Well, this is an odd one. It’s pretty routine for game developers to announce the system requirements for their games ahead of release. This is a great way of letting players know whether their system will be able to handle any given game, and can clue people up if they need to plan to pick up any new parts for their PC ahead of release. What is decidedly not routine is for those officially announced system requirements to change after their initial publication. We track System Requirements pretty regularly, and you can take a look at some of the requirements we’ve archived over here, and it is not common at all to see developers chop and change requirements, usually, once they’re published, they are locked in. Typically a developer, especially a larger developer with a robust pre-release testing procedure, would undergo extensive testing of their game across a variety of hardware configurations prior to publishing any system requirements information, so as to ensure their accuracy.
For Dirt 5, however, Codemasters have very quietly changed their published system requirements, although just on the AMD side of things, their recommendations for Intel CPUs and Nvidia GPUs are as of yet unchanged. Originally, when published onto their Steam page back on the 16th of August, Codemasters were recommending at least an RX Vega 64 GPU and a Ryzen 5 2600X. As of today, their recommended hardware is instead an RX 5700 XT GPU and a Ryzen 5 3600, which are both higher-end components than the originally published system requirements. None of these are bleeding-edge components and would be fairly typical to find in any modest gaming system, but there are no doubt plenty of players that would have met or surpassed the recommended system configuration as originally listed, but now fall short.
Codemasters has not shared precise information on what graphical features, resolution, or framerate they would be targeted with the game on recommended settings, so it’s perhaps somewhat of a moving target depending on player preferences, but this is still a curious situation that warrants some exploration.
We have asked Codemaster why this increase in system requirements has happened, but they haven’t got back to us yet. They haven’t gone out of their way to shout this change from the rooftops, it’s a change that they’ve made quietly with little fanfare, so perhaps they’re hoping no one has noticed, but they didn’t count on our eagle eye paying close attention to these things.
There are a few interesting aspects to this change that could perhaps have lead to it being made, so here are our various theories that could be causing this decision from Codemasters.
Codemasters has been making racing games across various different platforms since the 80s, and as long as I’ve been alive. They clearly have a lot of expertise in this area, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious technical hurdles associated with every project they embark on.
Previews for Dirt 5 have mentioned technical problems, with for example Forbes preview citing recurring crashes, buggy gravity, and various other technical issues. This preview was based on the console version of the game, but it’s entirely feasible that any technical problems present there would also be affecting the PC build.
Dirt 5 was originally announced for an October 9th release, before being delayed to October 16th, and then again delayed to November 6th. There could be a multitude of reasons leading to this delay, whether that’s marketing reasons, supply chain issues, or whether the game does need more work in order to get ready for release. In general, I think players would have sympathy for a studio who had to delay their game in 2020, it’s been a difficult year for everyone, and in particular tasks like the final round testing and quality assurance that help to make a game feel polished and perform well will be difficult when being forced to switch to a remote working arrangement at short notice.
Fingers crossed that if there are any technical issues plaguing the game, perhaps issues that negatively impact performance across certain hardware, these will be fully addressed prior to release.
It is perhaps notable that it is only AMD hardware that has had the system requirements changed, with system requirements for Intel and Nvidia components remaining unchanged, with the recommended Intel CPU being a Core i5 9600K or above, and recommended Nvidia GPU being the GTX 1070. Perhaps these will change prior to release too, we’ll certainly keep an eye out for any movement in that regard, but it could perhaps be a sign that whatever difficulties resulted in the change in system requirements could relate to AMD specific optimization. AMD’s RX Vega 64 GPU and Ryzen 5 2600X hardware certainly hasn’t changed during the development of Dirt 5, but perhaps there are some driver related issues that are affecting the performance of Dirt 5. It wouldn’t be the first time that a game has had technical issues linked to driver updates that are outside of their control, famously multiplayer shooter Brink launched with serious technical issues which the developer blamed AMD’s drivers for.
We do know that for another recent Codemasters game, on the GPU side, they are leaning hard into Nvidia specific features, with F1 2020 being updated to support Nvidia’s DLSS tech. It could be that for one of many potential reasons, focusing on Nvidia hardware is a bigger priority for Codemasters. As of the latest Steam user survey, with the current active userbase on Steam, Nvidia has 73.82% of the GPU market share, with AMD coming in at just 16.25%. This is a pretty massive difference, so logic would dictate that prioritizing for performance on Nvidia hardware is in general going to be the priority for most developers, has perhaps additional effort that was planned for optimization on the AMD side been deprioritized as they approach the home stretch on development?
Codemasters is a fairly prolific developer and publisher in the racing space, often releasing two or even three major racing games every year. Racing is their specialty, and they have a dedicated following made of passionate racing fans. One interesting element with Dirt 5 is that it’s their first planned release for the next generation consoles from both Sony and Microsoft. They’re making the very consumer-friendly choice to the next generation version of Dirt 5 with purchases of the current generation version, so customers can pay once to get both the Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X version or the PS4 and PS5 version. It could perhaps be that with the extra workload involved in juggling additional console devkits, and optimizing for a much wider range of console hardware, Codemasters are struggling to get all versions running across all platforms as well as they might hope.
In 2020, doing a Playstation and Xbox version of a game actually means doing a PS4 version, a PS4 Pro version, a PS5 version, an Xbox One version, an Xbox One X version, an Xbox Series S version, and an Xbox Series X version. What on the surface may appear to just be two platforms is actually seven different devices, and this increasing complexity does result in an increased workload for any developer targeting all these systems, particularly if you’re dealing with early versions of console SDKs and development tools that perhaps haven’t had all the issues ironed out yet. Beyond the delay, there’s no strong indication that Codemasters are struggling with this aspect of getting Dirt 5 ready for release, and certainly, they are a seasoned studio with lots of experienced staff, but it’s going to be very interesting to see how the different versions of Dirt 5 stack up against each other when they release. The game itself looks great, but we are very curious to see how these lingering questions about the technical aspects of the gameplay out.