Epic calls on PS4 and next Xbox to deliver "the maximum amount of computing power economically possible"

To "ensure they will remain relevant for another generation".

Epic Games has called on Microsoft and Sony to make the next Xbox and PlayStation 4 as powerful as "economically possible".

Why? To make sure both devices "remain relevant for another generation" - at a time when tablets and smartphones are becoming increasingly powerful.

Speaking to Eurogamer sister site GamesIndustry International, Epic CEO Tim Sweeney said the role of consoles is to "define the highest and most impressive graphics experience anywhere in the industry".

"They focus on delivering teraflops of computing performance in a way that a portable device or an economical computer really couldn't, despite sheer focus on that one aspect," he said.

Epic showed off its Unreal Engine 4 tech demo behind closed doors at GDC last week, with a public showing expected later this year.

It is rumoured to be tied in with new hardware - the next-generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony, both reportedly set to debut at E3 2012 in June. Reports have pegged the horsepower of the next Xbox at around six times the power of the Xbox 360. Others suggest visuals pumped out by high-end PCs using the DirectX 11 standard provide a glimpse at what will be possible,

For Sweeney, it is imperative the next-generation push graphics as far as possible.

"Really, that's the reason consoles exist in the future," he said. "They have an enormous amount of graphics processing power that delivers an experience that goes far beyond what you can get on a lighter weight device.

"Pushing forward, we measure that performance in teraflops, trillions of floating point operations per second. When I started programming, you had about one thousand floating point operations per second. Now we have, on nVidia's fastest hardware, two-and-a half to three teraflops.

"To push next-generation up to those levels will really ensure that they will remain relevant for another generation, even as other cool consumer devices like iPads and iPhones become more prevalent."

Last week a report claimed the next Xbox will not include a disc drive. Instead, it will apparently use solid state storage.

Sweeney said such a move would benefit the performance of games, but cautioned against the cost of releasing games on a solid state drive.

"You see that spinning optical media has about 250 milliseconds of latency," he said. "If you want to get some bits from somewhere else on the disc, you have to wait a quarter of a second for the little mechanical elements to move the head around so they can read it. A hard-disc is about 20 times faster than that, and a solid state drive is tens of thousands of times faster. It's basically the speed of electrons that limits the solid state drive.

"One of the major things a game needs to do in a world with a large environment and lots of graphical resources is continually go out and pull new textures and sounds and 3D models from different places in the storage media. So solid state drives have a really dramatic advantage from that point of view. It would certainly be desirable for the working storage to be solid state or some other extremely fast medium. But that's a completely separate question from distribution media. Solid state drive costs are fairly expensive."

He added: "You couldn't ship a game on a cartridge that's a solid state drive itself. It would terribly prohibitive economically. You could potentially envision downloading a game from the internet to a solid state drive, or taking it off of optical media and installing it on a solid state drive.

"There are lots of ways to get a game onto optimal media for playing the game. If you look at decoupling the distribution media, whether it's internet or storage from the streaming medium (which is used during gameplay), you see far more flexibility than just in current console games. If all you have is a spinning drive, you just have to go out, load a resource, and wait for a drive to go out and do its mechanical work."

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