updated 01:45 am EDT, Sun August 31, 2014
Company credits need for innovation in technology for some recent products
At Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) in Seattle this weekend, Intel took to the stage during the "Future of PC Gaming" panel to outline some of the ways that the company is bolstering its support of PC gaming. During the panel, Vice President and General Manager of Desktop Lisa Graff outlined some of the changes the company has made with gamers in mind, as well as where future technology will drive the market.
In the PC gaming industry, there are three factors that the company noticed are responsible for driving growth. On the developer side, open and scalable hardware is allowing companies to push boundaries with products. This growth also leads to the "innovation spiral," as there is a demand for higher performance. It also pushes "accelerated innovation" as the move into better textures, physics and lighting led to new features and software, like DirectX 12.
For consumers, the market now offers a wealth of choices to all types of gamers. Different form factors have hit the streets somewhat recently, changing the need for gamers to buy massive machines with small form factor ITX style builds. Graff notes that these small machines were actually born out of business and enterprise, an example of how innovation can come from any sector.
However, all-in-one machines are becoming viable options for a range of gamers, like the touchscreen models that can extend family game time for a machine that was purchased for occasional use. Portability and the push into digital distribution have helped drive the "continuity of gaming" and pervasive nature of the platform. Services like Steam and Twitch have pushed the boundaries of growth to approximately 711 million PC gamers in 2014. In 2012, PCs surpassed consoles as the preferred gaming platform, but it still continues to grow.
Between the previous points, the company recognizes that PCs offer the best performance over any other gaming method. Unlike the console market that sees machines locked into hardware for a number of years, PC components are always evolving. New hardware is always coming out, which also drives the innovation side for developers. Software can be developed for the latest technology sooner than the console market, but also allows time for new techniques to be created. Consumers have choices, leading the growth of innovation with purchases and need to keep up-to-date with the technology.
Emerging technology like virtual reality will depend on the performance levels that PCs can deliver. Even though the technology is being created for consoles as well, products like the Oculus Rift are already demanding a lot of power from computers for the best immersive experience. Graff said that PCs are leading the way for VR, since the platform has the technology to drive it.
Intel noticed the growth, and is changing to bring some of its focus back to PC gaming. The unlocked Pentium Anniversary Edition processor was just a tip of the hat to gamers seeking performance at low price points. The Devil's Canyon line also was born out of a need to market to gamers. Graff said that the team was given a challenge to push the limits of the existing Haswell design without making large changes to the existing engineering. The result was the four-core 4GHz chips with the improved thermal design. It's also led to the inclusion of IRIS technology in chips, as well as the upcoming fifth-generation Broadwell processors.
Graff also outlined the recent announcements for the gaming market, the Haswell Extreme Edition CPUs and the X99 chipset. While the processors are giving gamers the ability to play with fully unlocked processors, the new chipset is key to their performance. Intel included 10 SATA 3.0 ports, upping USB 3.0 ports to six in the 14-port configuration, and 40 lanes of PCIe into the new chipsets. The hardware also brings with it new consumer advantages with computer builders as well. Alienware CEO Frank Azor unveiled one of the latest machines using the Haswell Extreme Edition, the new flagship Area-51.
As with the developer innovation, Intel is pushing some companies to take full advantage of their hardware. Chris Roberts of Roberts Space Industries came on stage to talk about how Star Citizen is utilizing the greatest advances Intel offers. The company is always trying to push tech, and Roberts said that he is glad to see that Intel is supporting PC gaming the way it is, as it seemed to be in decline only three years ago. He also added that Star Citizen would always use the coolest, newest and fastest thing.
Not to leave VR out of the mix, Paul Bettner of Playful, the company behind the platformed Lucky's Tail, came on stage to talk about the future of gaming around PCs will come down to the experience. Companies like Intel are pushing the envelope, helping to bring virtual reality to the masses. He said the industry is "on the precipice of an incredible change."
It'll be interesting to see where the future of PC gaming is really headed, but with Intel restating its support to push its products further than traditional workstations again, the industry could witness another boom in growth. If virtual reality catches fire in the industry, then those wanting to get the best experience for that next step in immersive gaming will need to build or buy high-end PCs. Intel's reemergence and commitment to the gaming market with fully unlocked PCs and enthusiast-level products gives the company a a few steps in the right direction.