Yesterday Ars Technica reported that it attended an AMD event on board the USS Hornet, and was able to check out the company's future products first-hand. Although the site was floored by 2.5 teraFLOPS of floating-point power provided by AMD's next-gen GPU, Ars seemed rather tickled to see all that processing power enabling a Crysis demo to run on an iPhone. In fact, Ars said it was probably "the most profoundly intriguing use of AMD's upcoming GPU."
That's right, Crysis. OTOY was responsible for such a feat, offering a service that supposedly delivers 3D games in real-time across the Internet without bogging down the target device, whether it's a low-end PC or, in this case, Apple's iPhone. The process works by rendering the game on a server machine (notably using AMD's new GPU no less), and the frames are grabbed by OTOY's server-side software. The frames are then compressed and delivered over the network to the client. The client software thus decompresses the frames and displays them in a window. User input is then sent back to the server over UDP.
In the case of the Crysis demo, the presentation appeared to work flawlessly. "The iPhone's screen was small enough that I couldn't discern any compression artifacts, and the gameplay was smooth and responsive," said Ars Technica's Jon Stokes. "Aside from the half-baked control scheme, which was apparently hacked together at the last minute, this really was Crysis running on an iPhone."
Stokes did bring up a good point in his hands-on with the Crysis demo: why would AMD/ATI think that streaming games across the Internet is a good long-term idea? After all, wouldn't the company make more money off gamers and general consumers purchasing new graphics cards than gaming services upgrading their render farms? More than likely the company probably sees the streaming market as a new source of revenue in addition to current consumer consumption... at least for now.
I have to admit that that 2.5 TFLOPs number is still making my jaw drop. My entire system (still running dual 8800GTS 640s + a Q6600) is like...half of that...
US Fiber Optic networks are still half a decade from doing this type of service well. I would imagine you could get a larger profit from this over selling a GPU. The systems would probably cost $1k/year to maintain. With a simple $10/month premium and a large enough farm, you could easily expect to have atleast 10 people on every system considering for how long a period of time people play a game.