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John Carmack: Sony NGP a 'generation beyond' smartphones

updated 09:05 am EST, Fri January 28, 2011

id Software head says Sony NGP well beyond phones

id Software co-founder John Carmack said in the wake of the Sony NGP that the new console was in an entirely different class than smartphones for gaming. The hardware would be a "generation beyond" in performance even next to phones that shipped with performance similar to the quad-core processor and graphics that aren't yet on any other device. Sony will have the advantage of low-level programming standards that will help any game run faster than it would if it had to use a higher level standard, like OpenGL.

The call-out suggests Sony has landed at least a temporary advantage against companies like Apple, HTC and Motorola. Quad-core phones are generally predicted to be ready by 2012, when the processors should be efficient enough to fit into devices smaller than the NGP, but will usually have to talk to OpenGL and would have to show reduced detail or run at slower frame rates. Apple is predicted to be using processors and graphics using the same basic architectures as in the NGP this year, but they would be dual-core at most and would have half the theoretical performance.

Officially, Sony has said the NGP's visual quality approaches that of a PS3, which no mobile devices can match so far. Many of the technology demos shown at the Tokyo PlayStation event on Thursday were ports of PS3 in-game cutscenes or sequences, like Metal Gear Solid 4, that could run nearly as well as on the much larger TV game system.

Carmack has often been a bellwether for mobile gaming and usually given credit to Apple for being the performance leader. The Wolfenstein and Quake developer's experience in writing game code, especially graphics engines, has often led him to choose iOS over Android and other competing platforms when exploring handheld gaming. He has estimated that the iPad and iPhone 4 are faster than the Nintendo Wii and sometimes outperform the Xbox 360 despite theoretically being slower.

By Electronista Staff


  1. cmoney

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: Sep 2000


    Yes but:

    -It won't be out until the holiday season so probably about 9 months from now.
    -Smartphones have a very fast rate of evolution. Even iPhones are updated yearly. And Android will probably have smartphones close to the NGP level a year after the NGP is finally released. If Sony sticks to a long-term release schedule for the NGP, it'll be blown away or at least matched a year or two into its lifespan.
    -There's no way they'll be able to match the sheer numbers of smartphone development. That'll continue to push developers to smartphones.

    While I like the NGP and the fact that it's gonna give a much better gaming experience, I don't think that's gonna matter for many people beyond hardcore gamers.

  1. facebook_Cornelius

    Via Facebook

    Joined: Jan 2011


    price point

    I hope the price is in the $200's, Sony has a habit of overpricing new consoles! Anyone heard anymore news on Sony NGP all I could find was this website

  1. Feathers

    Grizzled Veteran

    Joined: Oct 1999


    Big K

    Carmack? What is it about people whose name ends with a K. Like Wozniak, as they become increasingly irrelevant, it seems that people listen to their ramblings even more. What ever happened to a quiet retirement?

  1. Jonathan-Tanya

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Oct 2004


    unless iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 are irrelevant...

    unless you think iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 are irrelevant...then their existence is important.

    And the fact that millions of iPhone owners will be on these 'pre-NGP' level phones, means that developers are going to develop for the wider audience with most iPhone games.

    It's the nature of things, not Apple's fault that such fragmentation of a platform occurs...if anything Apple tries to reduce fragmentation, but nobody that is advancing a platform can escape the facts entirely.

    But what game platforms, like consoles, unlike telephones, do have a stable platform and hold it steady for quite some years - PS2 had almost a 10 year run. PS3, should come close as well.

    Carmack is just giving a heads up about NGP means for mobile gaming, and he's not wrong about it. And some of the earlier commenters are frankly ignoring his main point, which is it isn't just about hardware but its about low level API's and not using OpenGL.

    I don't think Apple has any real worry though. Sony may carve out a niche among hardcore gamers, but the NGP isn't a phone - and Apple is selling phone's that also happen to play great games - and those games are only getting better and more powerful - and they are plenty powerful indeed.

    The Wii wasn't the most powerful console - but it sold the best.

  1. WaltFrench

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2003



    By emphasizing the opportunity of "low level" APIs, Carmack is pointing out the tradeoff that a developer makes. Close to the bare metal, you waste zero CPU/GPU cycles, but burn a LOT of programmer time. That's fine if you expect to sell LOTS of games for a particular platform, and have plenty of time to design, build and test your work.

    Did I read it right that this device is for availability more than 6 months from now?

    In the current tablet marketplace (toss in the iTouch or Dell formats, too, I guess), the processor is a fairly modest part of the cost. And with over 100 tablets vying for attention, we can expect devices with comparable CPU/GPU power by year-end. So at about its introduction time, the PSP2 will be competing with nearly-as-powerful general-purpose devices, at least some of which offer programmers easier-to-use graphics libraries with increasingly strong performance. (2D and 3D libraries are one of Android Honeycomb's features.)

    All this suggests that the PGP2 is targeted to be competitive at intro, but that especially next year, the challenge will be whether it can maintain a performance edge against devices that will have much more flexibility.

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