Nvidia CEO Talks Console War

Jen-Hsun Huang discusses why the graphics chip maker is working with Sony (and not Microsoft) and his belief that the PS3 will last 10 years

Jen-Hsun Huang, CEO of graphics chip maker Nvidia (which made the GPU for the original Xbox and is working with Sony on the PS3), recently shared his thoughts with Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mercury News about personal challenges, the graphics technology market, and of course gaming.

When asked if Nvidia feels confident about "picking the right horse" in the console war, Huang responded, "You can't build chips for all the game consoles. That's not possible. They would all like a slightly different style from the others. Difference is important. The same chip company would have difficulty designing chips for the different styles. It's also so high stakes that you need to focus. No one has enough extraneous resources around to build chips for all the game consoles. You have to build one or so at a time. In a lot of ways, they also pick you. Sony picked us and Microsoft didn't. It's not so much we don't pick the horses. I don't think that working with Sony is wrong. There is no way that is going to be wrong.

"There are many wonderful things that Sony did. I'm excited that they made Blu-ray high-definition storage as a standard part of the PlayStation 3 platform. The first PlayStation had a CD-ROM drive. The PlayStation 2 had DVD. It makes no sense for the PlayStation 3 to use DVDs. To postpone it by a few months so they could include Blu-ray was a master stroke. When that comes out, it's going to look so much more advanced than last-generation game consoles. I think that was a wonderful call on their part."

He added, "We could not afford to build the graphics for the 360. Our most important asset is our people. If we use our people on a project where the economic return is not good enough, and there are other projects we could be working on, then we're going to lose money. We were a lot smaller company than ATI at the time. Maybe ATI could afford it and we couldn't. I know I couldn't afford it. I would love to build it. I just can't afford it."

Just as Sony has talked about the PS2 having a ten-year lifespan, Huang believes that the PS3 will also last ten years and that including Blu-ray in every console is a key part of that. "The important thing is you cannot announce a game console for the next ten years and not have Blu-ray. It's an impossible scenario. I think they got that perspective right. The moment we put those consoles together it's going to be very clear. If I'm going to buy a next-generation game console, I'm going to buy a console with next-generation media. It's going to last 10 years," he said.

Huang continued, "I'm not sure how Microsoft is going to do in this transition. They are clever and they will figure out a way. I'll make a prediction that Xbox 360 can't possibly be a DVD-only device by Christmas of next year... I don't know how they will do it. But I just can't imagine going to a store and saying that this console has a Blu-ray and this one has DVD. Remember Dreamcast?"

Interestingly, as powerful as the PS3 and Xbox 360 are, Huang still doesn't think that video games are anywhere near photorealism or the much talked about "Toy Story standard."

"We are a good solid 10 years away from photorealism," he explained. "In the next several years, we will still just be learning to do the basics of film, like motion blur, depth of field -- all of that stuff alone chews up a lot of graphics processing. We're pretty excited about moving to high-dynamic range where the color system has the fidelity of what we see in real life. The images don't seem realistic yet. Articulating a human form and human animation, the subtleties of humans and nature, are still quite a ways away for us."

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