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Game Developers, Please Don't Ignore the Other Mobile Chips

February 28, 2012

First of all, I think Nvidia has done us a great favor, and we should be thankful to them. I wouldn’t say they’ve brought all the 3D games to Android. That  isn’t true or close to being true, but they’ve certainly done their part, and have tried to bring high quality games not just in content but also in graphics to the Android platform, thanks to the Tegra Zone.

Unfortunately, that is also a problem, and one that may become bigger in the future as the Tegra architecture becomes more popular and is in more devices. From what we’ve seen at MWC, the manufacturers certainly love Tegra 3 for the marketing power the “quad core chip” brings them. The problem is that Tegra is a pretty proprietary platform, and as it becomes more popular, they’ll have even more power to tell developers to give them exclusive titles only for the Tegra Zone.

So while the Tegra Zone may benefit us early on, in the end it would hurt most consumers, by forcing them to buy Tegra devices if they want most of the good quality 3D games. This obviously isn’t happening with most games right now, but it’s certainly happening with some of the good ones, and the developers are slow to port them to other chips, even though chips like the Exynos with its Mali400 GPU should be a lot more popular and in more units than both Tegra 2 and Tegra 3 are in total.

The Tegra 3 chip is very powerful for games, not only because of its GPU, but also because of the 4 core CPU, and I think the best Tegra optimized games can stand on their own against the best looking games on an iPad 2, no matter what syntetic benchmarks say. But I’m sure the other chips are just as good, and if they are slightly weaker, the sheer number of units running on them should make up for it.

With that being said, some XDA developers think that the chips everyone should get behind are chips like OMAP and Exynos, because of the increased hardware openness. They’ve said the OMAP and Exynos are the most open chips. They mention OMAP4 more, but I don’t think it’s a lot more open than Exynos, considering it has an Imagination GPU, which is pretty proprietary, while Exynos uses a Mali GPU, which is made by ARM, and just as open as the Cortex CPU’s themselves.

At the opposite side, it should be Qualcomm with their completely custom-made chips, and of course Tegra, which still uses an ARM CPU, but a very proprietary GPU. We also might have a surprise with Tegra 4. I have a hunch Nvidia will announce they will make their own custom CPU from now on, just like Qualcomm, instead of going Cortex A15. But this is just a hunch of mine, because I haven’t heard Nvidia mentioning absolutely anything so far about Cortex A5, and I think that they think it’s better for them to make a fully customized ARM processor. On the other hand it could be just one of Nvidia’s very close secrets, just like they kept the 5th core from Tegra 3 secret from everyone until launch day.

Until consumers focus more on the more open chips, we can only hope the game developers will treat them fairly. Here is a list of new Tegra-optimized games that I was talking about:

Dark Kingdom

Meltdown on Mars

Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode II


Hamilton’s Great Adventure