Industry

Riot Games caught attention recently for providing some support to collegiate eSports programs, but system integrator iBUYPOWER has done a lot of the heavy lifting for three collegiate eSports stadia. iBUYPOWER’s most recent venture pairs the SI with the University of California, Irvine (UCI) and will be IBP’s most expansive collegiate eSports partnership yet. This time, the gaming center will be open to the public. In addition to providing 80 PCs to the college, iBUYPOWER is providing financial support for UCI’s gaming club and logistical / build guidance on the venue. The SI is helping to cover the fees of renovating 3500 sq. ft. of the Student Center into an eSports Arena that will be open to the public.

Video on demand has become ubiquitous. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and even ISP-bound options offer some form of movies or TV in exchange for service charges. It is no longer the “future of TV” – it is TV. This is the reality of the modern, cable-cutter era, and it is only a matter of time until all traditional cable services are axed in favor of streamed-via-internet options. Cable television will die.

The same could be true for gaming. The data is bigger, the latency demands are greater – but these problems are conquerable and will only diminish as high-speed internet proliferates. Input latency is the most critical. The time from button-press to photon-on-screen dictates whether a game is playable; it's more significant even than frametimes. Long poll times or slow frame encode/decode will create a mismatch between the player's actions and the perceived outcome, resulting in frustration that we've all experienced at some point with server lag in traditional gaming.

Epic Games made the most of the its stage at GDC 2016. In the company's “State of Unreal” panel, CEO Tim Sweeney packed in as much news in as he could – an empowered battle against CryEngine's latest announcements. The success of the latest iteration of the Unreal Engine was a focus point; according to Sweeney, Unreal Engine 4 now has over 1.5 million users, and the seven largest franchises on the engine have generated over $1 billion in sales each.

The Unreal Engine news wasn't limited to larges titles, though. Last year, Epic announced a grant for indie developers using the Unreal Engine and, not to be outdone by CryEngine's $1 million indie fund, Epic increased their grant from $800,000 to $1.2 million. Epic is additionally partnering with HTC and Valve to bring 500 Vive units to indie developers to increase the development of VR titles.

Steam today launched the pre-order for their collaboration project with HTC -- the HTC Vive for SteamVR. Those who pre-order get the whole kit-and-caboodle -- the headset, sensors, and controllers -- and a few extra throw-in games. We’ve covered Valve’s VR multiple times, going so far as to explain the “how it works” in-depth here, and we’ve talked about our opinion of the whole thing.

In a short-fused statement on reddit yesterday, Valve CEO Gabe Newell called James “2GD” Harding “an ass,” then went on to say “as long as we're firing people, we are also firing the production company.”

This was all in response to Valve's newest DOTA2 event, the $3 million Shanghai Major tournament. As with all Valve events in recorded history, the Shanghai Major experienced several production delays and slow-downs that forced on-camera personality and veteran TV host '2GD' to buy time, entertaining the audience during between-match pauses. 2GD has been popular among the DOTA2 community since his time hosting the second TI event, but is also known for stints with MTV, SkyNews, and his own game studio. Shockingly for fans viewing the live event, 2GD was seemingly spontaneously fired mid-cast. The commentator released little information to fans pursuant to an agreement with Valve to “put it on ice” and resolve matters privately.

Last week primarily featured initial Vulkan benchmarks – a stepping stone toward full integration of the new API within games – and major silicon manufacturer news. Intel declared plans to ship 10nm chips by 2H17, nVidia boasted record revenue of $1.4B for its fiscal quarter, and AMD pushed improved Linux drivers to the public. The Intel push is the most interesting, with the company definitively indicating that it will not delay 10nm chip manufacturing past 2017. As the silicon manufacturers near the lower limit of current technology and processes, each of these iterative jaunts toward (what we'd expect to be) something like 1nm carbon nanotubes gets increasingly difficult. Seeing single-digit percentage point increases in overall performance (gaming, production) isn't quite as impressive as the reduction in power and significantly increased transistor count.

Learn about each of these items in more depth here:

The past week of hardware news is mostly industry-driven, with few noteworthy product announcements outside of a few small items. A few critical news items emerged regarding industry, though, like further Samsung vs. nVidia proceedings, Micron's GDDR5X memory (replacing GDDR5, theoretically), Unity's Steam VR support, AMD/HP FreeSync laptops, and AMD Zen details revealed through CERN – the particle and nuclear research group.

We've rounded up this week's news in the below video. You can find quick, bulleted recaps of each item below the video, if you'd prefer that format.

Learn more below!

The Vulkan API has completely taken over AMD's low-level Mantle application program interface, somewhat of a peer to Microsoft's DirectX 12.

It's a competitive space. Mantle tried to push the industry toward more console-like programming – and we mean that in positive ways – by getting developers “close to the metal.” Low-level APIs that bypass the insurmountable overhead of DirectX 11 are the key to unlocking the full potential of modern hardware; DirectX 12 and Vulkan both get us closer to this, primarily by shifting draw calls off the CPU and reducing bottlenecking. GPUs have grown so powerful in their parallel processing that they can assume significant workload that was once placed upon processors – this benefits gamers in particular, since the majority of our workloads are more easily pushed through the GPU.

Seagate's year started off with a declaration of significant downturn in its revenue and profits, and the company now faces additional challenges from a Class Action consumer complaint. The complaint has been levied against the company for “breach of consumer protection, unfair competition and false advertising […] and unjust enrichment,” something which law firm Hagens Berman contests should yield rewards for affected consumers.

Today, Western Digital announced its earnings for the second quarter of its fiscal year. According to WDC (NASDAQ: WDC), the company had a quarterly revenue of $3.3 billion, down almost 17% from the $3.9 billion revenue they had this quarter last year. The company’s net income went down 54% over the same period -- falling from $438 million to $251 million.

Meanwhile, Western Digital’s main rival in the thinning hard drive field -- Seagate Technology (NASDAQ: STX) -- also released earnings reports for the second fiscal quarter. Seagate’s revenue was down from this quarter last year: 21% down from $3.7 billion, landing at $2.9 billion. Seagate’s non-GAAP net income for the quarter was 46% lower than last years -- $311 million this year versus $495mm last year.

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