For almost a decade, quad-core processors or CPUs with 4 Cores and 4 Threads have reigned supreme in 1080p gaming. This reign has come to an end and these 4 Core/ 4 Threaded Intel Core i5s or Ryzen CPUs will no longer be suitable for gaming as this console generation comes to an end.
Most of you understand why the CPU requirements of a PC game are directly proportional to console specs. For those who don’t, let me give you a brief rundown.
The fact that video game sales are significantly higher on consoles than PC, game developers focus primarily to perfect their game engines for consoles. Furthermore, to avoid disparity in visual fidelity, PC gamers are more or less bound by console specs. Hence, the only true advancement in graphics is seen when a console generation is near its end.
Both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One feature custom AMD Jaguar processor with 8 Cores. Of these 8 Cores, only 6.5 Cores are available to devs for utilization.
As this generation started, the specs for PC games started to demand CPUs with 4 Cores and 4 Threads which at the time Intel Core i5 CPUs were famous for.
Throughout the generation, we saw PC ports of video games were demanding quad-core CPUs. However, as we are reaching the end of the console cycle, PC games are now demanding 8 threaded CPUs.
There is a reason behind it and it is also the reason behind the high CPU or 100% CPU utilization in recent PC video games. At the start of the console generation, the game engines weren’t perfected to fully utilize the power of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
The game engines were still being perfected and the multi-platform games launched during early-mid of this generation ran pretty well on 4 Core/ 4 Threaded Intel Core i5 processors.
But with the passage of time, developers have perfected their games engine to utilize multi-core Jaguar CPUs of PS4 and Xbox One. This resulted in PC games requiring at least 4 Core/ 8 Threaded CPUs to play games at ultra settings and even then you can’t touch 60 FPS.
Common examples are Assassin’s Creed Origins, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Red Dead Redemption 2, Monster Hunter World and many more. AC Origins and Odyssey are especially CPU demanding games and if you try to play them on 4 Core/ 4 Threaded CPUs, it’ll just bottleneck your GPU.
The reason behind their CPU intensiveness is how these games handle NPC AI. You see, both titles keep track of NPCs, their routines, what they do during the day and what they do during the night. With so much CPU utilization, expecting 60 FPS from these games with 4 Core/ 4 threaded CPUs is just unrealistic.
This is also true for Monster Hunter World. The game worlds have become so elaborate and huge that quad-core CPUs aren’t able to deliver 60 FPS while running these titles.
Not only that, the aforementioned Assassin’s Creed games, Red Dead Redemption 2, and Monster Hunter World aren’t even able to hit 60 FPS with 8 threaded CPUs at ultra settings.
This is also reflected in core/thread counts of modern CPUs. Intel Core i5 is no longer a 4 Cores/4 Threads CPU as Intel has increased the Core/thread count to 6 and Ryzen has outdone Intel in that regard.
That’s not to say you can play PC games on quad-core CPUs. While they aren’t able to reach 60 FPS, these CPUs are still capable of running games at a stable 30 FPS, which I realize isn’t an option for most PC gamers.
If you need more concrete information on this, you can check out Digital Foundry’s video which also explains that time of 4 Core/ 4 Threaded CPUs is over.
In the end, it all boils down to how developers are utilizing their tech. The game world is so huge and elaborate, they demand more Cores and threads from CPUs.
This isn’t a bad thing, this is just the price of progress in video game tech. If we want bigger and better games, then we have to leave these old CPUs behind and it has always been like this. This how we moved from dual-core CPUs to 16 Core/ 32 threaded CPUs.