Advanced Micro Devices will try to make buying a game PC more like selecting a game console.
"AMD Game!" will put badging on game PCs and set minimum standards for PCs that carry these badges. The idea is to allow gamers to select a PC like they would an Xbox 360 game console model and to drive home the point that an integrated graphics chip (from Intel, for example) is not good enough for a decent gaming experience.
AMD's specifications will target mainstream PC gamers, not high-end enthusiasts necessarily. Initially, the specifications will cover only desktops, with notebook standards coming later.
AMD has good reason to revisit its game PC strategy. The PC gaming alliance estimates 263 million gamers worldwide, with global PC game (software) revenues estimated to be $9.6 billion in 2008. But more importantly, AMD's acquisition of ATI has put it in a unique position to be the only chip supplier in the x86 PC market that offers both a CPU (central processing unit) and discrete, high-end GPU (graphics processing unit).
And it needs a larger presence in the game PC market. Most of the game PCs from resellers like Falcon Northwest and Voodoo come with Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs. An equally dangerous trend is the proliferation of PCs using Intel-based integrated graphics: These PCs are not capable of playing games the way they should be played, according to AMD.
"We're not doing a good job of getting that balanced solution to people," said Brent Berry, product marketing manager for AMD. By "balanced," Berry means a cost-effective solution that offers a more precise balance of CPU and GPU performance. Nvidia calls this the "optimized PC."
"Consumers are not getting a great gaming experience with IGP (Integrated Graphics Processor)," Berry added.
Badges will direct consumers "to solutions that are specifically validated for gaming," Berry said.
The standard AMD Game "user experience" target will be a system with 1280x1024-pixel high-definition (HD) resolution that can achieve 30 frames per second, Berry said. The AMD Game Ultra will be "beyond HD" at 1600x1200 pixel and 30 frames per second.
"In North America, about 60 percent of consumers say they plan on using their PCs for video games," said Berry. "But when you do a check on what people actually did on their PCs, you find out that 80 percent actually played games on their PCs."
AMD Game! minimum requirements are an AMD Athlon 5600+ X2 processor, ATI Radeon HD 3650 graphics, and an AMD 770 chipset or Nvidia nForce 500 series chipset.
AMD Game Ultra minimum requirements are a Phenom X4 9650 processor, ATI Radeon HD 3870 graphics, and an AMD 770 chipset.