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Friday, January 13, 2006

Interview Exclusive: Revolution Report Talks with ATI about Hollywood

Interview Exclusive: Revolution Report Talks with ATI about Hollywood

"Following the Consumer Electronics Show 2006 held in Las Vegas, Nevada last week, Revolution Report had the opportunity to discuss Nintendo and its next-generation console, code-named the Nintendo Revolution, with the system's GPU provider ATI Technologies ( The interview occurred between Revolution Report's Senior Editor Shawn White and ATI's Public Relations Manager for Consumer Products, John Swinimer.

Revolution Report: How long have you been working at ATI and what responsibilities does your job encompass?

John Swinimer: I've been working here since February 2001. Not as long as some of the people who've been working on the game console side. Certainly, its been very exciting. I was very, very excited and pleased to be able to stand up at Nintendo's booth back in 2001 at E3 and proudly wear one of the specially made ATI Dolphin shirts. I was very proud to be a part of that and I'm hoping the time comes where I can do that again. Since before the day I joined, we were working on building that relationship from that announcement. I work on other matters here too; I work on the digital TV side, the multimedia side, we have another division here that works on embedded display graphics. While ATI has other divisions, my responsibilities here go beyond ATI's desktop graphics division, to include ATI's other business units and ATI has many different divisions.

Revolution Report: Is Hollywood based off Flipper, a current or upcoming PC architecture, or built from the ground up?

Swinimer: Hollywood is a specific design and is in no way reflective of PC technology. Even when the Flipper chips came out, people were asking that question: "Is this a spin-off of something done on the PC?", and the answer is no. It is designed the same as the Flipper was -- from the ground up for a specific console. Totally different sort of architecture from what you might find on the PC. Certainly, there are some underlying values—you know, how you get graphics on the screen—that's there. It's not, for example, like we took a PC design and said 'oh, you know what? If we tweak this and test this, it will work in a console.' [That's] not the case.

Revolution Report: Considering the form factor of the Revolution, heating has become a concern. Has this been a challenge for ATI in development of Hollywood?

Swinimer: The form factor design of even some of the newer consumer electronics devices are getting smaller and smaller, and we are taking that into great consideration, all across the board. I don't know if you are aware of this, but ATI has graphics chips in Motorola RAZRs. ATI has graphics chips inside many consumer electronic designs and heat is definitely a consideration, so we definitely take that into consideration when we are designing new chips. There's a lot of technology you can put into the chip now that can reduce the level of [heat] output.

For example, on a totally different side note, on our PC side we are very conscious of that and we try to, over the course of the design of a PC chip, get it to the point where you do not need a fan. These are things we have to take into consideration. Putting a fan on PC cards, retail cards such as ATI’s Radeon cards, adds more cost and complexity to the design of the chip. If we can get the design to the point where you don't need the fan to keep it cool, you've exceeded on a number of different levels. ATI in general is very conscious of this when we are working with not only PC vendors, but also consumer electronics manufacturers.

Revolution Report: A number of Web sites have inferred that Revolution will be significantly inferior graphically. While it certainly seems like Revolution won't output in HD, is it safe to assume that Hollywood will not feature a comparable polygon count or the same amount of graphical effects as the Xbox 360's GPU?

Swinimer: What I can say is that ATI is focused, as is Nintendo, in making [Revolution] a great, gaming entertainment platform. I know that a lot of journalists are very focused on specs. It's the big thing; as a geek, I look for that too. The key thing to keep in mind is that Nintendo, with ATI's help, is trying to create a game console where you don't have to look at [specs].
From a broader perspective, we share in Nintendo's position that this console will be devoted to the general gamer. When you have a game developer developing [for] this, the goal is to ensure that they don't have to worry about the complexity that is required to develop the games by making them "jump through hoops." That was one of the benefits of working on the GameCube; developers were saying that it is quite easy to develop for and there are not a lot of complexities so they could produce titles easily. That being said, we want consumers to look at the game, play the game and be involved in it. We are doing our very best to make this Nintendo gaming experience the very best it can be.

Revolution Report: Is Hollywood finalized? If not, when is work expected to be finished?

Swinimer: I know that Nintendo has committed to 2006 availability. Certainly, game developers need some time to start developing games for it. I can't say anything more than that.

Revolution Report: Have you had the opportunity to demo the Revolution controller yourself?

Swinimer: No I haven't. I have seen the video of it. And believe it or not, there was someone on the Web that put together a paper cut-out.

Revolution Report: Yes, I actually made one of those, it was quite interesting.

Swinimer: I did too. So I showed it off to people by saying: 'Hey, look at this, it’s pretty cool.' People are sort of skeptical whether this can actually work, but looking at the videos and certainly based what Nintendo has promised, it has a lot of potential. I think game developers will realize that over time, it’s a great way to attract more general gamers, casual gamers." [more]

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