Well, folks, I think PC gaming may have just gotten a little bit worse.
According to IGN, EA says it has inked a partnership with AMD that will see all games based on the Frostbite 3 engine "optimized exclusively for AMD GPUs and CPUs." Those optimized games will include Battlefield 4, Need for Speed Rivals, and the next Mirror's Edge.
That's great news for people with Radeon graphics cards, but it may be less worthy of celebration for GeForce users. IGN explains: "While Nvidia-based systems will be supported, the company won't be able to develop and distribute updated drivers until after each game is released."
In short, we may wind up with multiple repeats of the Tomb Raider situation from earlier this year. Nvidia apparently didn't get access to that game's final code until days before the launch, and as a result, some GeForce-powered systems performed poorly until a new driver was released almost a week later. Tomb Raider was part of AMD's Gaming Evolved program, and it included some hair physics code supplied by AMD.
Ryan Shrout over at PC Perspective got AMD to comment on today's story from IGN. He was told that it "makes sense" for game developers to focus on AMD hardware, since that's what powers next-generation consoles. However, the chipmaker didn't explicitly confirm IGN's report, and it went on to say that its relationship with EA is "exclusively focused on Battlefield 4" at this point.
I hope the reality is less dire than IGN makes it seem. Much of the appeal of the PC as a gaming platform comes from the ability to mix and match components. If gamers can't do that without potentially jeopardizing their ability to play games on launch day, then the platform will lose a lot of its flexibility. Perhaps the platform will lose users to next-gen consoles, too, since those systems won't be susceptible to the same compatibility woes.
Update: Frostbite Technical Director Johan Andersson has posted on Twitter that the IGN story is "not true." He says a statement is coming to correct the apparent error, but it doesn't look like the IGN story has been updated with a correction yet. We'll keep an eye on it and update this story as it develops. Thanks to TR commenter JohnC for the tip.
Update 2: The IGN story has now been updated with an official statement indicating that DICE's partnership with AMD "does not exclude DICE from working with other partners to ensure players have a great experience across a wide set of PCs for all their titles." Additionally, AMD says its Gaming Evolved program "undertakes no efforts to prevent our competition from optimizing for games before their release." Nvidia should have early access to Battlefield 4 and other Frostbite-powered titles, allowing GeForce drivers to be optimized before games are released.