Have 3D Graphics Reached The Point Of Diminishing Returns?
Anyone who's been following PC gaming graphics knows that Nvidia has been recycling the G92 core for several product cycles now. Introduced in 2007 with the GeForce 8800 GT, the G92 core has been reincarnated as the GeForce 9600, 9800, GTS 150, and the GTS 250. Nvidia has been able to "get away" with incrementally dropping the price over the last two years, because at medium quality settings, these G92-based cards can still handle games like Far Cry 2 at 30 frames per second at lower resolutions.
On the other extreme, the AMD Radeon HD 5970 is so fast that even with a 30" monitor and everything set to ultra-high quality, you're still seeing greater than 100 FPS in many games. Pause for a moment and think about what AMD’s Eyefinity technology signifies: AMD's performance is so high that it has to come up with creative (and almost frivolous) ways to utilize that power by rendering two or three times that number of pixels.
This scenario would not have been possible several years ago. When people were buying the GeForce 6800-series flagships, it was the entry-point for 60 fps in games like Doom 3 with Ultra High Quality. We weren't even close to talking about insane resolutions and multiple monitors yet.
Simply put, software development has not been moving as fast as hardware growth. While hardware manufacturers have to make faster and faster products to stay in business, software developers have to sell more and more games. Developing games that only run at 30 FPS on a Radeon HD 5970 requires an enormous budget to develop the art assets, and offers a very limited potential audience.
The major threat to the hardware industry, ironically enough, comes from the software industry. Software developers must continue to develop products that take advantage of the latest and greatest hardware. Their titles have to be compelling enough in game play to get people to invest in more powerful computing hardware.