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Windows Gaming Update

Game Developers Conference 2011: Day 1

You remember Windows, right? That operating system from Microsoft that runs on more PCs than any other OS in the world? Microsoft still sees Windows 7 as a major gaming platform. In fact, the PC Gaming Alliance recently announced that PC games had grown 19% in 2010, with worldwide sales of over $16 billion. So, PC gaming is certainly healthy.

Kevin Gee of Microsoft’s Advanced Technology Group presented an update on Windows gaming and what Microsoft is doing to keep the platform growing and vibrant moving forward.

Gee opened by noting that worldwide PC sales in 2010 increased by nearly 14%, to 346 million units. The gaming segment of the PC business now incorporates a huge variety of game types, from browser-based Facebook games to casual games to MMORPGs and high-end titles for hardcore PC users. Gee went on to note that Valve’s Steam Hardware Survey now shows that 34% of Steam users are using Windows 7 64-bit, so 64-bit penetration and growth is quite high. More interesting, DX10-capable hardware now comprises the majority of GPUs installed, at 56%.

Discrete graphics card market share, always a minority of installed GPUs, is expected to remain steady, even in the face of better-performing entry-level GPUs being built into CPUs, like AMD’s Fusion-based APUs and Intel’s Sandy Bridge.

The talk progressed into some details of DirectX 11, most notably the increased color precision available in DX11-capable GPUs. Graphics processors from both Nvidia and AMD are capable of rendering and scanning out 10-bit video, and monitors are arriving capable of supporting 10-bit color through digital inputs like DisplayPort. Gee also talked about Shader Model 5 sub-pixel sampling modes, which can substantially improve image quality, albeit with some performance loss.

Gee closed his talk with a fairly deep dive into GPUView, an analysis tool designed to help GPU driver writers see what’s going on inside the driver. But it can also help game developers get a handle on exactly how and when data is moving out of the game engine and onto the GPU and back.

More GDC Coming

Tune back in later, as we have more coverage from the rest of GDC, including photos of the Expo show floor and discussions with a number of different tech companies, both hardware and software.

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