I can vividly remember quite a number of years ago id software announced that Quake 2 would be released before the holiday season. The world plus dog then waited with baited breath for id softwareís latest masterpiece to go gold and when it did everybody took notice. In hindsight id software certainly did not disappoint as the game was indeed a quantum leap forward in game play, but also in graphics and in-game physics. Today id software has quietly released Quake 4, which turned out to be yet another mind-numbing exercise in running down dark, long corridors with the occasional scripted monster popping up left and right. If that is to be enough incentive for me to shell out some cash over the holiday season for the game and possibly a new graphics card to run it on then id software is sorely mistaken.
So am I spoiled? Well not really, I still play the occasional game of Microsoft Pinball3D that came preinstalled with Windows XP so it isnít all about fancy graphics or intelligent AI. What does matter to me is that Iím drawn into the game enough to enjoy it and continue playing it. In that respect no amount of eye candy will make a game more appealing to me if the game play is just about running down above mentioned dark, long corridors looking for the next button to press. HalfLife 2 for example is a game that certainly did not disappoint in that respect and although I usually have a busy schedule I took a few days off to play through the entire game. Games like HalfLife2 however are far and few in between, and unfortunately for both graphics behemoths it didnít require the latest top-of-the-line $600 graphics card to run properly either.
And that is usually what sells these cards, the next blockbuster game is a great sales pitch for many graphic card manufacturers and a sure way to up the revenue in the last quarter. Doom 3 is a great example, NVIDIA made it abundantly clear that the game play was much more immersive when played on their hardware. And we all know ATI cut out a rib and gave it to Gabe Newell in hope of superb support for ATIís Radeon family of cards. Because Duke Nukem Forever is still forthcoming I donít see much of a market for NVIDIAís and ATIís latest top-of-the-line graphics cards though this holiday season. All of the current games run fine on graphics cards that are now a year old, such as the GeForce 6800 or Radeon X800 series. Only if you have a top-of-the-line system that runs at the highest of resolutions, with all eye-candy at maximum you might need something more recent to keep the fps counter to drop below the utterly playable 30-fps.
So I guess many people will be shopping for something different than the annual graphics upgrade that they go through around the holiday season. So at the end of the day it is the games that sell the cards and by the looks of it the software developers have fallen somewhat behind. From my perspective none of todayís games tax the latest two generation of graphics cards enough to justify an upgrade. That being said I do long for those long evenings playing the next blockbuster game on my brand new graphic card with the smell of pine tree and fresh roast right out of the oven and a smooth layer of powdery snow outside. I think thatís what Iíll wish for for next yearís Christmas.