iPhone 3GS SGX GPU to cause game coding headaches?

The new iPhone 3GS contains a PowerVR SGX graphics core, according to a new report, which also suggests that the new OpenGL ES 2.0 features may cause difficulties for game developers. Citing people familiar with the matter, AppleInsider reports that the new iPhone contains the new PowerVR SGX chip from Imagination Technologies, which has been integrated into the handset’s system-on-a-chip, manufactured by Samsung. Prior reports had suggested that an “international electronics systems company” had licensed the SGX technology for its own use in a multi-use, multi-year deal. It was later revealed that Apple had bought 8 million shares, or a 3% stake, in Imagination, further evidence of a relationship between the two companies.

The new SGX technology enables OpenGL ES 2.0-specific rendering features, including programmable shaders, while maintaining support for OpenGL ES 1.1 fixed-function rendering. However, games written to take specific advantage of the iPhone 3GS’s OpenGL ES 2.0 capabilities will need to contain two codebases, one for OpenGL ES 2.0 and one for 1.1, or break compatibility with older devices. This creates obvious difficulties for smaller developers who may not have the resources to create both sets of code; it also makes it less likely that currently-available games will be updated to take advantage of the iPhone 3GS hardware, as the financial benefits will most likely not be able to make up for the development time spent.