[Update: Debunked] Nintendo NX Allegedly Using Custom 14nm Polaris-Like GPU With Vulkan Support; Luigi’s Mansion 3 Said To Be In Development Alongside New I.P.

Author Photo
Apr 16, 2016

Update: The rumors concerning the GPU and ‘power’ of the Nintendo are incorrect, according to Nintendo insider, Emily Rogers. Check out our new post for more info.

Original story: Another Nintendo NX rumor has surfaced online,  claiming that the NX will make use of a custom Polaris-like GPU with Vulkan support. Furthermore, Luigi’s Mansion 3 is said to be in development alongside new IP.

Related AMD Launches Dual Polaris 10 Based Radeon Pro Duo Graphics Card – Features 32 GB of GDDR5 Memory, 11.5 TFLOPs Compute, Aimed at Pros, Content Creators

What will the NX look like? No one knows

The rumor comes from Neogaf user , 10K, who recently claimed that Nintendo’s upcoming dedicated console will be more powerful than the PS4, by a substantial amount. Like that rumor, 10K uses a tiered system to back up the leak/rumor. One of the most interesting parts of the rumor is that the NX will be making use of a custom Polaris-like GPU with Vulkan support. According to the rumor, it’s highly like that a 14nm Polaris GPU because of the expensive nature of using a 28nm chip.

According to 10K, a tier 1 rumor indicates that one source told him, while a tier 4 rumor means that 4 or more sources talked about the leak in question. 10K stresses that he’s not the source of the details he posted, and he’s simply passing along what he allegedly heard. Here goes:

T3 Rumors

The NX gimmick. I uh….was told not to post this part by some people. As usual, take it with a grain of salt (although I don’t know why I would be warned if it was false) I’m not under any NDA though, and well, it could end up being false. But I was told a variation of this by three different sources. I don’t believe they have a reason to lie to me. Here goes….

Related AMD Officially Launches Radeon RX 500 Series Polaris 20 Refresh Cards – Radeon RX 580 and Radeon RX 570 Review Roundup

The NX is going to have a screen controller (whether it’s optional or standard I don’t know) and can be used anywhere to play your home console games. The controller itself will not have any processing capabilities, it’ll essentially be a dummy vita. It’ll likely have basic OS functions to access the NX console from anywhere, like a tiny cpu. Nintendo will use enhanced Wii U gamepad streaming tech, and allow the controller to be taken anywhere, connect to the NX console at home (likely through Wi-fi or personal hotspots and the NX console will likely have to be in stand-by mode). Basically, it’s remote play built into the box and won’t require a $200 add-on to experience it. This is likely what Kimishima meant in his interview with Sankei (http://www.sankei.com/west/news/1601…030012-n1.html) “different way to play with a dedicated machine” and the whole “new way to experience games” mantra that’s been going around Nintendo PR.

Speculation: Nintendo could also sell personal hotspot usb adapters to get internet anywhere and plug either directly into the controller or a wall outlet to not drain the controller battery. The Supplementary Computing Devices may actually be portable hotspot devices with chips in it to boost the quality of the stream. (Maybe the NX will be called the Stream, a speculated final name during the WUST’s).

Note: This does not mean there will not be a handheld. This isn’t meant to be a replacement for the handheld as there will still be limitations and the controller won’t have a full OS or the capability for physical game media (discs or cartridges). The needs of a handheld won’t be fully met with this feature. It’s just a nice add-on.

T2 Rumors

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is in development for NX. This rumor gained popularity awhile ago from Geno but this isn’t my source. This was a T1 to start but today I got another source to give some info on it. Two different sources have told me that it is in development for NX, and one source said it’s being developed by Next Level Games, who is big enough to do this and Federation Force at the same time. One source said it started as a Wii U game but after the disappointing performance of the Wii U and the scheduled release date for the game being late in the console’s cycle, Nintendo decided to switch development over to NX. (basically the same situation as Zelda for Wii U, but no word on if this game will also get a Wii U version). The other source said it’s a pretty big deal (he didn’t elaborate if he meant Nintendo is making it a big deal or his workplace is). To support this,http://www.nintendolife.com/news/201…edits_the_post
an employee stealth edited his post last year.

T1 Rumors

The NX will use a custom Polaris-like GPU. Likely will be on a FinFET 14nm fabrication node. The source told me it’s on the same architecture with heavy customizations of course . It will contain the feature set of Polaris. It is “marginally better than the PS4” and theoretically could be “2x the power of PS4 GPU”. I asked about PS4K being rumored to have a gpu 2x as powerful as the OG PS4 and how the theoretical performance of the NX would be and was told “Theoretically it could be close to the PS4K rumored specs”. Of course, we know nothing of Polaris or the PS4K specs, but he gave that metric.

I’m going to paraphrase here, but one comment from a source about the power of NX was that “Dev’s could port over a PS4 game easily and have power to spare. Even the most demanding ones”. My own theory is any game that dips below 30fps on PS4 will likely stay at 30fps on NX and maybe have some enhanced effects.

One feature he highly touted, which improves performance greatly in games, especially graphically demanding ones such as AAA open world games is Primitive Discard Accelerator. A TechGAF member described it as

“designed to perform culling of triangles before they hit the geometry processor. Effectively, what this means is that it runs through the triangles (also known as primitives) as they hit the GPU and tests them to see if they’re actually going to be visible on the screen or not (with a variety of tests), then throws out the triangles that aren’t going to be on screen (i.e. discards them or culls them).

Now, this is a good thing, pretty much regardless of the type of game. Attempting to render triangles that aren’t actually going to end up in the final image is a waste of GPU resources, and preventing that would be a pretty good thing. One of EA’s Frostbite developers actually just gave a talk on this at GDC (PDF link, very technical), where they describe the software-based culling methods used in Frostbite. In their test scene, they could throw out over 75% of triangles before hitting the geometry engine, resulting in an almost 20% performance improvement. AMD have also recently released their own software-based culling solution, GeometryFX, which like Frostbite runs as software on the GPU’s shader units. Hence, they’re obviously interested in the problem of triangle culling, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they developed a hardware unit to perform it more efficiently.”
This was great to hear, but I asked if it was possible to get this feature set on 28nm GPU’s since those are more established and cheaper than 14nm and there isn’t a yield risk on those.
“Well, from a purely theoretical perspective, any “Polaris exclusive” feature could be adapted to a 28nm process. Work on Polaris had likely been going on for about a year or so when work on NX started, so it is in theory possible that they said to AMD “Hey, we like this primitive discard accelerator thing, can we have it on our planned 28nm chip?”. The issue with this is that Nintendo would have had to fork over quite a lot of extra R&D dollars to get a functional block “back-ported” to 28nm, compared to components from existing GCN 1.2 chips, which were already ready to go for TSMC’s 28nm process. The other issue is the assumption that the primitive discard accelerator is single functional block that can be just pulled wholesale out of Polaris. It could be an integral part of the geometry processor or command processor, or the manner in which it operates could depend on the newer geometry or command processors in Polaris. This would mean that you’d need to port the bulk of Polaris’s improvements back to 28nm, or do a substantial amount of redesign work on the primitive discard accelerator to get it to work in a GCN 1.2-era chip (either of these would add substantially more R&D cost).

It’s impossible to say how much it would cost them in the scheme of things, but it does seem like an unusual added expense over just taking existing GCN 1.2 tech, which would still be a generation ahead of the competition.”

So with this quote, while it’s not confirmed, it is highly likely Nintendo is using a 14nm Polaris GPU in the NX based off of the expensive nature of using PDA or any Polaris feature set and putting it on a 28nm chip.
If Nintendo does go with 14nm, it is very likely they will be taking a loss on each NX sold, but we don’t know the dealings AMD have with Nintendo. Once source told me “AMD may have been desperate enough for the business to offer Nintendo, say, the first year’s supply at a fixed price, to reduce Nintendo’s yield risk. They may also have specifically pushed Nintendo into a 14nm Polaris-based chip, as it would allow Nintendo to also use a Polaris-based 14nm chip for the handheld. This would not only be a big business win for AMD in itself (Nintendo’s handhelds typically sell a lot more than their home consoles), but it would also big a big PR win for them, by showing their ability to compete in the ultra-low TPD sector, which is a market they’ve made pretty much no traction in up until now.”

So 14nm is still likely in 2016 and Nintendo could still sell it at a reasonable price and not lose too much money or even break even.

tl;dr The NX GPU is using features that are debuting on the Polaris chip, and is therefore heavily speculated to be a Polaris chip, as that would work well in a handheld too and help AMD prove they can make low wattage chips with good performance for small devices. (GCN 1.3, Vulkan, Primitive Discard Accelerator, etc)

Nintendo is using Vulkan with NX. This goes hand in hand with using a Polaris-based GPU, and goes with the announcement of Nintendo joining Kronos. But the dev I spoke to about the GPU, who is porting a PS4 game to NX said Vulkan is not ready yet (as of the 2015 December SDK, should be an update in May) and they are using a variation of the PS4 API, GMNX, until Vulkan is ready. Nintendo providing some nice tools like GMNX to help devs port from PC, XBox and PS4 to NX.

Most dev kits won’t be given until Nintendo formally reveals the NX. As my previous post indicated, Nintendo is none too happy with the leaks and is keeping things on lockdown. Outside of close partners and internal teams, most devs are using SDK’s until the NX reveal. Not a big deal, but I was told specs are pretty much final as of now, and the May update will likely be for the final spec sheet and not target specs.

MercurySteam has a dev kit and is making an already announced game for the NX. The only announced game they have is Raiders of the Broken Planet, currently under development for PS4, XB1 and PC. This is likely it. (Take this one as a T0.5). 

Final Fantasy XV on NX. My single source on this said he’s heard more of his sources mention it’s coming to NX. No idea when. I pressed for FFVIIR but nobody has heard about it. Gaf’s very own mod Kagari hinted that Sony may have co-funded it and it may never get released outside of PS4 and PC (like Street Fighter V).

NX will likely launch at different times per region. Only heard this from one source but it does make sense if the NX does use 14nm chips, as there’s a risk of not having enough of those chips ready on shelves for holiday 2016.

No regions were specified, but one would assume with the slow adoption of consoles in Japan, and the popularity of handhelds over there, the NX will launch in the west first like some past Nintendo consoles (consoles are more popular outside of Japan). Likely North America and Europe.

There are lots of NX games in development. Once source told me to post this so I won’t edit it at all

“And you can quote me on this on GAF too: “I think NX software output is going to blow away Wii U. There’s a LOT of games in development. I don’t know if we’ll see all of them at E3, since a lot of Wii U projects weren’t announced until January 2013, but I’m very impressed so far with what I’m hearing.”

New IP are being developed. I asked this because I noticed some complaints about how there were no leaks about new IP and NX was looking like another Mario/Zelda factory with a bunch of remasters and ports. The source said “I’m not allowed to give specifics, but that’s a sure bet.”

Nintendo NX rumors are popping up like mushrooms after a rain, and whether the leaks are valid or not, remains the question. For an overview of recent Nintendo NX rumors, check out a compiled overview of NX leaks.