All games are developed for high-end PCs first and then tuned down, EA admits

electronic arts develops games high end pc first
There was a time when we lived in a world where many, many popular games were ported from console to PC. That wasn’t always the case, however: just look at the PC classics released in the 1990s that eventually wandered over onto consoles in a watered-down version.

But developers began focusing more on consoles in the 2000s, citing piracy and a wider audience as reasons for abandoning PC gamers. And while PC gaming is now back in full force, we still see a number of games that are merely unoptimized ports from consoles despite that all games, technically, are developed on PCs.

But Electronic Arts doesn’t take that console-to-PC approach. Electronic Arts Chief Financial Officer Blake Jorgensen made this perfectly clear while speaking during the UBS Global Technology Conference this week. The comment came up while talking about the company’s flexibility regarding console hardware refresh cycles.

According to Jorgensen, Electronic Arts has moved all of its games to the Frostbite Engine. Thus, instead of having to dramatically update 25 or so engines when a new console arrives, the company only needs to update one. Even more, Microsoft and Sony appear to be moving to a new console refresh cycle that supports backwards compatibility right out of the box, so game purchases aren’t immediately doomed to die when new console hardware arrives.

“You won’t see much margin upgrade at all,” he said. “We build all of our games to the highest possible spec, which is typically a high-powered PC, and as the consoles come in, [which] may not be the highest spec, we may actually dummy down the console product to meet the spec of the console. In a world where the console looks more and more like a PC, that’s good for us.”

One of the big factors tearing down the wall between the PC and console is that both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are based on the same x86 components found in a PC. That wasn’t the case in the previous generation, as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 were based on a PowerPC-based design by IBM, which is a totally different, non-x86 processing architecture than what we use in a typical desktop or laptop. Thus, developers had to create games based on two different architectures (PowerPC, x86) if they wanted their titles on PC as well. That cost time and money outside the need to optimize the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions for their specific, custom use of IBM’s architecture.

Now the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are based on x86 designs by AMD. Because of the PC-based AMD components, developing games across all three platforms is easier and more unified in terms of the final, multi-system product. Thus, developing a game for a high-end PC and then tuning it down for the current crop of consoles makes sense. And given that Electronic Arts is now using one game engine across the board, the company will be well prepared for the next console refresh because similar, more-power hardware will already exist on the PC market.

All in all, this is good news for PC gamers. On the Electronic Arts front, at least we will see PC games that are top-notch and optimized for the platform, providing the experience that Electronic Arts intended from the start. That also means we won’t see watered-down versions that play horribly and forces players over to the dark side of console gaming.


I'm canceling my backlog for Apex Legends. Be back never

Live service games like Fortnite and Apex Legends are eating up everyone's time, leaving other games out in the cold. While my backlog continues to grow, it seems the gaming industry is struggling to keep up as well.

These are the must-have games that every Xbox One owner needs

More than four years into its life span, Microsoft's latest console is finally coming into its own. From Cuphead to Halo 5, the best Xbox One games offer something for players of every type.

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?

Wage war on a budget with these fun and free first-person shooters

We all know about Halo and Call of Duty by now, but what about quality titles that won't cost you upward of $60? Check out our picks for the best free first-person shooter games from Paladins to Quake Champions.

AMD or Intel? We take a look at the pros and cons of both processors

When it comes to selecting a CPU for your PC, there's no shortage of chips for you to choose from. With Ryzen, Threadripper, and Core i9 CPUs though, the AMD vs. Intel argument is muddier than ever.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.

Buy a new Switch console and get a $35 eShop gift card at some retailers

Multiple retailers are currently offering the Neon Blue and Red Nintendo Switch console with a free $35 eShop gift card. The system still costs the standard $300 and includes Joy-Con controllers and the dock.

Become a champion with our beginner's guide to Apex Legends

Jumping into Apex Legends for the first time? Need help becoming a champion? Our Apex Legends beginner's guide has 15 tips and tricks that will hopefully help your team make it into the champion's circle.

Thrive in the nuclear apocalypse with our Metro Exodus survival guide

Metro Exodus is a difficult shooter, especially if you're new to the series' blend of stealth, action, and scavenging. Here is what you need to know to survive the nuclear apocalypse.

Here's where Xur is and what he has for wares this week in Destiny 2: Forsaken

The weekly vendor in Destiny 2: Forsaken always brings Exotic weapons and armor, some of the toughest loot to find in the game. Here's everything you need to know to track down Xur: Where he is, when he shows up, and what he's stocking.

Here's our Champion's guide to picking the best character in Apex Legends

Apex Legends' use of heroes with different abilities helps separate it from other battle royale games. To help you choose your legend, we've put together a legend guide detailing their abilities, strengths, and weaknesses.

Transport your Nintendo Switch in style with these nifty cases

The Nintendo Switch, which boasts both wired and handheld modes, needs a good case to ensure it doesn't get beat up while you're on the go. We scoured through dozens of Switch cases to bring you the best ones.

These are the best weapons for taking down mutants and bandits in Metro Exodus

Metro Exodus is a very difficult game, and choosing the right weapons is key for surviving the post-apocalyptic Russia that 4A Games has created. These are the best weapons in Metro Exodus.

Exotic Masterwork Weapons are in Destiny 2. Here's how to upgrade

Destiny 2's new Masterwork gear offers a number of special bonuses. Here is what you need to know about it, including how to find the gear in the game and even create it yourself.