Graphics have always playing an integral part of games, especially on the PC. Yet, looking at the industry coverage in 2010, much of the discussion has centered on social gaming networks and Apple devices.

There hasn’t been much in the way of “market shifting” news in game graphics – until the past few weeks.Suddenly there is a flurry of activities centered around game graphics, and we thought an update on recent news might be in order.

INTEL

This week Intel is holding its Intel Developer Forum or IDF. It made a number of announcements at this year’s show including their new apps store – AppUp, the latest ATOM chips, and Sandy Bridge. They had an interesting demo of ray tracing technology for Wolfenstein 3D. While a few years before it reaches the public, it certainly showcases what’s to come.

CONFETTI SPECIAL EFFECTS

A new company, Confetti Special Effects just launched their graphics middleware software at the Korean Game Conference on Monday.

Confetti Special Effects is a special effects studio for the video game industry, setup in the tradition of the big special effects studios in the movie industry. As such it is a think-tank for advanced real-time graphics research.

The company was founded in August 2009 by Wolfgang Engel and Peter Santoki, both having been at Rockstar San Diego previously.

Confetti’s work with Qualcomm for mobile devices

EPIC

A few weeks ago during Apple’s live event, Mike Capp, president at Epic announced its Epic Citadel was available on the App Store. Epic Citadel is a special app for viewing Epic’s upcoming iOS game, Project Sword (codename), which is due out this holiday season. Of course this was developed using the Unreal Engine.

Take a look at the amazing graphics for yourself in this video:
httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2ncmwgJzqw&feature=player_embedded

STEAM STATS

We looked at the Steam data from back in April and then again from this past August. And while Steam certainly doesn’t offer a complete profile of the gaming community, it does provide some compelling data. For the most part the shifts happening in 2010 are predictable based on attrition, but it is always good to see that there are data points to back it up.

Nvidia slipping from earlier in the year AMD (ATI) gaining ground Top Mac products used MacBook Pro

Interestingly, Nvidia has slipped and lost 3% since April, when Needham & Co. downgraded Nvidia to a hold. It looks like AMD was right there to pick up the percentage gain (Note, the company did away with the the ATI brand last week)

The top spot is held by ATI with their Radeon HD 4800, after which come several of the Nvidia GeForce 8000 and 9000 series.

PC Video Card Usage By Manufacturer – Steam data from August 2010 shows Nvidia is still very much in the lead for what consumers seem to have on their machines.

This number has slipped since April, when Nvidia had 62% compared to ATI’s 31%. So basically the two have just swapped percentage points here.

Intel and “Other” have remained the same over the past five months.

Of all the products AMD (ATI) are the only products in the top ten position that have gain grown since April, aside from Nvidia’s GeForce GTS 150.

New on Steam in the month of August was the inclusion of Steam’s Mac data. This will be interesting to follow as the platform goes into 2011. Currently, close to half of the Macs are MacBook Pros.

Check out the Steam website for full data on these other points:

  • DirectX 11 and Windows 7 moving up
  • Where AMD gained in video card percentages they lost in CPU percentage to Intel
  • 4 CPU adoption is growing steadily by 15%, total is now over 26%

AMD

Not so much on the technical side, but more from a marketing position, AMD announced they were evolving the company brand and would be losing the ATI name. As John Volkmann, Corporate VP of Corporate Brand at AMD explains in AMD’s corporate blog, the AMD brand is stronger than the ATI brand and it came down to creating a unified image for products and company.

NVIDIA

Not to be undone by everyone else, next week Nvidia will be showcasing their latest and greatest graphics and partners at their GPU Technology Conference. There will be a flurry of news from Nvidia next week as development partners present.

FINAL THOUGHTS

There are the 200+ million consumers making up the mass market who play casual, social and mobile games today. And it is interesting that while consumers have come to expect advanced graphics at the movie theater, they have not made that graphical preference to their casual and social gaming experiences – Yet.

I believe that as more of main stream consumers play these next generation of games they will start to appreciate the game play and nuances that a superb graphics experience offers.