Game development

Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 gaming platform: an inflection point

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

On the last day of the Snapdragon Summit in Hawaii, we spent some time with the Snapdragon G3x Handheld Game Development Kit (gaming device), the first device running on the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Platform. The SDK was launched in partnership with Razer, which has a thriving developer community.

Let’s talk about the G3x Gen 1 platform. It is a new game hardware platform architecturally close to today’s smartphones and supported by Snapdragon Game Studios. It aims to take advantage of Qualcomm’s best connectivity (5G, WiFi 6E, etc.) with potentially significant differences in how the technology is physically packaged and how I think it may evolve in the future.

The differences of physical devices between the SDK and smartphones are based on specific gaming ergonomics like advanced haptics and, more importantly, system cooling potential.

Micah Knapp, Senior Director of Product Management at Qualcomm. Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

Basically, smartphones absolutely have to be thin and light at the expense of cooling capabilities and sustained performance. Essentially, Snapdragon G3x maximizes the potential of silicon with better thermals and maybe higher wattage.

All phone designs stack three heat-generating components: the screen, the processor, and the battery. There is very little space left for heat dissipating hardware like heat sinks, let alone fans.

“SNAPDRAGON G3X GEN 1 MAXIMIZES THE POTENTIAL OF SILICON”

On the contrary, a gaming handheld like this development kit allows a lot more freedom on all fronts, and it’s big enough to have very powerful cooling, bigger batteries, and space between components. OEMs don’t have to follow the design of the G3, so we would expect to see plenty of variations.

From a software point of view, the G3x platform works on android. Existing software is compatible, and most game developers don’t need to do anything because their games should be ready to use.

There are opportunities to increase sustained performance, and game developers can add higher graphics options or better support for physical controls. Today, touch controls can be reconfigured to physical controls automatically or quickly, so that G3x would walk out of the door with a huge game library.

“A HUGE LIBRARY OF GAMES”

In addition, the handset can game flow from PCs, consoles, or cloud gaming services, just like phones and other client devices. This is where advanced connectivity makes a big difference in terms of latency, for example.

The question is “who wants this?” “For now, it’s for players who want play ‘on the go’ without compromise. We do not yet know how many units this could represent because it is a new market. It is fair to speculate that the size of the gaming market should allow an emerging niche market like G3x to exist.

Each year 1.4 billion mobiles are sold (2020 figures), and looking back, it took Sony ten years to sell 102 million PS1 consoles, which was considered a smashing commercial success.

The Nintendo DS sold 20 million units over its lifetime and is considered a legendary success. Most recently, Nintendo has sold 93 million Nintendo Switches so far. A platform like G3x could be very successful even if it is very small compared to the overall telephony market. Note that console makers don’t make money on hardware but on game distribution, but that’s another analysis.

Internal specifications for the G3x Gen 1 development kit were not disclosed. Looking at the frame rates of the game’s demos, it doesn’t seem to run the most high-end smartphone CPU / GPU combo, possibly a Snapdragon 7xx equivalent. This is how it feels. It doesn’t matter, like this prototype is intended for developers to assess the ergonomics and potential of the system. Qualcomm and Razer say the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive so far.

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

Following the Snapdragon naming convention, we can imagine that a G8x platform will one day be powered by a dedicated “gaming” chip much more powerful than high-end smartphones. The name G3x might indicate we’re looking at entry-level performance on the Snapdragon G platform.

Technically, Qualcomm could scale CPU and GPU cores to match particular gaming workloads. Every game console is designed this way because running the game is usually too heavy on the GPU and bandwidth. The processor acts as an orchestrator and coprocessors like Hexagon or even the ISP could provide huge benefits for the game if they were accessible to the developers.

“SCALE OF CPU AND GPU TO MEET PARTICULAR GAME WORKLOADS”

Any performance comparison with current smartphones is irrelevant until the G3x consumer devices are about to be released. We’re still in the proof-of-concept phase here.

Many will see the Snapdragon G3 device as a competitor to the Nintendo Switch, but looking to the horizon shows a much larger picture. If you’re ok with the premise that Snapdragon G chips could (and predict they will) scale CPU / GPU differently from smartphones to match gaming workloads, then Snapdragon G isn’t even limited to “handheld games”.

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

Photo credit: Eliane Fiolet

There’s no reason Qualcomm can’t build a PS / Xbox competitor on Android in the future, perhaps backed by Google, Samsung, and many other OEMs. From a computer point of view, see how Apple’s M1 adapted to the M1 Max very quickly.

The Snapdragon C8x (now on its 3e generation) is a relevant example of how the architecture of the Snapdragon phone is adapted to the needs and workloads of productivity laptops with increasing success.

Snapdragon G could help Android succeed as a “box” where Android TV has had mixed results. It is too early to predict how Qualcomm’s entry into the “dedicated gaming hardware” sector will unfold. For now, there is a clear opening in mobile game without compromise from which Qualcomm can enter, gain a foothold and develop.

Wider success depends on the synergy between hardware, game development, and game distribution, requiring many iterations and adaptations. A significant number of AAA games today are made by console makers like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, and they’ll take advantage of those sticky titles to keep customers coming back. Others, like Epic, will take a multiplatform approach.

Finally, the price of Snapdragon G devices will play a huge role in adoption. We will have to wait for the first consuming devices before assigning a value metric.

To conclude, I don’t expect a substantial short-term impact on the gaming market over the next couple of years, but we might see this day as an inflection point in gaming hardware over the next couple of years. decade. The introduction of the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 could one day be compared to the entry of Sony and then Microsoft into the console industry at their respective times.

There is no consumer product at this time, but developers can request units through developer.razer.com

Deposit Games. Learn more about Android, game consoles, processors, Qualcomm, Snapdragon, Snapdragon Summit, and SoC.


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