Nvidia Senior VP of content and technology Tony Tamasi recently spoke with GameSpot about the upcoming console from Sony. The PlayStation 4 will sport a custom APU developed by AMD and Sony, leaving Nvidia out of the hardware picture. Nvidia also wasn't part of Nintendo's Wii U development, which has an AMD Radeon GPU, and the upcoming Xbox Infinity from Microsoft, which will likely have AMD graphics as well.
So what gives? Why isn't Nvidia participating in the next-generation race? In regards to the PlayStation 4, a deal likely wasn't made due to the "opportunity cost." In other words, the company didn't see enough potential revenue to pull resources from one project to fund work on console-based chips.
"I'm sure there was a negotiation that went on, and we came to the conclusion that we didn't want to do the business at the price those guys were willing to pay," Tamasi said. "Having been through the original Xbox and PS3, we understand the economics of [console development] and the tradeoffs."
As stated, the original Xbox featured a 233 MHz "NV2A" application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC), co-developed by Microsoft and Nvidia. This relationship led to a dispute in 2002 over the pricing of the graphics ASIC and allegations that Nvidia violated their agreement. Nvidia later went on to co-develop the PlayStation 3's RSX "Reality Synthesizer" GPU (550 MHz) with Sony, which cranks out resolutions up to 1080p.
Now, in 2012, with the Wii U leading the next-generation pack, Nvidia isn't involved at all other than PhysX and APEX support in the PlayStation 4 SDK (so far). Tamasi indicated that Nvidia is just too busy with other projects to invest in console development, including Nvidia GRID for Internet-based cloud gaming and Nvidia Shield for local cloud gaming.
"We're building a whole bunch of stuff, and we had to look at console business as an opportunity cost," he said. "If we, say, did a console, what other piece of our business would we put on hold to chase after that?"
He goes on. "In the end, you only have so many engineers and so much capability, and if you're going to go off and do chips for Sony or Microsoft, then that's probably a chip that you're not doing for some other portion of your business," he said. "And at least in the case of Sony and Nvidia, in terms of PS4, AMD has the business and Nvidia doesn't. We'll see how that plays out from a business perspective I guess. It's clearly not a technology thing."
We'll be hitting up Nvidia for fresh new info next week during the GPU Technology Conference in San Jose and hopefully get some hands-on with some of Nvidia's new stuff.