Intel announced that it has hired four leading game developer advocates as it prepares to launch its first high-performance discrete gaming GPUs, the Arc Alchemist. Developing and launching a new hardware product is a strenuous process with millions of moving parts - both with the hardware development and qualification side of the equation, as well as developing the software stack that actually allows the hardware to be tapped into by developers and finally enjoyed by users. While Intel is yet to throw its hat on the high-performance discrete gaming GPU market with its Alchemist and future products, the company knows what it needs to do to increase the chances of a successful launch. As Steve Balmer so eloquently put it, it's all about developers.
One requirement is pretty simple: Intel's GPUs will not be deployed in a vacuum. While Intel is most certainly building upon its iGPU driver stack, its discrete graphics implementation provides a wholly new architecture. To further these types of efforts, companies like AMD and NVIDIA both maintain developer outreach and support programs. This can sometimes translate to the mere sending of documentation and remote collaboration, but sometimes also implies the allocation of engineers to developers to help with game performance optimization and compatibility. And judging from Intel's recent hires, the company feels that it still has work to do with developer outreach.
Over the last four days, Intel, via one of its official Twitter channels, announced that it had hired four senior positions related to developer outreach, developer relations, and developer-facing tool development.
The first hire announcement (dated September 14th) was André Bremer, who joined Intel as the new Vice President (VP) and General Manager (GM) of Gaming and Graphics Workload Engineering (all of these positions are more than a mouthful). Bremer brings decades of experience in the gaming and developer industry, having previously worked at Prime Gaming, Amazon Web Services' Game Tech, Zynga, EA, and LucasArts.
A day later, on September 15th, Intel announced it has hired Michael Heilemman (CTO of Maxis and Electronic Arts) for the position of Senior Director of Game Developer Tools and Technologies. According to Intel, Heilemman has been involved with the development of no less than 60 AAA games - this is a person who is perfectly acquainted with developer culture, bringing years of experience to the grueling task of making lives as easy as possible for developers in integrating and optimizing for Intel's high-performance graphics architecture.
The next hire, announced September 16th, was Ritche Corpus - an AMD veteran of 15 years - for the position of VP & GM for the Game Ecosystem Business Development & Developer Relations. Ritche Corpus brings a wealth of connections to Intel, having previously been involved with the PC Gaming Alliance as a part of its Board of Directors and as Treasurer. His resume points towards a strong software inclination.
Finally, Intel today also announced the hiring of Steve Bell for the position of Senior Director of Gaming Developer Relations. This is one of those cases where a company's gain is another's loss - Steve Bell goes to Intel straight from AMD, after more than 13 years in exactly the same capacity as he now joins the Blue Giant.
Hardware doesn't work without the software, and the difference between a good user experience and good hardware performance rests mostly on competent software solutions. Through these hires, Intel is extending its reach throughout the developer community, without whom the high-performance graphics architecture for Alchemist (and its future iterations) would translate as little less than expensive paperweights.
Judging by the general perception of the NVIDIA vs AMD driver quality debate, and the number of consumers who claim to prefer the former over the latter, Intel will probably do everything it can to avoid a bad public perception. It's great to have your graphics cards earning the "fine wine" label due to performance improvements that come over a long period of time, but it's even better to hit the ground running with a great developer and public perception. Intel has the money, and it is clearly willing to hire people for the job. We'll see how all this translates on Alchemist's actual launch.