64-bit gaming waits for Longhorn

There's several new games out and an operating system coming up for the x86-64 platform, but the gaming world may well be waiting for Longhorn.

Renai LeMay Special to CNET News
3 min read

There's several new games out and an operating system coming up for the x86-64 platform, but the gaming world may well be waiting for Longhorn.

This week, Sylum Entertainment announced that it would be releasing its WWII Tank Commander game optimised for Advanced Micro Device's (AMD) 64-bit platform. Sylum spokesperson Dana Cowley said the game was "one of the first few games to be optimised for AMD64", although it would also run on 32-bit systems and Intel's new range of 64-bit compatible CPUs.

And AMD's Linda Kohout confirmed to CNET.com.au this morning that Vivendi Universal's Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay was also shipping optimised for the x86-64. Sources verified that the Riddick game CD contained optimised binaries for the platform.

A screengrab from Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay

While the developments are encouraging for those looking forward to the performance enhancements that 64-bit computing may bring to games, at this time 64-bit games are thin on the ground, with only a half-dozen known to be in development. The first 64-bit game to be released was Shadow Ops: Red Mercury, which was released by Atari back in September of last year.

Part of the problem may be that Microsoft has not yet released the final 64-bit version of Windows XP, which it has been developing for several years. The software giant said several weeks ago that it would be releasing the final desktop version at the beginning of next month. A second release candidate version of the software was released to developers on the Microsoft Developers Network in February.

But Kohout, who spends her days as an AMD marketing manager focusing on gaming, said: "I think that it will take a more mainstream version of the operating system before the bulk of games start coming out in 64-bit. I think there are a lot of developers who've already started to look forward to the release of the Longhorn operating system."

Shadow Ops: Red Mercury, the first 64-bit game

It was probably only the more technology-savvy gamers who would initially migrate to the 64-bit version of Windows, she said, although consumers could see large parts of the game development industry releasing 64-bit optimised games "before the end of 2005". Kohout said AMD has spoken about the issue to "most of the major developers around the world, especially the ones that are interested in being on the leading edge of technology".

AMD has also announced in the last year that the several other games would be released to the marketplace optimised for the x86-64 platform. The company's Web site boasts that THQ and GSC Gameworld will be releasing S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadows of Chernobyl optimised for AMD64 in the first quarter of 2005, and back in January 2004 AMD director of marketing John Morris said that games companies Ubisoft and Epic Games would be releasing 64-bit versions of their respective games Far Cry and Unreal Tournament in the first quarter of that year. Neither game so far has made it to the marketplace.

Local AMD spokesperson Caroline Francis told CNET.com.au that "about 50 percent" of the company's local sales at the moment are shipments of Athlon 64 CPUs. AMD's 64-bit CPUs have been available in the desktop segment of the market for around 18 months.