Intel’s much-discussed Arc Alchemist series of graphics cards is scheduled to be delayed even further. At the same time, the series was scheduled to be released in 2021, before returning to the second quarter of 2022 and then to summer 2022. Now, sources are indicating that the break should be pushed back even further, possibly until August, if not later.
According Igor’s Laboratory, the new release window may fall between early July and late August. Such late development delays are certainly not hardware related, pointing to software issues as the reason for the delay. It’s no secret that the success or failure of cards is largely down to the quality of the driver.
Of course, Intel will not take such a decision lightly. If the launch is in August, there will be little time for the range to establish itself or remain at the top of the PC news cycle before Nvidia and AMD’s next-gen cards launch later in the year. First generation Arc cards are believed to have a difficult task matching current generation GPUs, and certainly they won’t be able to compete with the Nvidia Ada Lovelace or AMD RDNA 3 cards, at least at the top of the market. They can still be very price-competitive if Intel aggressively goes after market share. It will be an interesting battle.
Igor continues to speculate that the software may not be the only reason for the delay. It’s certainly possible, if not likely, that other issues, including after-sales support, partner card development, game development and integration, or business considerations are a factor.
When all is said and done though, the driver is critical. A fast card will not be well-received if driver issues make it prone to crashes, artifacts, or crashes. Even Nvidia and AMD face criticism sometimes for this, and they have engineers with decades of experience coding drivers. Nvidia is interested in demonstrating how much of a massive operation it has to ensure proper testing.
Intel doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to timely driver updates. If it’s going to serve the gaming market, it needs to have mature drivers ready from day zero. Can’t leave players hanging when a game like Elden Ring comes out, with no driver optimized to support it.
Last week, Intel announced that buying Siru innovations. The Finnish company specializes in graphics and software development and the acquisition is a sign that Intel is committed to ensuring its software ecosystem is ready for a prime time release.
I hope Intel manages to run in the end. The market needs a major third party supplier. It’s better for Intel to delay a month or two and get the release right. A bad launch means social media and Reddit will attack Intel. Such is the need to win the hearts and minds of players, it is better to delay a little than to face a situation from which it would be difficult to recover.