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NVIDIA's Roy Taylor

On the future of graphics and having a bigger installed-base than consoles.

EurogamerOne question which always comes up whenever we discuss the PC market is piracy. The "is PC gaming dying?" debate is nonsense, of course, but we're at the point of the cycle again where the consoles are turning out gaming experiences comparable with high-end PCs - and they don't have the piracy problem that the PC does.
Roy TaylorFirst of all let's take the piracy issue. I think that we've arrived at a point now where I don't know how anyone could ever possibly justify pirating a game. I just don't know how anyone could consider that a cool thing to do. One of the things that I find frustrating is that PC gamers tend to be very passionate, and they love the people that make great PC games. If you ask any PC gamer what they think of John Carmack, they'll say he's a hero. What do they think of Tim Sweeney? He's a hero. Ken Levine is a hero. And yet many of them, sadly, will go and steal from them. I just don't get that, I really don't.

I think that we're going to see more digital authentication, and we're going to see more of an approach that says that PC games aren't products - they're a service. You're going to start out with a basic service, which is the game, and then increase the value of that service through patches, mod packs, expansions, maps and so on. That's the direction it's going to go, because the pirates are just killing the developers - and I think it's really unfair what they're doing.

In terms of your other point, which you're right, is related - in terms of where PC development sits relative to consoles, I think we have to face the facts - the value of consoles is such that no-one is going to make a PC-exclusive game in the future. Why would they? Why would they ignore consoles? That said, PC gaming is changing - and consoles don't threaten PC gaming. They're just different. Adapting to that and understanding that is what I think is really, really important. Most PC gamers also own consoles - not all of them, but a lot of them. What we're seeing happen is that, yes, people are developing for Xbox 360, for PS3 - but they're also developing for PC.

The console is now a baseline. If you look at Gears of War or Assassin's Creed, they came out on console and they were great experiences - but the PC versions had additional aspects to them that also made them attractive, whether you owned the console version or not. The PC version was better. That's something that people need to get their heads around - the console is a baseline, the PC is going to be an improved version. That's an exciting future, and that's why I don't see anything threatening about console at all.

The other aspect is that in the past, PC gaming development meant pandering to the lowest common denominator - which meant some poor integrated graphics. Today, developing a PC game means starting at a console, and console graphics are way above integrated graphics. That means the baseline is getting better. Now we're going to add to that version additional features, additional content, to make the PC version even better.

Modern PCs take many shapes, but you don't need to spend more than GBP 1000 to get one that can play every game out there, Taylor points out.
EurogamerWhen you talk about the baseline being better, that's great for people who have systems that can run games at that level - but aren't you concerned that PC gaming is leaving swathes of older machines, especially laptops, behind?
Roy TaylorIt's no longer true that there are just swathes and swathes of PCs that can't play games. NVIDIA have shipped literally hundreds of millions of GPUs - and as we recently revealed, the installed base of those GPUs is now bigger than the non-GeForce installed base. The number of PCs which can play good games is much bigger than people are giving credit to.

If you look at the last set of Mercury numbers, on the face of it, we're number two behind Intel - these are the figures for all graphics parts. But this doesn't take into consideration "double attach". Last year, 2007, according to publicly available statistics there were 366 million graphics solutions shipped - integrated and add-in cards. However, there were only 273 million CPUs shipped.

EurogamerSo people with integrated graphics have also installed an add-in card...
Roy TaylorThat's called double attach, and once you take out the double attach number, you can see that that's not the case. NVIDIA is number one, and has been number one for a long time. That's the number we're sharing with publishers. There is now a justifiable return on investment for making good 3D, good graphics in your games, because there is a very large installed base of GeForce gamers. We estimate that we have over 180 million active GeForce users. That's a much bigger installed base than PS3 or Xbox 360!
EurogamerWhen you say GeForce users, though, how far back in the GeForce family are you going?
NVIDIA makes the RSX graphics part inside PS3, but Taylor points out that GeForce's installed base is many times bigger than any of the next-gen consoles'.
Roy TaylorWe're going back over the last three years - DirectX 9 and above. So it's a pretty big installed base. A good PC game sells a million copies, and we have enough GeForce users, that you have a very very large total available market to sell into, if that's where you want to sell.

A very successful PC game sells 2 to 3 million - well, we have more than enough GeForce users for that too. Crysis has sold over a million copies on PC, despite everything. BioShock sold over a million on PC. Pick any successful PC title you can think of - selling over a million is being done, and will continue to happen. So I wouldn't say that we're leaving people behind. We've sold enough GeForce GPUs to more than justify the return on investment.

EurogamerEven when you see the "enhanced" PC version, it might run at a higher resolution, but the graphics aren't that far ahead of what you'll get on a console. The developer isn't going to go back in and re-do all of the art for the PC version. Doesn't that mean that people who invest in high-end GPUs are going to end up running games which don't look as good as they should because they're designed for an inferior system?
Roy TaylorWell, I think the console makers wouldn't say that they're hugely inferior...