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Next-gen war is all about Europe

Says MS software developer.

A developer working for Microsoft's Game Technology Group has declared that that the war of the next-gen consoles will be won or lost on the battlegrounds of Europe.

In an interview with Ars Technica, Matt Lee - who works for Microsoft's Game Technology Group - stated: "Japan is obviously a very important market for us and one in which we have to work hard at... We've got a whole bunch of great Japanese titles on the way form major Japanese developers. One thing to note, however, is that Japan is not necessarily the most important market for gaming these days.

"It is also not quite as large as the US and European markets... Both the Japanese and US markets are reaching saturation at this point. The big battleground for us (and for everyone) is going to be Europe."

Lee went on to question whether the PlayStation 3's Cell processor "is as well designed for game development as Sony would have you believe... Some aspects of the SPEs, such as the lack of branch prediction, make them particularly unsuited to running most game code, which contains a lot of branches."

"They appear to be designed more for serialised streaming math code, more common in video codecs and audio processing, the traditional domain of digital signal processing chips... [It] seems like a lot of overhead is needed to feed work units to the SPEs and copy the results back to system memory."

Lee also said that he believes porting games from the Xbox 360 to PS3 will be "reasonably difficult", since "the Xbox 360 has a lot more general purpose processing power that can be flexibly reallocated, and all of the Xbox 360 CPU cores have equal access to all memory. The asymmetric nature of the Cell could easily lead to situations where the game has too little of one type of processing power and too much of another."

"And the content might suffer as well, since you'll never see a PS3 title with more than 256MB of textures at any given time, due to the split graphics and system memory banks."

When asked if Microsoft has any plans to follow in Sony and Nintendo's footsteps by producing a motion-sensing controller for the Xbox 360, Lee replied: "Not that I know of. Microsoft released a tilt sensor controller for the PC several years ago, and it wasn't that successful."

"I think Nintendo has a pretty awesome system on their hands though," he continued.

"It looks like a well thought-out input system. The motion sensing features are solid and uncompromising, and they've left room for future expansion through the port on the main controller."

Lee went on to confirm that Microsoft is "making a big push to bring PC gaming back into the spotlight", and that the company is committed to promoting high street retail as well as online sales: "In terms of online gaming and Internet purchases there has been major growth over the last few years. Microsoft recognises, however, the need for a continuing retail presence, and we are going to be putting some major money into addressing this situation."