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Microsoft Engineer Talks Cell, Cross-Platform Porting

Technology website Ars Technica has conducted an interview with Microsoft Game Technology Group engineer...
Technology website Ars Technica has conducted an interview with Microsoft Game Technology Group engineer Matt Lee, which includes a number of interesting comments about the importance of the Japanese market versus North America and Europe for next-gen consoles. Though not a senior executive at the company, Lee expressed some well thought-out views on the nature on the next-gen console clash. When asked how the Xbox team planned to overcome the poor performance of the Xbox 360 in Japan, Lee answered, “Japan is not necessarily the most important market for gaming these days. It is also not quite as large as the U.S. and European markets.” He then added, “Both the Japanese and US markets are reaching saturation at this point. The big battleground for us (and for everyone) is going to be Europe.” Lee also spoke negatively about the PlayStation 3’s Cell architecture and positively about the Wii’s motion sensing controller – which will no doubt raise further suspicions that Microsoft intends to offer tacit support for the Wii, in the hopes to further destabilize Sony’s grip on the industry. When questioned about the Cell’s performance, Lee stated, “I don't think the Cell is as well designed for game development as Sony would have you believe. Some aspects of the SPEs (synergistic processing elements), such as the lack of branch prediction, make them particularly unsuited to running most game code, which contains a lot of branches. They appear to be designed more for serialized streaming math code, more common in video codecs and audio processing, the traditional domain of digital signal processing chips.” Lee also described what he felt would be the potential difficulties of porting titles to and from the two consoles. “I think porting from Xbox 360 to PS3 will be reasonably difficult, since the Xbox 360 has a lot more general purpose processing power that can be flexibly reallocated, and all of the Xbox 360 CPU cores have equal access to all memory,” he said. “In terms of performance, I think that the PS3 and the Xbox 360 will essentially be a wash,” stated Lee. “We ran the numbers a while back and the two systems come up surprisingly close in theoretical peak performance, despite the one year difference in release dates.”

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