Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards could be a minimum requirement for some PC games as soon as 2023

(Image credit: Future)

A graphics researcher and expert in ray tracing who has worked with Nvidia for a decade has made quite a startling prediction: that a big-name ‘AAA’ game will need a ray tracing-capable GPU to run by 2023.

In other words, if you don’t have a GeForce RTX graphics card – or AMD, or indeed Intel's ray tracing equivalent – you won’t be able to play that big-name title.

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Of course, bear in mind that this is just a prediction from Nvidia’s Morgan McGuire – some educated guesswork from an expert – who also believes that in 2023, every gaming platform will offer hardware-accelerated ray tracing (even Nintendo’s, we might query?).

At any rate, the theory is that ray tracing will be ‘pervasive’ at this point – present in many or indeed most games as an option – but a solid requirement for one AAA release, or so McGuire claims.

Certainly ray tracing being widespread seems on the money in four years’ time, as it appears to now be part of the puzzle for the future of gaming and graphics. The majority of games offering the feature makes sense, and not just on the PC, but consoles, given that the next-gen Xbox Scarlett and PS5 will support ray tracing (the latter will run with a customized Radeon Navi GPU capable of ray tracing).

But the really controversial aspect here is the assertion that a major games publisher will ship a title which absolutely requires a ray tracing graphics card on the PC – thereby leaving some folks in a position where they are forced to upgrade, or not be able to play.

Does that really seem likely? Well, at some stage, a ‘forced upgrade point’ will be reached, assuming that ray tracing continues to be the path that GPU makers are going down, of course. And as we already mentioned, that certainly seems to be the avenue that the industry is travelling down…

Not unthinkable

Clearly, the prediction that a big-name game will require a ray tracing GPU in just four years is a tricky assertion to evaluate, but it isn’t an unthinkable scenario. Not for a single game…

Also remember that McGuire is talking about a hybrid ray tracing solution here; the one currently employed by Nvidia where only certain parts of any given scene are ray-traced, while rasterization rendering is used elsewhere.

That’s a performance shortcut – and indeed frame-rate hits are heavy enough even using this route – but interestingly, McGuire believes that full-fat ray tracing (‘pervasive path tracing’) will be fully adopted come 2035. So that’s obviously much further out.

Of course, another point to bear in mind is certain games will always be on the cutting-edge spec-wise: just look at Control with a GPU-melting recommended spec demanding an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti (and an absolute minimum of a GTX 1060).

So it isn’t like demands aren’t already made on PC gamers, even if they aren’t as overt as "you must buy a ray tracing card to play this title".

Overall, opinions online seem pretty divided on this one, but McGuire’s prediction isn’t as outlandish as it might first appear – and support of the tech from Microsoft and Sony’s next-gen consoles will likely do a lot to drive ray tracing further forward. It could well be these consoles that really push ray tracing, and by extension PC gamers playing cross-platform titles.

Via PC Gamer

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).