Yesterday the internet got set ablaze as Microsoft announced to the world they were giving into customer demand and selling a version of the Xbox One without Kinect. However, there seems to be another side effect of this – without the Kinect sucking up some of the systems processing power, Microsoft are in discussions to provide that extra 10 percent to games developers.
Yusuf Mehdi has gone on record with Polygon and said “”We are in discussions with our game publishers about what we might do in this space and we will have more to talk about soon.” Interesting stuff indeed.
Previously Microsoft’s Andrew Goossen had said in regards to the Xbox One and Kinect:
“Xbox One has a conservative 10 per cent time-sliced reservation on the GPU for system processing. This is used both for the GPGPU processing for Kinect and for the rendering of concurrent system content such as snap mode,”
“The current reservation provides strong isolation between the title and the system and simplifies game development – strong isolation means that the system workloads, which are variable, won’t perturb the performance of the game rendering. In the future, we plan to open up more options to developers to access this GPU reservation time while maintaining full system functionality.”
Now the strange thing about all of this is that Pete Dodd (an insider perhaps better known as FamousMortimer) had told users “10‰ reserved gpu getting turned into 2‰ soon. And with that, I’m on my last bar leaving Puerto Rico. See ya soon if St. Thomas has sprint.”
These rumors persisted, particularly when Thuway also added that the Xbox One would be receiving improvements in both Drivers and API.
So now we’re left with a rather interesting scenario – will the Xbox One’s Kinect effectively be disabled for certain games which require the extra performance? If this is the case then much of the hype concerning the Xbox One and Microsoft’s rustication to go in the direction they did will be null and void.
Considering the Xbox One has 1.32TFLOPS of computing power reserving 10 percent of this puts around 130GFLOPS of performance usable to developers. To clarify this isn’t going to beat the Playstation 4’s GPU, as Sony’s machine has 1.84TFLOPS of computational power, but it’ll help.
Ten percent also won’t make a game which is barely able to run at say 900P run at 1080P, as we’re still looking at 1440000 pixels (for 900P vs 2073600 (for 1080P), What this will do is allow for more stable frame rates, and to push for extra graphical fidelity.
The issue though is that if Kinect and its functions (such as being able to ask the Xbox One to record footage, or to use Skype) while playing certain games are disabled, much of the consoles marketed appeal will effectively go bye bye, On one hand Microsoft providing the choice to developers is a good thing – but they’re not in a position to win a performance war with either Sony or a high spec PC, and rumors persist Nintendo’s next console will be quite a beast. Simultaneously it’s going to be tricky for marketing to handle either way.
Microsoft’s best defence is likely to be E3, trying to counter each of the reveals Sony and hoping that people on the fence of the Xbox One will buy into the system. In the end 10 percent extra is nice, and I (like any gamer) welcome extra shiny pixels on screen, but it does make their previous messages come across as fairly mixed, surely?