‘Expectations have changed.’
Unlike the Xbox 360, which offered developers a unified pool of RAM to allocate development resources to (which stood in stark opposition to the RAM split that the PS3 employed), the Xbox One splits its RAM into separate pools for the OS and functionality, and for the games proper.
When asked about this turnaround from the hardware development philosophy of the Xbox 360, Xbox Director of Development, Boyd Multerer, volunteered the following explanation.
“The next generation gamer is not necessarily the gamer I was when I was getting into gaming,” Multerer said. “There are real differences, real changes that have happened since we began the last generation.
“There are phones, there are tablets, the whole way that people interact and that they live with devices has fundamentally changed. I walk around with a phone all time, everybody I know walks around with phones. The expectation of the next gen gamer is that these things are just there.
“It’s a rapidly changing ecosystem of applications that sit on a rapidly changing ecosystem of devices – fundamentally different to the consoles of the past.”
Multerer reckons that today’s world, with tablets and other media devices having caught on as well, imply that gamers’ expectations from their consoles have changed as well.
“They’re sitting watching a movie and they’re texting all the time,” he said. “I just didn’t do that! It’s not part of my life, right. But it’s part of theirs. They don’t even think about it, of course they’re connected to their friends. Of course they’re using services, of course they’re being social. They’re going through these large experiences and they’re constantly multitasking.”
“We have to be extremely careful and offer up a very predictable environment to the game developers to get the best games on your console,” he said.
Multerer also talked about how the system constantly multitasking would help the gaming side of things on the console.
“You start thinking of it like ‘ah, okay, the game developer could really focus on the 3D world, focus on the art and the money they put into it, have this look beautiful’,” he said, “while working with a set of apps over here that allows us to have different surfaces, hook into social systems, to add value beyond the 3D world of the game, flip back and forth quickly between them.
“And you end up with a vibrant, changing world that can handle the innovation and the pace of change over on the internet, all the start-ups, that sort of stuff – but can still work with the games, that need the predictability, that need the optimization, that need to make sure they’re spending their money on the right things.”
I still can’t say I’m convinced- plus last generation was conclusive proof that the unified RAM approach was the better one, with almost all multiplats running better on Xbox 360. Having said that, since all console manufacturers, Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft, are going with split pools this time around, it doesn’t seem like there is much we can do about it anyway.