Anyone who’s bought a reasonably high end (Q70 series and 120Hz or higher) Samsung TV since 2022 might have noticed a mysterious option in its menus called HDR10+ Gaming. Mysterious because it has appeared to be a feature with no purpose, given that there hasn’t been any support at all for HDR10+ Gaming at all in the video game world. Today, though, the feature has finally come into its own with the announcement of the very first HDR10+-enabled game title: NEXON’s The First Descendant.
We’ve known about third person ‘looter shooter’ The First Descendant for a while now. In-game footage has been around since June, it’s set to be properly unveiled at Gamescom 2023 (which starts on August 23), and an open Beta is scheduled to run between September 19 and 25. Samsung’s announcement today (August 21), though, is the first time we’ve known that the game is going to be breaking new high dynamic range ground with HDR10+ Gaming support.
The idea behind HDR10+ Gaming is that it offers a potential solution to the wide ranging difficulties gamers can have with getting the best out of their HDR gaming setups. While almost anyone who’s experienced it would agree that adding high dynamic range support to video games can transform the gaming experience, getting the best and most consistent results from an HDR gaming set up can be a complicated affair. The various hardware and software handshake ‘barriers’ between a game, a gaming device and a display make it difficult to get a game to understand the capabilities of the particular TV or gaming monitor you’re using, and adjust its HDR output accordingly.
Various systems have emerged to try and address this issue, from individual games offering test signals to help you adjust your monitor/TV set up, to the HDR Gaming Interest Group system (where you calibrate your console for your TV rather than having to retweak things for every separate game) and Sony’s Perfect For PlayStation initiative where PS5s can figure out which exact model of Sony Bravia TV they’re connected to, and adjust their HDR output accordingly.
Dolby Vision HDR gaming support on Xbox and some PC graphics cards has also attempted to introduce more consistency to HDR gaming on TVs or monitors that support the Dolby Vision format. Samsung, though, has famously never supported Dolby Vision on any of its television sets, preferring instead to its own Dolby Vision-rivalling HDR10+ system to deliver more dynamic, consistent and accurate HDR experiences. So the belated arrival of HDR10+ Gaming support is potentially a big deal for Samsung TV owners – and given that Samsung has been the world’s number one selling TV brand for years now, that’s a lot of TV owners.
According to Samsung (and expectations based on seeing HDR10+ at work with video sources for the past few years), the HDR10+ Gaming feature built into The First Descendant should result in deeper colour, expanded contrast and more brightness, and “more accurate depiction of details in dark shadow and bright highlights, which allows users to fully engage in their gaming adventure”.
The HDR10+ Gaming system is also designed to enable near-instant response times through low latency and variable refresh rate support, while giving developers more tools with which to improve the consistency and reliability of their games’ HDR performance.
Great though all this sounds, as you may have guessed from the mention of Dolby Vision earlier, there is a pretty major catch with Samsung’s big HDR10+ Gaming announcement. Namely that if you want to experience The First Descendant’s HDR10+ Gaming features for yourself, you will need a complete HDR10+ hardware set up to run the game on. So as well as a suitable Samsung TV or one of Samsung Odyssey gaming monitors (Odyssey 7 series and higher), you will also need an HDR10+-capable gaming device. Which at the time of writing is limited to a small number of PC GPUs, such as Nvidia’s RTX 30, RTX 20 and GTX 16 series models.
There’s no support for HDR10+ Gaming on any console so far – and given that Sony (along with LG) doesn’t support HDR10+ on any of its TVs, and has already developed its own Perfect For PlayStation HDR ‘handshaking’ system, it seems unlikely that the PlayStation 5, at least, will be getting HDR10+ support any time soon.
There’s more chance, it seems to me, that the Xbox might get HDR10+ support at some point – especially as Xbox has history with working with Samsung on various marketing and demonstration cross promotions. Xbox has already embraced Dolby Vision for its consoles, of course, so it can already claim to have made moves, along with its HGiG support, towards delivering better HDR experiences. Adding HDR10+ Gaming support, though, would signify that Xbox was willing to embrace a ‘universal’ dynamic HDR philosophy free of industry politics – a laudable approach that could also give Samsung TV owners a potential reason to buy an Xbox rather than a PlayStation.
With all this in mind we’ll be watching closely to see if The First Descendant marks the beginning of a deluge of HDR10+ Gaming titles or remains pretty much a one off. But owners of recent premium Samsung TVs and gaming monitors, at least (specific HDR10+ Gaming support has yet to appear on TVs from other HDR10+-supporting brands), will be pleased to see that a previously redundant feature on their TVs now finally has a purpose.
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