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Qualcomm’s ambitious move to revolutionise gaming on Arm laptops

Qualcomm announces that most Windows games will run on upcoming Arm-based laptops without porting, promising a new era for gaming.

Qualcomm has sparked discussions with its bold claim that most Windows games should seamlessly run on its forthcoming Arm-based laptops, which is an exciting development for gamers and tech enthusiasts alike. This statement was made during the 2024 Game Developers Conference, particularly in a “Windows on Snapdragon, a Platform Ready for your Games” session. Qualcomm engineer Issam Khalil emphasised that the new Snapdragon-powered Windows laptops would utilise emulation to support x86/64 games, potentially at near full speed. This revelation signals a promising future for Arm laptops, especially considering Qualcomm's plan to release Snapdragon Elite systems this summer. Furthermore, industry insiders have hinted at the May launch of consumer versions of the Surface Pro 10 and Surface Laptop 6 equipped with these advanced chips.

The emulation advantage

The strategy behind this significant leap involves a clever emulation technique that allows the laptops to run existing x86/64 games efficiently. Apple's success partly inspires Qualcomm's confidence in this approach with its Rosetta 2 translation layer, demonstrating that laptops powered by Arm chips could handle legacy x86 apps without significant performance losses. Qualcomm outlines three options for developers to optimise their games for the Snapdragon platform: porting to native ARM64, creating a hybrid ARM64EC app, or relying on x64 emulation. Khalil reassured developers that no primary code or asset changes would be needed, highlighting that most games are limited by GPU rather than CPU performance. This approach ensures that GPU performance remains strong, with minimal CPU performance impact during code translation or transition.

Challenges and solutions

Despite the optimistic outlook, there are challenges to consider. Games that depend on kernel-level anti-cheat drivers or the AVX instruction sets may face compatibility issues with emulation. Qualcomm suggests using SIMDe for a smoother transition to NEON code for developers facing these obstacles. However, the company remains confident, having tested many popular Steam games, indicating that most titles should operate without issues. This effort is crucial for Qualcomm, as offering a seamless gaming experience on Arm laptops could significantly affect market reception and adoption.

A new horizon for PC gaming

Qualcomm's venture into making Arm-based laptops a viable gaming platform could transform the landscape of PC gaming. Alongside Valve's efforts to bring Windows games to Linux and Apple's tools for Mac, Qualcomm's initiative with Microsoft might introduce a fresh and efficient alternative for gaming on Windows. However, the real test lies in the performance and battery life balance that these Snapdragon X Elite chips can offer in gaming scenarios. As the gaming community awaits these developments, the potential for a significant shift in how games are played and developed looms, marking a new chapter in the evolution of PC gaming.

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Gabriela Gavrailova
Gabriela Gavrailova
Gabriela is a freelance news editor at Tech Edition, where she writes about technology and often does listicles and product reviews. Based in Austria, Gabriela is a person with many and diverse hobbies. If you don't find her reading a book at home or baking something, she will probably be out hiking or taking some classes to learn a new skill.

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