AMD Game! on: guiding gamers towards higher frame rates

AMD launched a new initiative today, dubbed AMD Game! (We will henceforth ignore the stupid exclamation point), that’s intended to clarify which OEM PCs are and aren’t built for gaming. AMD claims that 61 percent of Americans, 49 percent of Europeans, and 49 percent of Chinese (not all of them gold farmers) are at least interested in buying a gaming PC. Those customers, however, receive little to no guidance on how to properly evaluate any given system to establish its gaming capabilities. If AMD Game catches on with OEMs, that situation could soon change.

The program is divided into two subcategories: AMD Game and AMD Game Ultra. AMD Game Ultra is the highest tier, and requires that a system be built with the following minimum specifications:

AMD Phenom 9600/9650 X4 (2.3GHz) processor

2GB PC-6400 (DDR2-800) RAM
Radeon HD 3870 512MB video card
Motherboard based on AMD 790FX/770 chipset

System components for the standard AMD Game tier are more relaxed, and allow for the use of an Athlon X2 5600+ (2.8GHz) and a Radeon HD 3650. 2GB of RAM is still required for both tiers, but the DDR2 in a non-Ultra AMD Game configuration can be PC-5400 (DDR2-667). Surprisingly, AMD’s well-regarded 780G chipset makes no appearance here. When we inquired about its absence, AMD confirmed that current program requirements mandate the use of motherboards based on the 770 or 790FX chipsets, but noted that future boards based on a new spin of the 780G chipset might qualify.

AMD Game’s component requirements are designed to maintain at least 30 FPS at 1280×1024, while AMD Game Ultra mandates the same 30 FPS at a resolution of 1600×1200. Unfortunately, AMD has yet to reveal individual game detail settings or information on how each game was tested. Hopefully such information will become available as the program continues; Sunnyvale has nothing to lose by revealing such data, provided the original testing conditions were properly rigorous and graphic detail settings in each game were applied as uniformly as is reasonably possible.

AMD expects to periodically update both the games it tests and the program’s hardware requirements in order to keep the program relevant. Overall, the AMD Game program is impressive—it’s definitely got both potential and a worthy goal—but the degree of OEM participation is currently low. Alienware, iBuyPower, Tiger Direct, and Cyberpower are the biggest names on AMD’s list of partners, and that’s something that would have to change in order for the company’s initiative to have any chance of impacting the overall market.

The success or failure of AMD Game will depend on how carefully the company can balance three separate factors. First and foremost, the program needs to be attractive to OEMs. The problem here is that OEMs will inevitably push to qualify as many systems as possible, as cheaply as possible, which directly undermines the program’s relevance and its ability to serve as a performance metric. AMD will also have to find a way to balance between the two forces in order to maintain a program that’s both attractive to an OEM and meaningful to a gamer.

Last of all, there’s the question of what hardware is even capable of qualifying for the program. Current AMD Game systems are built on AMD hardware, top-to-bottom. This, of course, makes perfect sense from the company’s perspective, but it doesn’t address the needs of OEMs who might be interested in the program, but aren’t willing (or can’t) commit to only using ATI video cards. AMD has already given a nod to this problem by certifying nForce 500-series chipsets, but has yet to release any information on GeForce cards that qualify for the new program.

There are still a huge number of points to be addressed, but it’s good to see a major company tackling the complexity of what is or isn’t a gaming PC in a comprehensive way. OEMs have never shown a sustained interest in solving the problem, as anyone who has ever browsed the specifications of a so-called “good for gaming” mainstream PC can attest, and many PC users who would like to purchase a desktop with at least some gaming capability have little in the way of readily-available guidance on how to do so. Hopefully, that’s set to change, with AMD Game serving as a starting point for such evaluation programs.

News source: ARSTECHNICA


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