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    Digital Foundry: PS4 vs Next Box (Orbis vs Durango)

    he next console war has yet to begin but the battle lines have already been drawn and the processing firepower available to Microsoft and Sony is now a known quantity. It's Durango vs. Orbis, and it's a console head-to-head quite unlike anything we've seen before. The raw technological building blocks powering each next-gen console are designed by the same people, and the raw architecture is almost identical in nature as a consequence. The differences between the two consoles are less pronounced than in any preceding console generation: fundamentally, Sony and Microsoft faced the exact same challenges and went to the same people to find the solution, resulting in very similar end-products. However, there are differences between Durango and Orbis, and they reflect how the platform holders envisage the evolution of the home console.

    We won't dwell too much on the known similarities between the two consoles, but we've already mentioned that both the next generation Xbox and its PlayStation competitor feature the same CPU - an eight-core AMD offering running at 1.6GHz and based on its forthcoming low-power, high-performance architecture, Jaguar. From a graphics perspective, AMD is also offering the same tech to both manufacturers: the GCN core, as found in the highly popular Radeon HD 7xxx graphics cards.

    Here's where we see our first point of divergence: GPU rendering is all about spreading the computational load across many cores and we find that the new Xbox has 12 of these "Compute Units" (CUs), while Orbis has 18 - a 50 per cent advantage. These numbers have been hotly contested in the last couple of weeks but our Orbis sources confirm the Sony side of the equation, while SuperDAE's leak - in combination with proof of his claims supplied to us behind the scenes - confirms the Durango CU count. The information there is around nine months old, hailing from Durango's beta period - in theory, the hardware could be improved, but practically it's almost impossible for this to actually happen. You can't just slap on some extra hardware without setting back your production schedule significantly by many months.

    Can you believe the rumours?
    Since the turn of the year, the next-gen stories have been coming at you thick and fast. The question is, can you believe anything you read about machines that have yet to make it into production? After all, neither Sony or Microsoft have even announced their new hardware, let alone revealed the technical specifications. How can you trust the information you are reading? Perhaps we should assess the quality of the data we have available and explain why we have confidence in it.
    From our perspective we see three different unique sources of information all saying much the same thing. Firstly, and most importantly, there are our own contacts in the games business, some of whom are working on next-gen console titles as we speak. Then there's the online "rumour network", where developers and ex-developers spill their secrets on online forums or share information privately where it eventually leaks onto the same message boards, often introducing inaccuracies or misinterpretations. Such sources need to be treated with caution, often influenced by wish fulfilment.
    And finally there's the wild card - SuperDAE, arch-leaker extraordinaire, undeniably in possession of early dev kits and the crucial documentation that goes with them. From talking with him directly in order to verify his leaks, we know his information - typically posted on vgleaks.com - is entirely accurate, the only question being how old it is, and whether the hardware has improved since he received his data. He also has - somehow - hands-on access to non-final next-gen dev kits and his pictures of an older Durango dev kit having been verified by trusted sources.
    In the case of the brush-strokes of the Durango and Orbis specs, not only do we have double-sourced information of our own, but we also have an extra form of backup in the form of these other leaks. Therefore, our belief is that the specs we are discussing are not only accurate, but very, very close - if not identical - to the make-up of the final hardware.
    So does the GPU difference translate into as large an advantage as it sounds? VGleaks' Orbis spec, again derived from platform holder documentation, suggests that four of these CUs are reserved for Compute functions, conceivably bringing the PlayStation's raw advantage down from 50 per cent to just over 16. However, while Compute is often used for elements like physics calculations, there's nothing to stop coders hiving off specific graphics features to this hardware - Just Cause 2, for example, used NVIDIA's own Compute solution, CUDA, for enhanced water effects, while a core element of Battlefield 3 - the deferred shading solution that power its beautiful lighting - is handled via DirectX 11 Compute shader code.


    VGLeaks' block diagram of Durango's technological make-up, almost certainly leaked from official Microsoft documentation. It's a complex design indicative of a machine that's about more than gaming - a state of affairs backed up by the presence of an HDMI input.
    Durango uses an approach similar to PC, where the developers choose how to allocate GPU resources between rendering and Compute. A potential bottleneck can be seen here, however: rendering and Compute will compete for resources on the 12 Radeon GCN cores on the Microsoft console, while Orbis has dedicated Compute hardware and still commands a rendering advantage in terms of CU count.

    Other information has also come to light offering up a further Orbis advantage: the Sony hardware has a surprisingly large 32 ROPs (Render Output units) up against 16 on Durango. ROPs translate pixel and texel values into the final image sent to the display: on a very rough level, the more ROPs you have, the higher the resolution you can address (hardware anti-aliasing capability is also tied into the ROPs). 16 ROPs is sufficient to maintain 1080p, 32 comes across as overkill, but it could be useful for addressing stereoscopic 1080p for instance, or even 4K. However, our sources suggest that Orbis is designed principally for displays with a maximum 1080p resolution.

    The 'secret sauce' debate
    There's an argument that suggests that comparing Durango and Orbis on these terms is not realistic; that the platform holders have far more control over the design of the silicon than the raw specs suggest; that they can be adapted with manufacturer-specific 'secret sauce' customisations.

    The raw teraflop measurements being mooted - 1.23TF for Durango and 1.84TF for Orbis - have been dismissed as meaningless, and to a certain extent that is true. However, check out AMD's specs page for all of its various GCN hardware and you'll find similar metrics based a very easy formula derived from clock speed and CU count. It's not the be-all-and-end-all of processing power of course, but these are accurate measurements used by AMD itself in giving a broad assessment of the raw computational power of the parts it creates. You'll find that the next-gen console parts slot in quite nicely with their PC equivalents - in short, the teraflop metrics aren't much use in isolation but they are effective for comparison purposes in terms of base hardware capabilities.

    This is not to suggest that Durango and Orbis don't have custom hardware, however. They do, but even here we see a great deal of commonality between the two systems as engineers posed with the same problems come up with similar solutions: both have dedicated hardware video encoders and decoders (expect both consoles to be capable of recording and sharing gameplay footage with no impact to game performance), and both have custom audio processors and support for hardware de-archiving of LZ-compressed assets (think of this as support for lossless compression like ZIP files).

    But here we do see some intriguing enhancements that are Durango-specific. Its 'Data Move Engines' carry out hardware compression as well as decompression (and support for JPEG too - perhaps to handle Kinect camera streams), while there is also support for texture swizzling. However, the main takeaway here is that core elements of the Move Engine functionality are apparently designed to extract the best performance from a RAM set-up that is much more complex (and slower) than its Orbis equivalent. Elsewhere, most of the custom hardware works to ease the CPU burden, not to improve GPU performance, so those hoping for 'secret sauce' to overcome Orbis's theoretical graphics advantages are probably going to be disappointed.

    Durango: tentative specs
    This leaked spec for the next-gen Xbox comes from SuperDAE, a source known - however improbably - to be in possession of Durango hardware and documentation, a story we have covered in the past. Based on our discussions we believe that the information he has is, at most, nine months old - a point where the machine's make-up will almost certainly have been finalised.
    Central Processing Unit:
    x64 Architecture
    Eight CPU cores running at 1.6GHz
    Each CPU thread has its own 32KB L1 instruction cache and 32 KB L1 data cache
    Each module of four CPU cores has a 2MB L2 cache resulting in a total of 4MB of L2 cache
    Each core has one fully independent hardware thread with no shared execution resources
    Each hardware thread can issue two instructions per clock
    Graphics Core:
    Custom D3D11.1 class 800-MHz graphics processor
    12 shader cores providing a total of 768 threads
    Each thread can perform one scalar multiplication and addition operation (MADD) per clock cycle
    At peak performance, the GPU can effectively issue 1.2 trillion floating-point operations per second
    High-fidelity Natural User Interface (NUI) sensor is always present
    Storage and Memory:
    8GB of DDR3 RAM (68GB/s bandwidth)
    32MB of fast embedded SRAM (ESRAM) (102GB/s)
    From the GPU's perspective the bandwidths of system memory and ESRAM are parallel providing combined peak bandwidth of 170GB/sec.
    Hard drive is always present
    50GB 6x Blu-ray drive
    Networking:
    Gigabit Ethernet
    WiFi and WiFi Direct
    Hardware Accelerators:
    Move engines
    Image, video, and audio codecs
    Kinect multichannel echo cancellation (MEC) hardware
    Cryptography engines for encryption and decryption, and hashing

    An overview of the Durango graphics core via VGLeaks.com's unique access to Microsoft documentation. We see 12 GCN Compute Units with close access to 32MB of fast embedded RAM, in turn connected to the Data Move Engines.
    Indeed, many of the functions assigned to the Move Engines - tiling/untiling of textures, lossless decompression, texture decompression - were often hived off to the SPUs on the PlayStation 3. VGLeaks' quoted bandwidth specs - around 25GB/s, a plausible figure - is also ballpark with SPU performance carrying out the same task. So in essence, you could view elements of this "secret sauce" hardware as something like two or three fixed function SPUs available alongside the eight-core AMD processor. Orbis has its own custom hardware that does many of the same functions, and for the rest, it has the luxury of a fully programmable Compute module that Durango lacks (unless you cut into rendering resources).

    The fact that Durango's Data Move Engines are there at all points to another major difference between the two next-gen platforms: memory, and how data is shuttled around the system.

    RAM: capacity vs. bandwidth
    Durango is a memory monster, shipping with 8GB of RAM up against 'just' 4GB in its Sony competitor. It's an ambitious strategy, made necessary owing to Microsoft's hopes for the new Xbox to be more than just a games machine - the hardware is believed to reserve a significant amount of RAM for media functions, and rumours persist that the console can run dedicated apps and media side-by-side with gameplay.

    There's just one problem. Cramming 8GB of the fastest memory into a console box simply isn't logistically possible. A key Xbox 360 advantage over PS3 was a unified pool of 512MB of fast GDDR3 memory. GDDR5 is the latest equivalent, used principally in PC graphics cards, but the problem here is that the modules only come in certain capacities - the largest and most difficult to produce being 512MB. Daisy-chaining 16 of those onto a console motherboard just wouldn't work. Sony has opted for a tighter system - fewer memory modules, but all of them very, very fast. It retains GDDR5 as the single memory pool with all the raw bandwidth advantages that entails, but it is limited to 4GB (there are rumours of 6GB/8GB upgrades but this is highly unlikely to happen).

    Microsoft's technique for accommodating 8GB is to fall back on cheaper DDR3 modules - the same type found in current PCs and indeed Wii U. This presents a problem - namely, bandwidth. Think of data as water flowing through a pipe - the wider the pipe, the more water can flow through it at any given point. DDR3 can only process around one third the amount of data as the wider GDDR5, because the "pipe" is that much thinner. Microsoft's solution? To equip Durango with 32MB of fast memory (ESRAM) attached directly to the graphics core, but capable of being accessed from the CPU too. This little cache of memory can run in parallel with the DDR3, and combined bandwidth then rises back up to around 170GB/s - a number close to the throughput of the GDDR5 in Orbis.


    Durango's Data Move Engines are designed to shuttle data around a complex system of 8GB of DDR3 and 32MB of ESRAM, while providing CPU back-up for compression and decompression. Those hoping 'secret sauce' upgrades to boost graphics performance probably won't find much joy here.
    So what does this mean for game devs in real terms? Well, whichever way Microsoft tries to finesse it, the 32MB of ESRAM is a bit of a sticking plaster solution that is nowhere near as fast or efficient as the single unified pool of RAM available to Orbis. However, while the disadvantages are obvious, this is not to say that the situation is anything like a complete disaster for Durango development. Speaking to game makers, the impression we come away with is that not every feature in a game actually requires ultra-fast memory. Systems will be developed on the DDR3, and if memory throughput becomes an issue, those features will be ported over to the ESRAM where there's enough bandwidth to provide the raw performance if needed.

    Also mitigating the difference to a certain extent is the fact that Durango operates under an enhanced version of DirectX 11 - dubbed internally DirectX 11.x. It's highly likely that crucial rendering functions will automatically be optimised by Microsoft for use with the ESRAM.

    Direct X 11 vs. LibGCM
    Orbis tentative spec
    VGLeaks' Orbis spec, published a week after our own article on the technological make-up of the next-gen PlayStation, essentially provides more depth on the exact same information we covered. Our sources are entirely separate, but the close corroboration between them suggests that the more granular detail seen here is accurate.
    Central Processing Unit:
    Orbis contains eight Jaguar cores at 1.6GHz, arranged as two "clusters"
    Each cluster contains 4 cores and a shared 2MB L2 cache
    256-bit SIMD operations, 128-bit SIMD ALU
    SSE up to SSE4, as well as Advanced Vector Extensions (AVX)
    One hardware thread per core
    Decodes, executes and retires at up to two intructions/cycle
    Out of order execution
    Per-core dedicated L1-I and L1-D cache (32Kb each)
    Two pipes per core yield 12,8 GFlops performance
    102.4 GFlops for system
    Graphics Core:
    GPU is based on AMD's "R10XX" (Southern Islands) architecture
    DirectX 11.1+ feature set
    18 Compute Units (CUs)
    Hardware balanced at 14 CUs (4 dedicated to Compute)
    Shared 512KB of read/write L2 cache
    800MHz
    1.843 Tflops, 922 GigaOps/s
    Dual shader engines
    18 texture units
    8 render backends
    Memory:
    4GB unified system memory, 176GB/s
    3.5GB available to games (estimate)
    Storage:
    High speed Blu-ray drive (single-layer 25GB or dual-layer 50GB discs)
    Partial constant angular velocity (PCAV)
    Outer half of disc 6x (27 MB/s)
    Inner half varies, 3.3x to 6x
    Networking:
    1Gb/s Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, and Bluetooth
    Extra Hardware:
    Audio Processor (ACP)
    Video encode and decode (VCE/UVD) units
    Display ScanOut Engine (DCE)
    Zlib Decompression Hardware
    All of which brings us on quite nicely to the development environments accompanying the new hardware. It's business as usual for Microsoft, expanding on the existing Visual Studio tools used to create current-gen Xbox 360 titles. The switch from PowerPC to 64-bit x86 processors sees the introduction of a number of new extensions designed to leverage the new hardware, while the customised version of DX9 utilised by 360 gives way to a similarly enhanced DX11.

    From what we've heard, it should be a seamless transition for developers (especially those who've worked with DX11 on prior PC projects) and while some appear to be worried that being locked to the Microsoft API will be an issue, the fact is that there are specific DX11 functions available to devs tied into the custom Durango hardware. There's also a level of flexibility in how DirectX is used that is equivalent to the almost legendary concept of "coding to the metal". For example, on Xbox 360, Microsoft allow developers to load shader constant data into the GPU in its native form. Devs point the hardware to the data and it loads it - the challenge is to ensure it's in the right place, in the right format before the GPU gets to it. Strictly speaking, it's still working within the DirectX API, but effectively, developers are writing to the hardware directly.

    With regards the next-generation PlayStation, developers are highly unlikely to have the same kind of issues with the toolchain that they had with PS3. Having acquired SN Systems back in 2005, principally to improve the development environment for their consoles, we're told that the quality of the tools has increased exponentially to the point where one highly experienced game-maker we spoke to rates the PlayStation Vita tools as the most impressive he's used.

    With Orbis, Sony is using a new variant of the LibGCM library, which has also been utilised in PS3 and Vita. This allows developers to more directly address the hardware, so elements of the AMD graphics hardware in particular can be accessed in a manner where there is no direct correlation in DirectX. You only need to look at games like God of War and Uncharted to see what Sony's approach to exploiting its hardware can produce: these remain state-of-the-art video games to this day, despite utilising graphics hardware directly derived from now-obsolete vintage 2005 Nvidia graphics hardware. Of course, with PS3 in particular, the GPU is only one part of the overall hardware offering, but the fact remains that developers are extracting performance from RSX that could only have been dreamed of when the console was designed.


    A very basic overview of how the principal elements of Orbis link together. The core components - CPU and GPU - are an architectural match for Durango, but the memory set-up is simpler and faster and the graphics core is indeed 50 per cent larger.
    The next-gen battle-scape takes shape
    Back in 2005, Microsoft and Sony revealed their 'next-gen' console designs - Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. These were ambitious pieces of hardware: they pushed the power consumption envelope to a new high (with some disastrous consequences for reliability), they both co-opted performance PC parts into a console design. Microsoft pushed the boat out in terms of GPU power - the Xenos GPU was a forward-looking design architecturally more advanced than anything else available at the time. Sony gambled with Cell and Blu-ray - a complex CPU design that developers had trouble getting to grips with, and a storage system that few fully exploited - these elements, beyond all the others account for the gulf in performance between the best of the first- and third-party titles.

    Some might say that their replacements are products of the era of austerity, where the 'power at any cost' approach of the Xbox 360 and PS3 is replaced by a more sensible approach of re-purposing existing architecture and getting the best from it in a closed-box environment. Therefore, faced with the same essential challenges, it's no real surprise that both Microsoft and Sony have acquired very similar parts from the same vendor, based on existing technology (or in the case of the AMD CPU, a revised, improved version of a currently available processor), and that the more forward-looking approach of the current-gen designs isn't really present in their successors. The main point of differentiation is much narrower in the new hardware - Sony has invested more heavily in visual performance, while Microsoft's gamble is on RAM.

    On paper, Orbis looks like the tighter, more powerful, more games-focused design. With Durango, the astonishing lengths to which Microsoft has gone to accommodate 8GB of RAM adds further weight to the hypothesis that its plans for the Xbox hardware extend beyond gaming, that it wants the hardware to form a next-gen media centre. The question is to what extent its non-gaming plans impact on the processing resources available to developers...



    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/df...rango-vs-orbis

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    That was a good read.

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    11d 6h away.

    I wouldn't reveal the gpu ect until e3. I'd reveal the controller and os features and let the games do the speaking for those concerned about the ram/gpu/cpu staying secret. That leaves a bit of mystery left for gamers to discuss so no matter what MS reveal, the ps4 will not get totally swallowed in their hype.

    Man, this $#@! is like being a kid on christmas eve lol. I'm ready to see what both companies are offering.
    Destiny is going to be EVERYTHING that EA and MS hoped titanfall would be

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    i'm sure Nextbox will have a few great exclusives, but the PS4 will have as many if not more exclusives along with the better multi-plats this time. add in PS+ along with free online and Nextbox is not looking at all like the gamers 1st choice nextgen.

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    It's like this gen they released tech that was comparable because neither company quite knew where they were heading. Through this gen both companies have found their direction and their next gen tech seems to be built around that.

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    Good read from what I understood. I'm so ignorant with most in-depth tech talk. But it did help break it down some for the non techies.




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    Bad news for those rooting for Durango. "The 'secret sauce' debate" Lol. and apparently Move Engine on next box does not improve its GPU but only CPU.

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    It will be interesting to see how this all pans out in the end. As a person that has less and less time to actually play games....a big factor in my decision on what to buy first will be what other non-gaming features each system brings to the table.

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    hopefully preorders will start right after they make an announcement

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1solidsnake View Post
    hopefully preorders will start right after they make an announcement
    Yeah, I hope that as well. As I have money now so I can pay it all lol.


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    I'm still on the fence as to how AMD got the CPU to have a memory controller that works with GDDR5. If that's true, they are theoretically going to have the jump on Intel as far as memory support is concerned. That would be VERY interesting to see and possibly put them back to where they were when they introduced the Athlon to the PC market in ages of yore.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1solidsnake View Post
    hopefully preorders will start right after they make an announcement
    yeah I'm hoping that as well.




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    I will just buy them both.

    Thanks for the post.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blackout115 View Post
    I will just buy them both.

    Thanks for the post.
    Now to figure out how to combine both consoles into one in order to save living room space
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    Good read, thanks for posting.

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    Crazy how much closer this next gen will be. Great news!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soldier 95B View Post
    Crazy how much closer this next gen will be. Great news!
    We read same article?
    Funny how some people here reacts same as some people at GAF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWkSUL5X544

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soldier 95B View Post
    Crazy how much closer this next gen will be. Great news!
    On paper, Orbis looks like the tighter, more powerful, more games-focused design. With Durango, the astonishing lengths to which Microsoft has gone to accommodate 8GB of RAM adds further weight to the hypothesis that its plans for the Xbox hardware extend beyond gaming, that it wants the hardware to form a next-gen media centre.
    I dunno, it seems like "Durango" is going to be an "Entertainment (Not so)Supercomputer" and the PS4 is going to be the better games machine. Funny how things change from one gen to the next.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghost-Rhayne View Post
    It's like this gen they released tech that was comparable because neither company quite knew where they were heading. Through this gen both companies have found their direction and their next gen tech seems to be built around that.
    I think youre right. And I definitely prefer Sony's direction.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Soldier 95B View Post
    Crazy how much closer this next gen will be. Great news!
    lol Wut? You must have read a different article than everyone else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by radgamer420 View Post
    lol Wut? You must have read a different article than everyone else.
    I think he is upset and trying to bait or something.

    I dont get the point. I see this as good thing. MS is going to make "Everything Machine". which will be hells lot better than those Smart TV, Roku and etc..

    maybe even compatible with cable boxes in US. If that is the case, I for one will def pick up Next Box.

    but many people are just butt hurt that its spec is inferior and never gonna see the bright side of things.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FableMaster View Post
    We read same article?
    Funny how some people here reacts same as some people at GAF
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KWkSUL5X544
    I had a great laugh from this one!




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    cant waite for the 20th

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    Quote Originally Posted by FableMaster View Post
    I think he is upset and trying to bait or something. I dont get the point. I see this as good thing. MS is going to make "Everything Machine". which will be hells lot better than those Smart TV, Roku and etc.. maybe even compatible with cable boxes in US. If that is the case, I for one will def pick up Next Box. but many people are just butt hurt that its spec is inferior and never gonna see the bright side of things.
    Yep, I think 720 will be a multimedia entertainment hub first and foremost and PS4 will be a core gaming machine first and foremost. Both have their respective markets.

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    How legit are these specs though?

    EDIT: Ok so I guess these are pretty accurate after reading the article lol.

    But my problem is that even if Sony tries to up the visual performance, how will it be utilized when developers don't want to spend more time to customize the games for each consoles as that would mean more money.

    Lower common denominator is the issue here.
    Last edited by Omar; 02-10-2013 at 18:49.

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