Intel Speaks on Next Gen PC Gaming

We caught up with Matt Ployhar from Intel, current president of the PC Gaming Alliance, to ask a few questions.

So Matt … tell us what’s on your mind.  Anything you can tell us about Intel also while we have you?

Sure, and thank you.  Well, let me take the opportunity to highlight just a few things Intel has been diligently working on.  I’ll quickly review some of Intel’s latest products, our role in the PC Gaming Alliance, and what we’re doing to improve the lives of PC Gamers!

Sounds good. Anything exciting?

Just a few weeks ago Intel finally went more public with information on our new graphics brand – Intel® Iris™!  This was a necessary step to help us distinguish the various graphics capabilities that are now co-located with our great CPUs.   AMD® has Radeon™, and Nvidia® has GeForce™; now Intel has Iris™ which I’ll briefly cover some of the key benefits.

In order to provide some insights into Intel’s SKU’s and offerings, let me offer up an overly simplified “secret decoder ring.”   Intel really started stepping on the gas for increasing graphics capabilities in our 2011 offering of CPU products which we called Sandy Bridge.  Sandy Bridge became known as our 2nd Generation of Intel® Core™ Graphics Processors and kicked off the first steps towards Iris. (We can shorten Generation to Gen) In 2012 of last year our code named Ivy Bridge product gave us the 3rd Gen of Intel® Core™ Graphics Processors and coincided with our move from a 32 to 22nm manufacturing process.  This year, our code-named Haswell product brings us to the current 4th Gen of Intel® Core™ Processors with Intel® Iris™ graphics  (HD 5100 series ).  In our two best offerings there will be an Intel® Iris™ graphics, and an Intel® Iris™ Pro graphics version.  Intel’s Iris™ graphics will be found in select 4th Gen Intel® Core™ processors. 

These new graphics offerings can offer up to 2x performance vs. our Intel 3rd Gen of Intel® Core™ graphics and is comparable to the performance of what used to be the sole domain of discrete GPUs.   In addition to the performance gains Intel’s Iris™ graphics also offers even faster Quick Sync Video, and JPEG/MPEG decode and transcoding.  Along with all that is broader support for: DirectX 11.1, OpenCL 1.2, OpenGL 4.0, 3-screen collage display, and enhanced support for 4k x 2k display resolutions.  So this is very big news from Intel, and our best foot forward ever when it comes to our graphics.  Very exciting!

That sounds great - but what is the significance of all this?

I believe it heralds a new era for the level of graphics capabilities that can be found on smaller and thinner mobile form factors.  As Intel pushes these boundaries on shrinking the physical die space, increasing performance for both the CPU and graphics functionality, increasing power efficiency etc; these things translate into increased battery life, better and quieter cooling, and even space savings.  This helps the market innovate with newer and exciting form factors that we (Intel) also help take a leadership position on.  This will be an exciting time for PC Gamers as we continue to see Intel push the envelope of thinner, lighter, quieter computing with less tradeoffs than ever before.  Ultimately we want to make our customers happy by bringing the strengths of all PC form factors together respectably and competitively.   I think Ultrabooks™ are just the tip of the iceberg for what can become a reality for PC Gaming’s future.  Here’s an example of a Lenovo Helix.  The definition of PC Tablets and PC Laptops is blurring.

This is great news!  So let’s shift gears and talk about Intel’s role in the PC Gaming Alliance.  Some pundits have remarked that it's “…a pet project for Intel”, and that the “Org doesn’t matter as much if Nvidia and Microsoft are not on board as members”.   What is your take on all this?

Allow me to address this in two parts. 

First, I see Intel’s role in the PC Gaming Alliance to be an important one.  It’s a responsibility we don’t take lightly and Intel views PC gaming as a very important and strategic ecosystem.  We care very much about the PC Gaming community and feel that by participating in the PC Gaming Alliance that this is a fantastic way to work with fellow PCGA members on a more unified front.  Outside of the PCGA, there really isn’t a neutral industry consortium tackling some of the issues that the PCGA has been working on.  (e.g. Security Best Practices, PC Gaming Research and Insights, PC Certification & Logo Program, etc).  So currently Intel is a member, and I was voted in to hold the office title of President.  However; that won’t be forever, and someday we’ll need to find a suitable replacement that’s willing to go to bat for the PC ecosystem without pushing an agenda.  It’s critical that the president be able to balance the needs and wants of all the members while also serving the PC Gaming community at large.  Not an easy thing to do mind you.

Second, in terms of the PCGA’s membership and its relevance based on who is or isn’t a member.   I actually hear this from time to time and honestly can see how an outsider would be left with that impression.  Sure there will always be detractors or pundits who say the PCGA has to have this member or that.  I’m probably an even bigger critic than what I see/read/hear.  What about Valve, Activision, EA, Tencent, etc?  I can keep going.  Fact is we talk to these folks all the time.  It’s not like I’m out of sync or not in touch with them.  There’s a variety of reasons why some companies don’t come on board.  It can be as varied as budgets, don’t agree with this one particular initiative you have, or we don’t have the bandwidth to support, and so on.  I’ve heard it all.  At the end of the day we keep pressing forward, we continue to grow slowly over time.  We’ve also altered our charter to be a little more ‘agile’ with the emerging PC form factors, and honestly can say companies that don’t join and participate are missing out.  At the moment I’d rather spend my time and energy building value for the members we do have, and over time, I feel we’ll eventually get to the point where some of these bigger fish will come on board.  After all… Rome wasn’t built in a day.

So my message to those reading this is stay tuned.  We have some great announcements coming out this year. 

So how is the PCGA, or Intel for that matter, specifically improving the lives of PC Gamers?

That’s a loaded question! 

I’ll tackle what Intel is doing for PC Gamers first.  We’ve actually been working very diligently behind the scenes to ensure that the PC Gaming ecosystem remains robust and healthy.  It all starts by having a healthy partnership with all the game development companies.   Intel has several teams of account managers and application engineers who actively work with these games companies to ensure that all the top PC Games work well with our processors and graphics.  This is a global effort and not trivial.  We also sponsor or participate in a ton of game industry events, have our Intel LANFest group, and the Intel Extreme Masters championship.  Oh, and one more before I forget, we have our Intel Level Up campaign.  There’s even more but those are some of the key ones I think readers will be interested in.

On Intel’s hardware front we’re most often recognized for our processors (e.g. Core i3, i5, i7, Atom, etc).  We’re now also making huge progress in the graphics space and Intel® Iris™ is just the beginning.  However; aside from these products, we’re also becoming quite well known for our solid state drives, or SSDs.  There are also wireless display WiDi™ solutions and much more.  Honestly too much to cover.

There’s also the software and solutions front as well.   While most everyone knows we ship some the best processors and now graphics solutions on the planet what they may not know is that we’re also the world’s 5th largest software company. There’s a wide range of things Intel offers here and I’ll touch on some of the key ones.   First; we have our Intel Developer Zone (aka IDZ). By visiting that link end users can go explore our latest graphics samples and download free tools such as our critically acclaimed graphics performance analyzer (GPA).  These samples and tools are incredible assets for any games developer to take advantage of. 

So in terms of what the PC Gaming Alliance is doing to improve the lives of PC Gamers… let me start this by saying “a lot!”   The challenge is that most of it’s not that visible to the public yet, unfortunately.   Most of this is because we are a B2B organization (Business to Business 501c Non Profit Group).   Over the past five years one of the biggest things we’ve tackled is simply just curating better research about what’s going on in the PC gaming space.  So this data and research is used extensively by our members to help them make better informed business decisions.  The data is also used to help forecasting and better determine what we call ‘landing zones’ for things like game engines that are under development.   Since most of this is confidential I only share small bits and pieces of it up on the PCGA homepage when I can. 

In addition to the research we also have multiple initiatives that we’re trying to tackle.  I think the biggest one right now is deriving a PC gaming Certification program that makes sense.  The biggest difficulty here is where to draw the lines on where a PC (Personal Computer) definition begins or ends.  We also do things around Security Best Practices, Game Controllers & Peripherals, etc.  While we do these things we also engage not just with our own members, but also reach across the table to ensure we’re aligned with several non-members.  We’ve also launched a game developers Wiki that we’re slowly curating content for as well.  So if any professional, semi-professional, or even budding game developers want to share ideas, whitepapers, sample code, etc; we have a great location for all that built just for you!

So what about the gaming consumers? Any plans there?

Absolutely!  However: all in due time.  We dabbled a bit in our first give away and contest last year.  It was fun.  We didn’t get quite the response we were hoping for but took away some great learning’s.  The participants walked away with some fantastic giveaways so I encourage people to keep tabs on when we do our next one.  Also; we do have some thoughts and ideas on how to get our gaming consumers more involved.  We want to hear from you and believe we need to tap more into the talent and ideas that are out there.  It’s going to take a few years though before we start hitting on all cylinders there.

Let me leave you on this very positive note.  Even though we have a couple of next Gen Consoles imminent this year, and we wish them luck, I’m more excited than ever about the PC Gaming ecosystem.  We consistently outpace the Consoles in terms of volume and revenues and feel that our biggest strength lies in the fact that we’re an open non-proprietary ecosystem.  Because of this the PC continues to thrive, be #1 in innovation, and will always be the most profitable gaming platform.  These are exciting times and I can’t wait to see what the future holds as companies like Intel strive to make these PC’s faster, quieter, smaller, thinner, and more performant than ever! 

Thank you for your time Matt!  This has definitely been very insightful!

Absolutely…and thank you as well!

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