During AMD’s Q1 2016 earnings call on Thursday, executives from AMD estimated a 15 percent revenue increase in Q2 2016, plus or minus 3 points, and they cited three semi-custom system-on-chip (SOC) “wins” as the “larger driver” for that revenue. AMD estimates that these SOCs will bring in $1.5 billion in revenue “over the next three or four years.” At least one of those three SOC deliveries will begin “ramping” in the second half of this year, with all of those SOCs launching by 2017.
The reason that news is interesting is because AMD’s SOC products have mostly been the core components in small-form-factor games consoles in recent years, and major news leaks have connected one of those upcoming AMD SOCs to the “Neo” refresh of the PlayStation 4, which could launch as soon as October of this year.
AMD’s CEO Lisa Su made it clear during the earnings call that these semi-custom wins were related to the gaming sector, describing “semi-custom business and gaming” as the “larger driver” of Q2’s revenue growth. “If you think about the semi-custom business in the past few years, the third quarter is always the peak,” Su told reporters. “It will be the peak this year, as well, but we’re starting some of the ramping in the second quarter as we build to the stronger third quarter.”
But who is purchasing those other two gaming-related SOCs? AMD remained coy when asked directly: “I don’t believe we’ve gone through any detail about what those wins are,” Su said in the call. “I’d prefer to let that come out as our customers are ready to launch.”
One of those SOCs may very well land in Nintendo’s upcoming console, which the company began publicly acknowledging in March of last year with the name “Nintendo NX.” Nintendo only tapped AMD for a GPU with its Wii U console, but speculation of an incredibly powerful NX leads us to believe that Nintendo will dump IBM as a CPU provider and seek a more elegant, integrated SOC solution this time around, which AMD may very well provide. In addition, reports from last October speculated that this system would include “at least one mobile unit that could either be used in conjunction with the console or taken on the road for separate use.” If that rumor bears out by the time the Nintendo NX is announced this year, this could mean that AMD has provided two distinct SOCs for both the Nintendo NX’s primary console base and its portable, “separate-use” controller.
If that NX rumor does not bear out, however, that leaves us with an SOC that could land in a new, Xbox-branded console. According to Su’s statements, any unannounced SOCs would land in “a different console or a new console,” as opposed to “the current generation,” so this wouldn’t merely describe any AMD contribution to an “Xbox One Slim” model, but there’s no telling at this point whether Microsoft would actually create an Xbox 1.5 console as a result. (Some sort of new Xbox hardware will definitely be revealed by this June, at any rate.)
Su told reporters to expect the Polaris GPU rollout in the “second half” of 2016.