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Gliding to obscurity: no consoles in Mantle’s crust

Microsoft and AMD confirm the “revolutionary” API will not be available on consoles.


AMD’s cross-platform API, which promises ease of development across platforms that use graphics core next (GCN), will not be coming to consoles, Microsoft and AMD confirm.

Late Monday night U.S. time Microsoft published a blog post confirming that the Xbox One’s only API will be DirectX 11.x, and will closely resemble a superset of DirectX 11.2 at launch.

“The Xbox One graphics API is “Direct3D 11.x” and the Xbox One hardware provides a superset of Direct3D 11.2 functionality,” Microsoft wrote. “Other graphics APIs such as OpenGL and AMD’s Mantle are not available on Xbox One.”

Shortly after, AMD followed up to Microsoft’s post with a comment to DSOgaming:

“What Mantle creates for the PC is a development environment that’s *similar* to the consoles, which already offer low-level APIs, close-to-metal programming, easier development and more (vs. the complicated PC environment). By creating a more console-like developer environment, Mantle: improves time to market; reduces development costs; and allows for considerably more efficient rendering, improving performance for gamers. The console connection is made because next-gen uses Radeon, so much of the programming they’re doing for the consoles are already well-suited to a modern Radeon architecture on the desktop; that continuum is what allows Mantle to exist.”

For AMD, this is a rather large backtrack from what it implied at #gpu14.

It also throws into doubt the position it has been taking all summer.

The company was confident that it was moving to be the dominant GPU platform because its IP powers both major next-generation consoles, and it is launching what it called a cross-platform development tool to ease development on common GCN platforms.

At Computex, AMD’s general manager of graphics, Matt Syknner, said in an interview that AMD providing IP to both major consoles would ensure that it was the dominant GPU company as developing across the PC-Xbox One-Playstation 4 ecoystem would be much easier given the similar hardware.

“We’re using the console success as a leverage point for success in other markets…when those [games] port over, they are going to run great on our hardware,” he said during an interview. When asked about why Nvidia can’t match what AMD has he said, “because they don’t have the opportunities in the consoles that we have.”

At #gpu14 in Honolulu last month, AMD’s position on dominance expanded to include an API called Mantle that would ease cross-platform development. Mantle is said to offer “bare metal” access to GCN, emulating the console style “close-to-metal” APIs on the PC, while also augmenting existing APIs on consoles (or replacing, as Microsoft may have thought). Because of the common platform, as AMD had previously said, and now because of the common cross console API, as AMD now implied at #gpu14, cross-platform development will be much easier than before.

“I think one of the benefits that game developers are going to realize is that because of their strong familiarity with the PC already, and developing on our hardware, we anticipate development budgets to be somewhere less or lower because they won’t have to spend as much development time and the learning curve is much shorter,” AMD’s Richie Corpus said to VR-Zone during the conference.

Now that Mantle has been confirmed not to be on consoles, it’s quickly looking like another Glide. Should Mantle have been cross-platform, supported by both major consoles, the competitive bargain of the new and relatively unknown API would that it would have enabled much simpler cross-platform development. With the cross-platform development factor out of the equation, and Mantle not open to the public until 2014-2015, as per AMD’s Corpus, why would developers use it instead of sticking with tried-and-true open standards? The eulogy of CUDA and PhysX was written because “our industry doesn’t like proprietary standards” as Roy Taylor said.

More details on Mantle won’t be available until AMD’s APU developer conference in November. Perhaps then the company will further define the place of Mantle in the gaming ecoystem.

But until then, it looks as if AMD stomped on its competitor’s card a little too soon. After all, hubris sinks ships.

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