    Why then would it matter if they make it 36 times more powerful?

    By the time they finally get around to make every release use that technology I would be in my early 40s.

    At any rate, 360 games will be better for a couple of years. This last batch of games in the fall has mileage.

    If I were MS, I would do the same thing. I would cut corners on the hardware and release a system that’s ready for consumption now, that doesn’t drill a hole in anyone’s pocket. Otherwise it will be a 1-2 year fad like Kinect, until they figure out how to make something that lasts with all that hardware and gives a reason to jump over.

    Plus the other thing is that PC gaming and console gaming are dinosaurs. Tablets are being released and sold YEARLY with no signs of slowing down, their hardware is closing the gap little by little, and it won’t take long before it’s addictive reach starts grabbing the hardcore audiences.

    I mean you put me an ipad that can do the same tech as a 360, and a wireless controller, and the ability to play from anywhere with a 4g connection, and I will have a hard time putting it down. That won’t happen this year, but from now till the 720 releases and actually has a great catalogue to offer, anything is possible.

  4. 3Suns permalink*
    January 25, 2012 5:05 pm

    Thanks, guys. I read everything. 🙂

    Yes, more than “32x” graphic power, I would rather have a Solid State Drive for instant on, and dashboard access, GB ethernet/wireless, etc. etc..

    However, if I am going to give up longevity (and I still believe that with that chipset, the life of the next gen will be more like 3 to 5 years rather than 8 to 10 years like the current gen), then I need:

    1. very durable hardware, no more room for RRoD or fragile optical disc drives.
    2. a very cheap launch price of under $200. Preferably $100.

    Frenik, you make a very good point about the tablets and handhelds. Perhaps console makers should also go back to the cheaper, shorter-lived model. At $100, people would be gifting them to each other, and it wouldn’t take 5 years to establish a 50+ million unit install base.

    • January 25, 2012 5:29 pm

      For all we know, the CPU could be outstanding in the machine and the driving force for the power (like PS3). Regardless, if games look anything like the epic demo, i would gladly spend $299 or the likely $399 that the unit will cost. Also, SSD’s in semi large capacity are very expensive at this point. If they are saving any money on the GPU, they will likely spend it on other aspects of the console. I expect the next xbox to blow everyone away with the visuals, it is going to take developers time to use the potential of the hardware.

      We are just going to have to wait to see some demos on their dev kits. If it looks anything like this

      I don’t care if the specs are technically 2.5 times that of the 360. As long as the visuals look a step up from current generation of games, it will be a good investment. You can’t rate performance based on a single piece of hardware anyway. Some articles have stated that the card will be a “overhauled” version of the 6000 card, if that is the case, technically you could see performance on the level of a much faster card just using the existing chip. For example, Nvidia did this with their 8800 series. The follow up series were just slightly modified cards on the same chipset that heavily out performed the 8800.

      I just hope they show the console at E3. I don’t want to wait until E32013.

      PS: Even if the xbox 360 had games that looked like ultra quality BF3… i would shell out $399!! HAHA

      PPSS: I AM CRAVING BF3 AND WILL BE HOME AFTER 3PM PST THUR-SUN.

    • 3Suns permalink*
      January 25, 2012 6:20 pm

      WOOOO!!! Zos in da house! I saw on Battlelog that “zStephyz” had some BF3 rounds with Grymmie in the past 8 hours or so. Love it!

      I hear you about shelling out the bucks. My problem is that I am always thinking about that price x4 or at least x2 for the DLC as long as we can double up like we do. Hopefully we won’t have to pay 400 bucks to get it at launch! 😀

      Great to have you hangin’ around again!

    • Average permalink*
      January 26, 2012 8:27 am

      There’s not a chance they’ll launch it at $100 or $200, I’d be surprised if it was under $399.

      Ya Stephy played some games with Grymm and I yesterday, was fun, I did a lot of shit talking to the other team, sadly in BF3 they cannot hear you.

    • January 26, 2012 8:14 am

      I think a $100 price point is unrealistic and would backfire. People expect a console to cost a certain amount, and releasing a new console that is cheaper than the current handhelds would cause people to be suspicious of it’s quality, baseless or not. Plus I doubt they can make a console that cheaply even if they wanted to. It shouldn’t cost more than $300 for the main version, but you know they will release multiple editions so the hardcore cas feel all “L337” about their $400 version.

      Regarding processing power, at this point, how much more is really needed? They can get near photo-realistic quality rendered in real-time with the current consoles. They’ve reached the point that a console that is 32x more powerful than the 360 is probably going to be wasting 50% of that power 85% of the time. Also, using existing hardware will hopefully mean that developers can master it sooner. Hopefully, launch titles won’t be obviously distinguishable from later releases.

      I would love it if they could set up standards for multiplayer networking with the next console. Yeah, I’m still bitter about Brink.

    • Average permalink*
      January 26, 2012 8:32 am

      Herandar, standards for multiplayer networking would be brilliant! However, most developers (DICE included) can’t even get friends list and party systems done properly, a feature developed and perfected in Halo 2, 3 and Reach, titles which are years old and no longer have integration with special features only available to Bungie (at the time the giunea pigs for M$ Xbox Live feature development.)

      I would be much happier with multiplayer features which integrated friends, party, and messaging in game without the dashboard being required to load. It feels like it’s build on the original version of Flash.

    • 3Suns permalink*
      January 26, 2012 1:13 pm

      Pre-release, Splash Damage was braggin’ about their incredible netcoding kung-fu (I could link the posts but I am not going to patronize their shit). What they did, however, was no worse than how Epic totally screwed up their private match lobby system. Private party VS MP gaming is fubar. For all practical purposes, it is now impossible.

  5. FrenkoFrenik permalink
    January 25, 2012 9:17 pm

    Longevity is overrated. I mean look at how many times they released the different versions of the same console over and over in order to keep value on the system.

    Again going back to the ipad example, they just move forward. In theory that’s what the community does anyways, every time a new COD, Halo, Gears or Battlefield comes out they move to the next best thing, so it might just be worth it to have an upgraded in the system every 2-3 years, while maintaining the costs down.

    I would much rather pay $200-300 for something I can squeeze the potential right away, rather than pay for the “promise” of whatever was designed a year or two ago that might not be fully exploited in a decade, and who even knows if whatever can be done today doesn’t get blown away easily later on.

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