3Dfx Interactive Inc has introduced its Banshee 2D/3D chip (CI No 3,429) – which the company intends to ‘penetrate the PC OEM market’ with. Despite claiming on its website to be focused exclusively on the electronic entertainment market, the new 2D/3D chip is a departure for the California-based company. It is intended to benefit 2D […]
3Dfx Interactive Inc has introduced its Banshee 2D/3D chip (CI No 3,429) – which the company intends to ‘penetrate the PC OEM market’ with. Despite claiming on its website to be focused exclusively on the electronic entertainment market, the new 2D/3D chip is a departure for the California-based company. It is intended to benefit 2D applications such as graphical presentations, web browsing and Windows scrolling and drawing and supports Microsoft’s PC ’98 spec. However, Nasdaq-listed 3Dfx will have a much harder job breaking into the OEM market than it has had cracking the partisan 3D gaming market – where the Voodoo2 chipset is the current standard by which other companies’ products are measured. Competition is much fiercer in the OEM market, Matrox Graphics Inc and nVida Corp are also readying 2D/3D chips which claim high two dimensional performance and a degree of three dimensional performance equivalent to the Voodoo2 – although 3Dfx is still saying that the Voodoo2 offers superior 3D-only performance to its new chip. This is down to technology, previously it just wasn’t possible to offer good 2D/3D performance on one piece of silicon. But this advance signals a change in market emphasis, the new generation of single chip 2D/3D boards will be much more attractive to the OEM market than the multi-chip specialist 3D gaming boards – it is quite possible that 3Dfx’s Banshee will encroach on the Voodoo2’s marketshare.
Whatever happens to the Voodoo2, 3Dfx really needs the Banshee to be a success to bust the company out of the games ghetto. Despite research company John Peddie Associates predicting five million high-performance games boards will be sold this year (CI No 3,390), for all but the lucky few, the gaming board market will hold few treats. VideoLogic Group Plc is one of the few companies for which a dedicated gaming board means anything anymore – as its customized PowerVR chip will be on board the new Sega Dreamcast console (CI No 3,416) – and as the company’s marketing director, Trevor Wing, points out even the least successful console has sold seven million units, with the best-selling reaching around 30 million in sales. However, there are only three major console manufacturers and presumably all the contracts for next generation consoles have now been inked. Only Sony Corp has not yet announced partnerships for its next generation console – Nintendo Co Ltd, having gone to start-up ArtX for next generation ‘graphics technology’ (CI No 3,420). So where does this leave companies such as 3Dfx Interactive Inc? As a spokesperson for the company freely admits 3Dfx is not in the running to provide next-generation console chips, following its bust-up with Sega last year (CI No 3,238). So unless 3Dfx wants to remain the leader in a small race it must aggressively market and price its new Banshee.