Gamescom 2019: did ray tracing finally find its killer app?

There were many highlights for Digital Foundry at this year’s Gamescom, from the impressive Switch line-up to the hugely impressive retro-inspired Wrath: Aeon of Ruin. We’ll be covering both of those soon – but with the absence of any next-gen console reveal, it was Nvidia that provided the most tantalising glimpse of the future of games technology. Almost one year after its RTX video cards launched, there’s the sense that support for hardware-accelerated ray tracing is gathering momentum and in Minecraft RTX, there’s a near-total implementation of RT that sets the imagination on fire.

It’s a far cry from the launch of the RTX cards at the tail end of September last year – a debut for new Nvidia hardware that fell short of its potential due to a lack of software support. Rasterisation performance gains over existing Pascal-based GPUs were minimal, meaning that the experience of gaming using, say, an RTX 2080 was virtually interchangeable with the existing GTX 1080 Ti in the same price bracket.

Ray tracing demonstrations at Gamescom 2018 showed rich potential, but nothing launched alongside the hardware – and even when showpiece game Battlefield 5 arrived with RT support, it took weeks of further development to get performance into the right place. More than that though, the briliant Metro Exodus aside, it was difficult to see where the momentum would come for further ray tracing support. Where were the big triple-A launches with RTX features?

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