Rumor: AMD Gets Exclusive Optimization for all Frostbite 3 Games

Subject: Graphics Cards | June 18, 2013 - 03:39 PM |
Tagged: radeon, nvidia, geforce, frostbite 3, ea, dice, amd

UPDATE #3

The original source article at IGN.com has been updated with some new information.  Now they are saying the agreement between AMD and EA is "non-exclusive and gamers using other components will be supported." 

The quote from an EA rep says as follows:

DICE has a partnership with AMD specifically for Battlefield 4 on PC to showcase and optimize the game for AMD hardware," an EA spokesperson said. "This does not exclude DICE from working with other partners to ensure players have a great experience across a wide set of PCs for all their titles.

END UPDATE #3

This could be a huge deal for NVIDIA and AMD in the coming months - according to a story at IGN.com, AMD has entered into an agreement with EA that will allow them exclusive rights to optimization for all games based around the Frostbite 3 engine.  That includes Battlefield 4, Mirror's Edge 2, Need for Speed Rivals and many more games due out this year and in 2014.  Here is the quote that is getting my attention:

Starting with the release of Battlefield 4, all current and future titles using the Frostbite 3 engine — Need for Speed Rivals, Mirror's Edge 2, etc. — will ship optimized exclusively for AMD GPUs and CPUs. While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.

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Battlefield 4 will be exclusive optimized for AMD hardware.

This is huge news for AMD as the Frostbite 3 engine will be used for all EA published games going forward with the exception of sports titles.  The three mentioned above are huge but this also includes Star Wars Battlefront, Dragon Age and even the next Mass Effect so I can't really emphasize enough how big of a win this could be for AMD's marketing and developer relations teams. 

I am particularly interested in this line as well:

While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.

The world of PC optimizations and partnerships has been around for a long time so this isn't a huge surprise for anyone that follows PC gaming.  What is bothersome to me is that both EA and AMD are saying are rumored to have agreed that NVIDIA won't get access to the game as it is being developed - something that is CRUCIAL for day-of driver releases and performance tweaks for GeForce card owners.  In most cases, both AMD and NVIDIA developer relations teams get early access to game builds for PC titles in order to validate compatibility and to improve performance of these games for the public release.  Without these builds, NVIDIA would be at a big disadvantage.  This is exactly what happend with the recent Tomb Raider release.

UPDATE

AMD called me to reiterate their stance that competition does not automatically mean cutting out the other guy.  In the Tomb Raider story linked above, Neil Robison, AMD's Senior Director of Consumer and Graphics Alliances, states quite plainly: "The thing that angers me the most is when I see a request to debilitate a game. I understand winning, I get that, and I understand aggressive companies, I get that. Why would you ever want to introduce a feature on purpose that would make a game not good for half the gaming audience?"

So what do we take away from that statement, made in a story published in March, and today's rumor?  We have to take AMD at its word until we see solid evidence otherwise, or enough cases of this occurring to feel like I am being duped but AMD wants us all to know that they are playing the game the "right way."  That stance just happens to be counter to this rumor. 

END UPDATE

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NVIDIA had performance and compatibility issues with Tomb Raider upon release.

The irony in all of this is that AMD has been accusing NVIDIA of doing this exact thing for years - though without any public statements from developers, publishers or NVIDIA.  When Batman: Arkham Asylum was launched AMD basically said that NVIDIA had locked them out of supporting antialiasing.  In 2008, Assassin's Creed dropped DX 10.1 support supposedly because NVIDIA asked them too, who didn't have support for it at the time in GeForce cards.  Or even that NVIDIA was disabling cores for PhysX CPU support to help prop up GeForce sales.  At the time, AMD PR spun this as the worst possible thing for a company to do in the name of gamers, that is was bad for the industry, etc.  But times change as opportunity changes.

The cold truth is that this is why AMD decided to take the chance that NVIDIA was allegedly unwilling to and take the console design wins that are often noted as being "bad business."  If settling for razor thin margins on the consoles is a risk, the reward that AMD is hoping to get is exactly this: benefits in other markets thanks to better relationships with game developers.

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Will the advantage be with AMD thanks to PS4 and Xbox One hardware?

At E3 I spoke in-depth with both NVIDIA and AMD executives about this debate and as you might expect both have very different opinions about what is going to transpire in the next 12-24 months.  AMD views this advantage (being in the consoles) as the big bet that is going to pay off for the more profitable PC space.  NVIDIA thinks that AMD still doesn't have what it takes to truly support developers in the long run and they don't have the engineers to innovate on the technology side.  In my view, having Radeon-based processors in the Xbox One and Playstation 4 (as well as the Wii U I guess) gives AMD a head start but won't win them the race for the hearts and minds of PC gamers. There is still a lot of work to be done for that.

Before this story broke I was planning on outlining another editorial on this subject and it looks like it just got promoted to a top priority.  There appear to be a lot of proverbial shoes left to drop in this battle, but it definitely needs more research and discussion. 

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Remember the issues with Batman: Arkham Asylum?  I do.

I asked both NVIDIA and AMD for feedback on this story but only AMD has replied thus far.  Robert Hallock, PR manager for gaming and graphics, Graphics Business Unit at AMD sent me this:

It makes sense that game developers would focus on AMD hardware with AMD hardware being the backbone of the next console generation. At this time, though, our relationship with EA is exclusively focused on Battlefield 4 and its hardware optimizations for AMD CPUs, GPUs and APUs.

Not much there, but he is also not denying of the original report coming from IGN.  It might just be too early for a more official statement.  I will update this story with information from NVIDIA if I hear anything else.

What do YOU think about this announcement though?  Is this good news for AMD and bad news for NVIDIA?  Is it good or bad for the gamer and in particular, the PC gamer?  Your input will help guide or upcoming continued talks with NVIDIA and AMD on the subject. 

UPDATE #2

Just so we all have some clarification on this and on the potential for validity of the rumor, this is where I sourced the story from this afternoon:

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END UPDATE #2

 

Source: IGN
June 18, 2013 | 04:36 PM - Posted by pdjblum

nvidia's reaction makes it seem as if they are concerned. Instead of saying something positive about their engineers ability to handily address this disadvantage, they disparage the engineers at AMD. If they were confident in their ability to deal with this adversity, they would not have had to disparage AMD. Of course, I am still reeling from the price they put on the 780, which should have been priced at the introductory price of the 680. Instead they gave us another cut down version, the 770, at that price point.

Ryan, can you please have Lee look at the comments on his review and reply when appropriate?

June 18, 2013 | 06:07 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Thanks for your comments!  

Lee is out of town for a couple weeks but I'll take a look and see if its anything I can answer...

June 18, 2013 | 06:35 PM - Posted by pdjblum

thanks mon

June 18, 2013 | 11:00 PM - Posted by psoomah (not verified)

Just to point out the obvious, AMD is hoolding a handful of aces this generation, both the consoles AND the coming Kaveri, and has absolutely no need to 'lock out' Nvidia or alienate a segment of their market.

Nor has that been their style.

That story had bogus stamped all over it.

June 18, 2013 | 11:22 PM - Posted by psoomah (not verified)

And paints your thought process and wording in your article as puzzling at best.

You 'jumped een it' when logic dictated a cautious and skeptical approach.

If you are truly honest you will admit bias was present, even if unconsciously.

June 19, 2013 | 12:45 AM - Posted by psoomah (not verified)

UPDATE: Looks like Nvidia is getting out of the chip design/hardware business.

http://www.xbitlabs.com/news/graphics/display/20130618193824_Nvidia_Set_...

That certainly puts the game developer's/publishers actions in 'perspective'.

June 19, 2013 | 02:10 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Uhh...I don't think so.

June 18, 2013 | 04:36 PM - Posted by windwalker

Good for AMD!
If there are clear indications that Nvidia has been doing the same thing for years why are you painting AMD as the bad guy for joining in?

June 18, 2013 | 06:08 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

If AMD is doing it, then they should be, don't you agree? I painted NVIDIA that way during the old days as well...and how many times have I bashed on PhysX??

June 18, 2013 | 06:42 PM - Posted by arbiter

Having a game designed for 1 gpu over another is 1 thing but, "While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released.". When 1 side is not getting the game til after release to optimize their drivers for game is another matter all together. This is turning in to same thing as tomb raider release, Nvidia was left outta the final code for the game til release date.

Ryan with least PhysX, it can be turned off in games.

June 18, 2013 | 10:47 PM - Posted by Jules (not verified)

You don't seem to understand Developers optimized for AMD out of sheer necessity.

In order to make a game on console then port it to PC, they need to optimized it for GCN and APU. And whatever progress made on console are ported directly to PC.

Where's NVDA when the console bidding wars started?

June 19, 2013 | 12:21 AM - Posted by mLocke

Not much of a port when the next generation of consoles run on x86-64 hardware now, not Cell Broadband Engine Architecture found in PS3 or PowerPC based chips in the 360. It is easy to argue that perhaps the next generation of games will see more PC to console ports than the other way around.

June 19, 2013 | 03:11 PM - Posted by arbiter

you forget APEX/PhysX is ALSO in the consoles as well.

June 19, 2013 | 01:30 AM - Posted by HeavyG (not verified)

My issue here is that MANY games have been ruined at release time due to poor driver support. When I pre-order a game or purchase it on the release date, I expect it to work on release day. If it does not work due to driver incompatibility, publishers had better be willing to give refunds.

Tomb Raider took weeks to fix. While my friends were able to play the game and talk about it with excitement, I was forced to wait weeks to play it. By the time the driver issues were resolved, I had moved on to other new releases and games in my catalog.

When the game developer is at fault, that is one thing, but when it is because they don't allow the hardware vendors ample time to provide driver support, I have a problem. I am the consumer of both the hardware and the software, and I am paying for it in the end because one company wants to competitive advantage.

And seriously... doesn't EA have enough problems getting their games to work on release day? Why cause even more problems? This us just stupid.

June 22, 2013 | 05:21 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The hypocrisy of AMD fans is mind boggling.

They screamed and screamed and screamed and made excuses for bad AMD drivers over it for years and years, while corporate pig whistled sweet nothings about ethics into their gullible flappy eared noggins.

Then of course we saw AMD was far, far worse with wrecking game code for the superior opposition. In fact, nVidia never had to wreck anything as the AMD driver team is still small and pathetic and lacking in talent and focus.

What happened was AMD and it's crazed fanboy base DEMANDED free PhysX and free AA support and "open source" drivers that they wanted nVidia to spend BILLIONS developing then hand to them on a freeloader welfare platter.

Well, AMD has decided after their years of shrouded begging for freebies with PR stunts their dimwitted raging emotard active fanbase swallowed with psychotic lies regurgitated, that they will assume the actual criminal and immoraland unethical misconduct they falsely accused nVidia of doing.
AND IT WON'T MATTER

nVidia will have drivers a rockin' in a day or two or a few weeks.

AMD's evil hypocrisy will backfire, and it will be clear to those with 2 brain cells to rub together that AMD's endless whining was merely EPIC CATALYST MAKER DRIVER FAILURE all along...

Way to go AMD,
"Become the Evil you created in your own EPIC FAIL fanboy brain. "

June 18, 2013 | 04:58 PM - Posted by Jules (not verified)

One of the reasons could be JHH's "I am holier than thou" attitude toward business partners. Microsoft, Sony, TSMC, various tablet makers have all been blame for one reason to another by Jensen for number of reasons on different occasions.

And of course, nVidia is not to be blamed...

I remember some nVidia supporter keep saying the console market's margins are too thin, there no money to be made on consoles, etc...

Well, jokes on them! Having a complete gaming ecosystem PC-consoles-PC is called a "Vision". Something nVidia lacks atm.

June 18, 2013 | 05:00 PM - Posted by 3dfxrain (not verified)

Don't underestimate nvidia guys. They are to be considered seriously just like anything else.

June 18, 2013 | 10:51 PM - Posted by psoomah (not verified)

Nvidia is a dead x86 graphics co. walking.

What processor do you think Microsoft will choose for it's coming Xbox brand tablets, laptops and, probably, all-in-ones?

Gabe Newell said getting developers on board was critical to the success of Steam Box. When Gabe polled the developers as to what hardware they wanted to see in Steam Box, guess which processor they chose?

This is all about KAVERI ... the HSA FUTURE of AMD. AMD wants a handful of top AAA games highly optimized fro Kaveri, which is releasing in the same time frame as the consoles. Wht they are looking for is to make a big splash and gaming benchmarks that absolutely destroy Intel and Intel/Nvidia in gaming at comparable price points.

Adobe is clearly getting fully on board with AMD and HSA APUs.

It's clear game developers/publishers and the professional market are increasingly seeing HSA as a future winner and AMD APUs as the pinnacle of HSA implementation.

June 19, 2013 | 12:17 AM - Posted by mLocke

I was under the impression that Steam Box is essentially a build standard and not an actual platform that Valve is looking to build.

You can build a Steam Box right now by loading up an HTPC with Linux and forcing Steam to launch in Big Picture Mode when the machine is started.

June 19, 2013 | 04:19 AM - Posted by Max KreFey
...that absolutely destroy Intel and Intel/Nvidia in gaming at comparable price points.

What you did there, I see it.

June 18, 2013 | 05:04 PM - Posted by OneAgainstOne (not verified)

Terrible news for PC gaming imo if this is true, great for AMD obviously but we aren't AMD we are the consumer. This will probably hurt the industry again for some time to come as it looked like we may be potentially past this BS style of economics. I can see some people being turned off by this and just buying one of the new consoles now. They'll probably be about the same price as the new upcoming decent vid cards anyway but again its a win for AMD as like you said the consoles are full of AMD hardware.
I really hope this turns out to be false though and we have these companies actually competing technologically again rather then with this unfortunate strategy that Nvidia did start. Which basically comes down to who will pay the most to EA or Ubisoft or whoever to use there hardware first and exclude the other guys and there countless users.

June 18, 2013 | 10:55 PM - Posted by psoomah (not verified)

So it hurts consumers if their future $149 Kaveri provides a next gen gaming experience comparable to a current $500 Intel/Nvidia solution how?

June 19, 2013 | 04:38 AM - Posted by Max KreFey

Thinking that $150 AMD APU will provide same experience as $200 Intel CPU and $300 Nvidia discrete card is very optimistic, to say the least. Code optimization is not a way to obtain unobtainium, it will make something work better on particular hardware, but it will not break laws of physics and such.

June 19, 2013 | 03:18 PM - Posted by arbiter

Yea i will correct his statement, "and $150 Nvidia gpu". Cause gpu in the new consoles is 7790 range card and nvidia 650ti boost card beats it decently. As for fact cpu is 8 threads don't think games will be using more then 4 of them least for next few years. Probably gonna be least 3-5years before they start getting past the 4 cores used market and even then AMD only to keep up with intel needs to use all 8.

June 19, 2013 | 03:18 PM - Posted by arbiter

Yea i will correct his statement, "and $150 Nvidia gpu". Cause gpu in the new consoles is 7790 range card and nvidia 650ti boost card beats it decently. As for fact cpu is 8 threads don't think games will be using more then 4 of them least for next few years. Probably gonna be least 3-5years before they start getting past the 4 cores used market and even then AMD only to keep up with intel needs to use all 8.

June 18, 2013 | 05:24 PM - Posted by tony (not verified)

Ohwell guess I won't be playing them on my Intel Nvidia rig

June 18, 2013 | 06:11 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

After seeing how poorly AMD does at framerating and their terrible drivers , I`m going NVIDIA.

June 18, 2013 | 06:23 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

AMD...BITE me.

June 18, 2013 | 06:24 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

INTVIDIA FTW !

June 18, 2013 | 07:04 PM - Posted by arbiter

Well I call this biggest load of shit ever.

Hey EA, you are already seen on top of one the most hated companies, this just justifies it more.

"The irony in all of this is that AMD has been accusing NVIDIA of doing this exact thing for years - though without any public statements from developers, publishers or NVIDIA."

where they any games that AMD was locked outta getting before the official release date?

With this EA is already hated by a lot of people, now about every Nvidia GPU owner is added to that list that weren't on it. People that hated in Nvidia cause they believe they did this, now its AMD doing outright blatantly in public eye. Just a wonder if some hate will start to shift to AMD as they are not the hypocrite's. People go after Nvidia about how physx don't work on AMD cards, which amd claims foul. I doubt AMD didn't intentionally make tressfx opencl code cause they knew they had a clear advantage in that field.

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