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ATI and PhysX Co-exist on the Nintendo Wii

Like a huge slap in the face to ATI, rival company Nvidia has signed a "tools and middleware" license agreement with Nintendo, bringing PhysX technology to the Wii console.

Yesterday Tom's reported that Nvidia signed a deal with Sony Computer Entertainment Inc that gives PlayStation 3 developers access to the PhysX software development kit (SDK). According to the company, the kit is now available as a free download on the SCEI Developer Network and consists of a full-featured API and "robust" physics engine. But because the console's RSX GPU--based on Nvidia's G70 architecture (think GeForce 7800)--doesn't support PhysX in a hardware (or CUDA) sense, the middleware thus relies on the Cell's Synergistic Processing Units (SPUs) to process the physics rather than dumping the entire load on the Cell's Power Processor Unit (PPU).

Now Nvidia is taking another step into dominating the gaming industry by inking a deal with Nintendo that grants Wii developers access to the PhysX SDK as well. “Nintendo has reshaped the home entertainment and video game market with the success of the Wii console. Adding a PhysX SDK for Wii is key to our cross-platform strategy and integral to the business model for our licensed game developers and publishers,” said Tony Tamasi, senior vice president of content and technology at Nvidia. “With Nvidia PhysX technology, developers can easily author more realistic game environments for the evolving demands of a broad class of Wii gamers.”

Currently the Nintendo Wii is the heavyweight champ in regards to overall console sales, selling over 22 million units in North America alone since its launch back in November 2006; 48 million units worldwide. While porting the PhysX technology over to the blockbuster console is smart in a business sense for Nvidia, what makes the whole announcement rather curious is just how the Nintendo Wii hardware can even handle physics processing. Of the three major consoles on the market today, the Nintendo Wii is the least powerful in a visual sense, relying more on the interaction provided by the Wii Remote.

Let's look at it this way: the Nintendo Wii relies on the PowerPC-based "Broadway" processor clocking in at 729 MHz and developed using 90 nm SOI CMOS processing. On the graphic side, the visuals are rendered by ATI's Hollywood" GPU, clocking in at 243 MHz and developed using a 90 nm CMOS process; there's a 3 MB embedded GPU texture memory and framebuffer thrown in there as well. As for the console's memory, there's 88 MB total: 64 MB "external" GDDR3 SDRAM and 24 MB "internal" 1T-SRAM integrated into the graphics package.

So how will the Nintendo Wii carry the burden? That question has yet to be answered, however after closer inspection of the Gamebryo LightSpeed announcement released last week (link), reporting that Emergent Game Technologies integrated PhysX into its Gamebryo 2.6 development platform for the Wii, today's announcement should not have come as a surprise. According to a Nvidia rep, PhysX has been a part of game development for some time; the company merely made it official with today's announcement. With the new SDK implimentation, Nvidia can now make changes directly to the middleware without the need for developer involvement.

Still, with an ATI GPU under the hood of Nintendo's Wii console, it seems almost comical that Nvidia has invaded their "space" so to speak, now assimilating all three gaming consoles into the overall PhysX collective. Like yesterday's report with Sony's PlayStation 3, hopefully Nvidia will shed a bit more light on how the PhysX middleware will interact with the Wii hardware, and if gamers will see any performance issues as a result.

  • trainreks
    who cares?

    its on a Wii.
    Reply
  • RiotSniperX
    trainrekswho cares? its on a Wii.

    AHAHAHAHAHA! So true! Whats a wii going to do with Physx? Make boom blox more realistic?
    Reply
  • thedipper
    "Like a huge slap in the face to ATI"
    Because ATI doesn't have a physics engine that they're trying to make mainsteam, that opener is pretty much as retarded as they get.

    Let's not pretend ATI systems can't run PhysX to its fullest. It DOES run on the CPU FYI.
    Reply
  • nukemaster
    Kind of funny how when it was Ageia PhysX, no one wanted it, now that Nvidia owns them, everyone is signing up.
    Reply
  • hellwig
    I say if Nvidia can get PhysX on everything, good. ATI will probably end up licensing it, and then games will actually start using it. With quad-core CPUs pretty much the norm these days, there's no reason any computer couldn't run PhysX (Nvidia GPU or not). Besides, my understanding is the PhysX overhead on the GPU is too burdonsome, like the GPU doesn't have enough to do in modern games.
    Reply
  • thedipper
    Well Hellwig, if PhysX ran on ATI GPUs, and used AMD Stream properly, it's really no question that ATI would have the clear advantage in physics rendering.

    I believe this is why it isn't currently useable on an ATI GPU.
    Reply
  • IMHO, the reason AMD doesn't use physx is because they do not want to be at the whim of their main competitor. Physx is a software solution that has been modified to run on AMD parts. AMD is fearful that if they officially consent to Physx use then the market share, and hence leverage, will increase for Physx.

    This would leave AMD in a bad position. First, development of Physx would be controlled by Nvidia. Second, you can guarantee that AMD will perpetually be in catch-up mode with poor relative performance.

    Why would you possibly consent to something that is only going to put you at a disadvantage as it becomes prevalent? For the good of the consumer? HAHAHAHAHA. First rule of business: Profit Maximization.
    Reply
  • hairycat101
    ATI should licence and start using PhysX. The reason is this. If I am getting a new card, I want to be able to still have a use for it when I upgrade. IF I get an Nvidia card, I can still use the old one for PhysX and the new one for the GPU. There is no use for an old ATI card... unless you have an old system that you want to slap it in.
    Reply
  • armistitiu
    First of all ATI can do Physx. It has been shown that CUDA can be enabled on ATI. They could make drivers to support it but they don't want to. ATI Stream apparently is not that popular but as soon as OPENCL SDK is out i think a lot of people will try using it because it's supported by both GPU vendors and beaucause it's open source and i think that's the most important thing. I tend to support ATI on this one (not enabling Physx) because i hate closed proprietary software. BTW OpenCL is very similar to CUDA and my guess is you could easily implement Physx in it.
    Reply
  • armistitiu
    hairycat101 There is no use for an old ATI card... unless you have an old system that you want to slap it in.Folding @ Home ? :)
    Reply