September 21, 2004 2:07 PM PDT

First game arrives for AMD 64-bit chip

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The first computer game designed to take full advantage of the 64-bit features of Advanced Micro Devices' Athlon chip came out Tuesday, although the operating system to run it won't appear for about another year.

Atari has released a 64-bit version of "Shadow Ops: Red Mercury," according to AMD and Atari. Chips that allow 64-bit addressing can handle far more memory than the 32-bit chips found in desktops today, a situation that should lead to graphics that are more dense and realistic.

The game, which revolves around fighting computerized opponents in exotic locales around the world, was originally developed for Microsoft's Xbox, which uses a 32-bit chip. Converting the game to 64-bit functionality did not take much time, an Atari spokesman said.

The fact that Atari came out with the first 64-bit game is somewhat of a surprise. Earlier this year, AMD said 64-bit versions of Ubisoft's "Far Cry" and Epic Games' "Unreal Tournament" would come out in the first quarter.

Those games, though, have been pushed back because of delays to the 64-bit version of Windows XP, which is designed for chips based on the x86 architecture, such as the Athlon or Intel's Pentium. Originally due last year, the operating system was initially pushed back till the end of 2004. Now it's not expected until mid-2005, an AMD spokesman said. Beta versions of the operating system, however, are available that can run the new game.

Some Linux developers have come out with 64-bit versions of Linux operating systems for Athlon 64, but these are mostly of interest to engineers, who use it on workstations, or IT managers running server farms.

Though gamers will likely begin to buy 64-bit desktops when the final version of Windows XP for those systems comes out, the wider market likely won't adopt them right away. Four gigabytes of memory costs about $700 to $1,000, depending on the speed and the manufacturer--that's more than what many computers cost. Most current computers come with only 512MB of memory.

Intel has indicated in the past that it won't likely come out with a 64-bit desktop chip until the arrival of Longhorn, Microsoft's next big operating system. Longhorn is now due in late 2006.

Separately, AMD also released the Mobile AMD Athlon 64 3000+ processor, its first chip based on 90-nanometer manufacturing. Acer will use the chip in a new version of its red Ferrari notebook coming out later this month.

 

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