Intel Arc chief is leaving Team Blue and this might be a good thing for gamers

Intel Graphics head Raja Koduri is leaving Team Blue to found an AI gaming company, putting a spotlight on the future of Intel’s discrete graphics dreams.

Announced by Intel’s CEO Pat Gelsinger yesterday on Twitter, the departure of Koduri comes after five years at Intel where he recently headed up Intel’s AXG graphics unit, responsible for producing the company’s discrete GPU to rival the best graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia.

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Koduri is leaving to found a generative AI gaming software startup, according to Tom’s Hardware, and his departure comes after a promotion in 2022 to executive vice president before being moved back to the role of Chief Architect, the role he took on after joining Intel in 2017 from AMD’s Radeon Graphics Unit.

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Koduri’s time at Intel has been a bit rocky in recent years, owing to the struggles Intel has had with its Intel Arc Alchemist graphics cards. Despite receiving decent reviews for those few reviewers who were able to get them in, finding the new graphics cards has been a challenge and those who have been able to get their hands on them have encountered performance issues tied to the drivers Intel has developed for the cards. Intel has since fixed some of these issues, but work remains to be done. 

How that work will continue remains to be seen, as Gelsinger’s message makes no mention of a replacement or anything about the future of Intel’s AXG graphics group.

Raja Koduri’s departure is a great opportunity for an Intel reset

There has been a lot of hype around Intel Arc Alchemist as well as a fair bit of letdown. Many of us have been hoping hard for Intel’s success in this endeavour as the AMD and Nvidia dichotomy in the GPU space could really do with some disrupting and there really aren’t that many players who can enter the GPU fray thanks to the enormous cost of entry.

That cost might be one that Team Blue is eager to cut in the coming months, and I genuinely hope that Raja Koduri’s departure isn’t a sign of things to come in that regard.

With Nvidia’s GTC 2023 event in full swing and Nvidia appearing to go all-in on AI and cloud services, I am very pessimistic about the future of Nvidia GeForce graphics cards

Market pressures are going to lean very heavily on Nvidia to invest in AI at the cost of its consumer products division, meaning more workstation GPUs and fewer graphics cards for gamers. The Nvidia RTX 5070 will still likely see the light of day in a couple of years, but with the way AI is going, I seriously doubt that we’ll ever see an Nvidia RTX 6070.

That leaves AMD and Intel, and while Team Red makes some incredible products, lack of real competition can only stifle innovation long term, and AMD will need a fire under its ass if it is going to continue the very positive trends we’re seeing.

And given the price inflation of the best AMD graphics cards in recent years, it’s hard to call AMD the budget option anymore. No, we need something else to fill that gap in the market, and Intel is very well positioned to serve that very real need. Will they? I definitely hope so, and Koduri’s exit should provide an opportunity for Intel to double down on its discrete graphics card ambitions rather than abandon them.

Intel Arc Alchemist might have been a semi-dud, but Battlemage can still succeed

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Getting a new product launch is hard, and for a first effort Intel Arc Alchemist seems like a pretty decent enough offering. It could absolutely be better, but what we really need is for the next Intel GPU to knock it out of the park.

There is a lot of attachment to Arc Alchemist from the Intel Graphics team for obvious reasons, and there does seem to be some genuine affection between Koduri and the team he led. Adversity tends to produce that, especially when the world seems to be counting you out from the jump. 

But given everything, new leadership might be what’s needed to get Intel’s graphics team back on track to make its next GPU a success. That GPU series, codenamed Battlemage, is undoubtedly in the works and this reset could be the perfect opportunity to shrug off the challenges of Alchemist, learn the lessons that need to be learned, and come in hot with a strong contender for the best cheap graphics card on the market in a year’s time.

And while every manufacturer wants to be out here claiming the title of “The Best There Is”, let’s be real: that’s the Nvidia RTX 4090, and that’s a graphics card that like five people are going to buy. Almost everyone else is going to be looking for something they can afford that will give them the next-gen gaming experience that they have been missing out on for the past few years.

Arc Battlemage can more easily hit that target and make a real case for itself as a viable alternative to Nvidia and AMD while also earning the gratitude of a lot of gamers out there who are increasingly feeling boxed out by those companies.

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