Watch Dogs has been one of the most hotly anticipated video games for several months.
It was expected to be released way back in November 2013 but that clearly didn’t happen. On May 27, 2014, Watch Dogs finally, at long last, released to hordes of happy gamers at midnight releases across the country.
Now that Watch Dogs has been released, some strange news has come out about its impact on PC gaming.
Specifically, Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs uses Nvidia’s GameWorks. GameWorks is “A collection of tools” which helps game developers optimize gameplay and visuals on Nvidia-based PCs.
The end result, in Nvidia’s eyes, is that gamers enjoy the game “the way it’s meant to be played.” That means you get games with unique visual features like TXAA and ShadowWorks which deliver more realistic visuals in a game that’s already exceptionally realistic.
AMD users, of course, will not get these benefits when they play Watch Dogs. Since AMD users represent 40% of the PC market, many people are seeing GameWorks as a bad thing for PC gaming.
Watch Dogs isn’t the only high profile game to adopt GameWorks recently. Other GameWorks-exclusive games include:
-Batman: Arkham Origins
-Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
Why AMD can’t do anything
If you’re a staunch capitalist, then you might argue that “why can’t AMD just compete better and innovate?”
You would have a bit of a point, but AMD has responded by saying this is a unique problem that is hindering competition in the two man race that is the video card market. Specifically, AMD suggests:
“GameWorks represents a clear and present threat to gamers by deliberately crippling performance on AMD products (40% of the market) to widen the margin in favor of NVIDIA products… Participation in the GameWorks program often precludes the developer from accepting AMD suggestions that would improve performance directly in the game code—the most desirable form of optimization.”
That AMD spokesperson goes on to say that the specific code Nvidia uses with GameWorks deliberately prevents competition and makes it difficult for AMD to compete:
“The code obfuscation makes it difficult to perform our own after-the-fact driver optimizations, as the characteristics of the game are hidden behind many layers of circuitous and non-obvious routines,”
Rarely has any PC game had such a strong impact on PC gaming. Although it seems like a minor and insignificant decision for Watch Dogs to support Nvidia’s GameWorks, it has clearly had a major impact with AMD fans.
Ultimately, GameWorks means that AMD can no longer control its own performance. Even if AMD made the best video card ever and made it cheaper, stronger, and faster than anything Nvidia has ever made, it still would not produce gameplay as visually impressive as a GameWorks game. And there isn’t really anything AMD can do about that.
What do you think? Is Nvidia’s GameWorks a threat to PC gaming around the world? Or is Nvidia just being a smart competitor?