Microsoft’s next Xbox, which could get an initial unveiling as early as next month, will use an AMD system-on-a-chip according to a new Bloomberg report. The new AMD SoC will mean that Microsoft is moving to an x86-based system architecture, which Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 4 is also adopting. The change is great news for AMD, and for gamers, and bad news for AMD’s chief rival Intel.
The new Microsoft console will be running a “Jaguar” CPU, which is also what’s going into Sony’s PS4, alongside a Radeon graphics processor from ATI, an AMD subsidiary. The similarity between the two SoCs employed in each next-gen console should go a long way toward silencing complaints from developers that it’s too difficult and resource-intensive to develop for each type of console. A shared x86 architecture means that it’ll be much easier to port titles, both between consoles and from the PC.
For AMD, it means gaining access to a much bigger chunk of the console gaming industry, at a crucial juncture: the desktop and notebook PC market is shrinking, facing increasing encroachment from devices like the iPad, meaning there’s less room to vie with Intel for market share in a space where Intel already clearly dominates. The console industry hasn’t exactly been a shining beacon of growth itself, but with a hardware refresh imminent, AMD is in the best position to capitalize should consumer interest once again be caught by fancy new console devices.
The problem with Microsoft’s decision to reportedly change over to AMD is that it will likely render games made for the 360 incompatible with the next-generation platform. But long-term, the decision means it’s much easier for developers to work with, which should translate to an alleviation of financial pressures on game studios that are already facing revenue crunches which are forcing cost-cutting measures. The console exclusive might be more of a rarity, but gamers benefit, and we could also see shorter development cycles leading to more frequent game releases.
Another party left out of the fun might be the Wii U, which uses a PowerPC based processor under the hood. But overall this is very good news for gamers, since it could both free up resources for developers to spend on innovation and R&D, and suggests both consoles will behave much more like home entertainment PCs based around the TV.