Qualcomm dreams of being Nvidia for mobile devices

The market for games on mobile platforms surpassed that of PCs and consoles for the first time in 2021. It whets the appetite for Qualcomm, a specialist in processors for mobile devices. The chipset designer is determined to make his technology available to smartphone makers and the entire ecosystem, and wants to turn it into a consumer decision-making engine to promote his Snapdragon brand to the general public. A bit like choosing an engine supplier when buying a car is worth as much as choosing an automaker.

A new era for mobile gaming

“The mainstream video game arrives on mobile devices”, Qualcomm boss Cristiano Amon rejoiced during his annual summit dedicated to his SoC Snapdragon on November 15 in Hawaii. During its keynote, the company recalled how much it has invested in this space, notably with the creation last year of the Snapdragon Pro Series, a global esports competition for mobile games (Brawl Stars, League of Legend Wild Rifts, Clash Royale, Clash of Clans…).

Todd Le Moine, head of the technical team for gaming content at Qualcomm, is responsible for getting the message across: “If you are a gamer, you definitely want to play on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 smartphone.”. However, it will take some effort before Qualcomm becomes the Nvidia of wireless in a market where Arm in particular competes with it.

The image revolution…

“We want to bring triple-A games to smartphones”‘, PJ Jacobowitz, Senior Marketing Manager, sums up the group’s ambitions in a different way. To do this, of course, it relies on the performance of its Adreno GPU, but also on new hardware acceleration functions to support ray tracing on mobile (a hyper-realistic light rendering technology capable of calculating shadows and reflections depending on textures and materials) and support of games developed on Unreal Engine 5.

Two games supporting ray tracing are in development: War under Edge, soon to be released in closed beta; and Justice Mobile. Thirty games in development on Unreal Engine 5 for Android, including Rainbow 6 mobile, at Ubisoft. Qualcomm has multiplied partnerships, for example with Oppo, which has an SDK to develop games that support ray tracing integration.

… and sound

The other dimension in which Qualcomm wants to be present, despite the competition, is that of sound. As a specialist in wireless connectivity, Qualcomm has positioned itself in this segment since Bluetooth made earphones and headsets mobile. The San Diego-based company does not want to leave this market to Apple, which already offers spatial audio content with dynamic tracking of head movements on Airpods and Beats headphones in combination with an iPhone or iPad.

The arrival of spatial sound on its Snapdragon Sound platform should benefit gaming in particular. The new Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 SoC indeed supports this spatial transmission with an advertised latency of 48 milliseconds, not counting the wireless headphone model. Its technology detects head movements (right-left, up-down) and distributes the sound to the player’s ears accordingly. Manufacturers are expected to announce the first compatible hardware in the first half of 2023. Qualcomm today works with 60 manufacturers and 70 devices for its Qualcomm Sound platform.

Without forgetting cloud gaming

We must not forget that Qualcomm already had a gaming platform on its shelves, Snapdragon G3X. It’s the one that powers the Razer Edge 5G portable cloud gaming console, recently unveiled in partnership with telecom operator Verizon. This is the first 5G handheld console. On its odyssey to video games, Qualcomm doesn’t forget where it came from: connectivity.

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