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Yoshida: Can Renesas be saved by the Wii U?

Posted: 20 Nov 2012 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Wii U? multi-chip module? 45nm process technology? system on chip? GameCube?

I am keen to see how the upcoming launch of Nintendo's Wii U will fare. Why should I care? Well, because Renesas Electronics has a lot riding on it.

Although I'm not a video game fanatic, I'm keen to find out how Nintendo's upcoming Wii U launch will fare. It hits the shelves in the U.S. on the 18th of November, in Europe and Australia on the 30th and here in Japan on the December 8.

But why should I care? Well, because Renesas Electronics has a lot riding on the Wii U launch.

Although no teardown specialists have worked on the Wii U yet, we know Nintendo is using a multi-chip module (MCM) containing both a multi-core CPU and GPU along with on-chip memory on a single substrate. The MCM integrates IBM's CPU die based on its 45nm process technology and a Renesas-manufactured AMD's GPU die.

Nintendo's Wii U

Nintendo's Wii U

Combining dies manufactured by different companies on a single component has been done before. It's no cakewalk. But the challenge is paying off for Nintendo's engineering team. The MCM reduces latency and power consumption while reducing the overall size of the hardware C Nintendo's primary goal.

Some of Wii U's internal hardware and design challenges were discussed on Nintendo's Web site in a video segment in which company president Satoru Iwata interviewed Nintendo's chief game and hardware designers.

Renesas hasn't confirmed its design win for Nintendo's next-generation game machine. Nintendo did mention that Renesas received "a large-scale system on chip (SoC) custom order from the amusement sector" during a conference call on its quarterly financial results.

The lone bright spot for Renesas
The Nintendo design win is a testament to the engineering expertise of the former NEC Electronics' team. NEC Electronics, before its merger with Renesas, was responsible for the production of GPUs for Nintendo GameCube and Wii.

The Wii U design win is one of the few bright spots for Renesas on an otherwise bleak horizon. The European electronics industry is facing prolonged debt worries while the Chinese market continues to slow. China sales for Japanese car makers, key Renesas clients, have been hit by a popular backlash against Japanese products after a territorial dispute flared up again.

Renesas' Q2 financial results that ended Sept. 30 already incorporated the sales of GPUs for Nintendo's Wii U. Compared to Q1, sales of SoCs in the Q2 jumped 20.6 per cent to 55 billion yen from 34.4 billion yen. Most of the increase is believed to come from GPUs for Nintendo.

Semiconductor Sales

Renesas Electronics Semiconductor Sales: Q2 semiconductor sales improved by 22%, driven by large custom projects like SoCs.
Source: Renesas Electronics

Renesas said it continues to expect sales of custom SoCs in the gaming segment to increase.

All bets are off, of course, if Wii U turns out to be a dud.

- Junko Yoshida
??EE Times

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