Major Nelson replied to a tweet sent to him yesterday evening regarding the Xbox One eSRAM issues by denying the rumors that Microsoft was downclocking the GPU due to issues with the eSRAM on the console.
I’m taking this post from Microsoft’s Major Nelson relatively seriously because of the fact that normally Microsoft uses a canned, “…does not comment on rumor and speculation,” response to most things of this sort. It seems that in this specific situation, Larry Hryb has enough certainty that this is not an issue and he is able to deny the rumor outright.
This is the first confirmation from a leading public figure at Microsoft that maybe the eSRAM is not the issue that has been described on several (though not necessarily credible) online sources, or that the issue has already been resolved.
Microsoft went ahead and released a royal crapton of “bad news” today – most likely in an effort to get this information out so they won’t need address it on stage at E3.
I’m going to run through the items and give pretty brief descriptions, and then I’ll make sure that there are some additional links if you want to read on elsewhere.
The Games (Licensing, New Games, Policies):
- You will be able to purchase your games in a brick and mortar store, or directly online.
- You will be able to access your games from ANY Xbox One console (you will need to sign in and install the game to that hardware in order to play)
- Anyone in your home on your console will be able to play games, regardless of whether they also own a copy of the game or not.
- You can give your family access to your games so they can play them on any Xbox One console once they log in and install the game on that hardware.
- You can sell your disk-based game to second-hand retailers – as long as the publisher has allowed the capability.
- You can give your games to an Xbox Live friend as long as you have been friends with them for more than 30 days. This game license can only be transferred once.
The Connectivity (Suggested Speed, Cloud, Internet Access, Power):
- Xbox One will require a broadband Internet connection (insert ‘cloud’ buzzword here).
- The Xbox One will have a low-power state. It will always be “on” in order to receive updates and to be available when you want to use it.
- Skype is very integrated.
- Wireless ready out of the box via 802.11n.
- It will connect with your personal wireless devices (smartphones, tablets, etc.).
- Is cloud-powered (Look! We used the buzz word again!)
- Minimum connection speed of 1.5mbps is suggested. You will be able to use mobile broadband services.
- You will be able to game offline for up to 24 hours on your primary console, but only for 1 hour on a console away from home so it can check in on you.
Privacy and Kinect:
- The console and the Kinect will have privacy settings.
- You can turn the Kinect off.
- The console will collect game data, but it will not be shared unless you allow it to be.
- You don’t HAVE to use the Kinect for the TV, Blu-ray, or apps.
Rumor also has it that Microsoft has been cancelling 1 on 1 meetings with games journalists this week, and has apparently also cancelled a roundtable that was to take place after the E3 conference. Major Nelson defended the company as some of the journalists Tweeted complaints. Hopefully, this isn’t just sidestepping to avoid the debacle that answering questions became at the Xbox One announcement event in May.
So there’s the info. Chew on it. Talk about it.
A thread over at NeoGAF that has been up and running now for about 24 hours claims that Microsoft is having issues with the eSRAM yield on the Xbox One, and that this has resulted in Microsoft needing to downclock the GPU.
While I’ll be the first to admit that I can barely make sense of all of the commotion on the thread, there are a couple of explanations that I can understand to some extent, specifically:
(originally posted by thuway on NeoGAF)
For everyone asking- this information is all pretty recent. Around the PlayStation Meeting the Xbox One was way behind (OS + hardware). Engineers were scrambling to get things sorted out.
It turns out, they didn’t sort it out. The OS you saw was a complete and total lie. The current plan is to get the yields up, lower the clock rate, and to have enough units out for a sell out in the Fall.
For those asking how this affects performance- to be perfectly frank; it is nothing turning down features won’t solve. The mass market will never notice a difference between 1080p and 900p; neither will they care about dynamic shadows / global illumination / or tesselation. Go to your PC – and turn shadows from Ultra to medium, disable tesselation, and lower the resolution to 900p; and you’ll find games run totally fine.
Microsoft is purely behind and it’s now time to make drastic decisions. I don’t think any one is happy about the lower clocks, but no one is depressed about it either. The Xbox One is an all-in-on device; and that’s how it will be marketed.
I really found this post by eloj on GiantBomb incredibly informative, even though it is only someone guessing:
There’s a rumor that Microsoft are having problems with the XBone. There’s been rumors before that they’re behind on software, but these latest rumors pertain specifically to the hardware and the combination of eSRAM and GPU. The rumor is saying that they’re having yield problems, specifically related to the eSRAM.
I will now go on and speculate widely. You have been warned.
It is claimed that the XBone APU is a one-die CPU+GPU+eSRAM solution, meaning that it’s very large (~410mm^2). The only thing MS really said at their reveal was “5 billion transistors”. This is interesting, and some correctly pointed out that it probably meant they couldn’t compete with the PS4 on specs, because if they could, they’d be more specific.
The primary risk with large dies of course are low yields, resulting in higher costs to get enough dies that meet your specification. Now, Microsoft was not building a gaming machine first. They wanted to load a familiar operating system on there. They wanted more focus on applications that historically have not been heavily optimized for one platform. A relatively fat OS, and applications from developers who are not used to the scant resources typically awarded a gaming console, leads to one design conclusion; “we need lots of memory!”
So they design for 8GB, from the start. Again, they put applications (and cost) above gaming, and go for a well known, cheap, plentiful technology in DDR3. Back then 8GB of GDDR5 would look too expensive, almost insane, and DDR4 wasn’t on the immediate horizon.
To compensate the gaming side, they now need some fast RAM, hence 32MB eSRAM on-die. The XBone eSRAM is said to be a 6T type, meaning that each bit requires six transistors. 32MB gives us 32*1024*1024*8 bits times six equals 1,610,612,736 transistors. That’s 1.6 billion, a huge chunk out of the total 5 billion!
They do desperately need this very fast cache-like memory to fix the fact that they’re using “slow” DDR3, which they settled on because they wanted to have a lot of it, for apps — not games.
Recap: Decision to not focus on games results in design for a lot of memory, which is “slow” for cost reasons, which is compensated with cache. Result: Large die, with large percentage dedicated to what turns out to be a possible problematic memory to fab. Because the cache use so much die, they have to scale down on GPU.
They’re reportedly roughly 2 billion transistors larger than the APU used by Sony in the PS4, which means worse thermals, which means lower clocks. The rumor is saying that the yields on this APU, due to the eSRAM, is so low, that they may have to cut the clocks on the eSRAM+GPU even further than what they’ve previously communicated to developers under NDA. This would make the XBone even weaker on the GPU side vs the PS4, which was already believed to be quite a bit stronger.
MS probably thought for the longest time, like PS4 devs did, that the PS4 would only have 4GB of GDDR5. Microsoft could work with that, they’d have the fast cache (which no doubt can be awesome when properly used — I’m a huge cache nerd) and more total memory. They designed their system around being the platform with More Memory.
Cerny meanwhile had bet on GDDR5, and his bet has been that availability will increase and cost decrease at such a pace, that even back when they were first thinking about the PS4 and 2GB seemed like ample amounts, as time went on 4GB became viable.. and then at the last second… tick. Out of nowhere Sony steps up on stage and announce that they’ll be using 8GB of GDDR5, twice the amount insiders thought for sure.
And they probably did this to match Microsoft, which has now lost their one advantage in specification. They on their parts are left having to pay the price of designing for apps before games, and that price just went up if this rumor is true.
Now, this is all speculative right now. With E3 coming next week, we may be able to piece together some additional information based on Microsoft’s response to the tech spec questions regarding the Xbox One. If there’s dancing, there’s almost certainly accuracy in these rumors that Microsoft will want to avoid discussing.
Sony’s coverage will kick off on Monday, June 10 at 5:30pm Pacific/8:30pm Eastern and will be followed up with three additional days of E3 coverage. Here’s their the full online schedule:
Monday, June 10th | PlayStation E3 2013 Press Conference | 5:30pm Pacific Time
Tuesday, June 11th | PlayStation LiveCast show | 12:00pm to 6:00pm Pacific Time
Wednesday, June 12th | PlayStation LiveCast show | 10:00am to 6:00pm Pacific Time
Thursday, June 13th | PlayStation LiveCast show | 10:00am to 6:00pm Pacific Time
That is a LOT of coverage.
They also left a nice short-list of games that they will cover at the press conference. The games that they wanted us to know they were talking about this year are:
“Beyond: Two Souls from Quantic Dream, Destiny from Bungie, DriveClub from Evolution Studios, The Evil Within from Tango GameWorks, Gran Turismo 6 from Polyphony Digital, inFAMOUS: Second Son from Sucker Punch Productions, Killzone: Shadow Fall and Killzone Mercenary from Guerrilla Games, The Last of Us from Naughty Dog, Tearaway from Media Molecule, Wolfenstein: The New Order from MachineGames and many, many more.”
I’ll cover as much as I can from here!
Microsoft’s Major Nelson (Larry Hryb) sent out a tweet earlier this evening – which is usually nothing to write an article about. The big deal about this particular tweet was that it included a link to a trailer for Microsoft’s E3 coverage that announced the inclusion of several familiar faces.
Larry Hryb will be joined by:
and Jessica Chobot.
The obvious “missing link” is Adam Sessler, who has moved on to Revision3 Games, where I’m sure he will be managing and hosting E3 coverage next week.
For more information on how to watch Microsoft’s coverage of E3, head over to Major Nelson’s blog.