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AMD's Mantle May Already Be Irrelevant

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When AMD (NASDAQ: AMD  ) first announced its Mantle graphics API, the promise of radically improved performance over Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT  ) DirectX -- the de facto standard in the PC gaming industry -- seemed almost too good to be true. With the first games to support Mantle now available, the API provides large performance gains for certain configurations, but more modest gains otherwise. While Mantle is impressive, it's likely no game changer for AMD.

Source: AMD

The biggest problem with Mantle is that game developers need to add support for the API, a task which adds both cost and time to the development process. Given that Mantle is only supported on AMD GPUs -- not those from rival NVIDIA (NASDAQ: NVDA  ) -- the return on investment for game developers is questionable at best.

Microsoft isn't taking Mantle lying down, with the dominance of DirectX critical to the success of the Windows platform. At the upcoming Game Developers Conference, Microsoft is set to host two presentations that promise to unveil plans to make future versions of DirectX more efficient by reducing overhead, the same feat that AMD has accomplished with Mantle. In addition, a presentation about OpenGL, the other major graphics API, promises to show how the existing implementation can reduce overhead by a factor of 10 or more. With DirectX already widely used by game developers, and OpenGL apparently able to match Mantle's performance gains today, Mantle doesn't seem to have much of a chance of gaining wide acceptance.

A two-horse race
Both DirectX and OpenGL have been around for a long time, and both are very mature graphics APIs. Almost all triple-A PC games use DirectX, and the Xbox One uses a modified version of DirectX that allows for more direct hardware access. OpenGL, on the other hand, is cross-platform, and the embedded version has become the standard on mobile devices. Some high-profile PC games use OpenGL, like the phenomenally successful Minecraft, but DirectX has largely remained the standard in the world of PC gaming.

Where does Mantle fit in? If the performance gains are indeed short-lived, then it doesn't fit in at all. DirectX will take some time to catch up, but OpenGL, at least according to the GDC presentation, is already capable of matching Mantle's performance improvements. And with OpenGL supported by all major graphics hardware vendors and functional on all major platforms, supporting Mantle doesn't make much sense.

What this means for AMD and NVIDIA
Mantle was supposed to provide AMD with a big advantage over NVIDIA's hardware, and while the performance gains are real, they will likely be short-lived. AMD certainly deserves credit for pushing the graphics industry forward, lighting a fire under Microsoft to improve DirectX, but Mantle is extremely unlikely to supplant either DirectX or OpenGL.

This leaves AMD in the same position that it was in before Mantle, spreading itself too thin across multiple businesses and falling behind in all of them. NVIDIA's recently announced GPUs based on the new Maxwell architecture provide massive gains in power efficiency compared to AMD's products, and at the high end of the market, NVIDIA's products offer the best performance per dollar, according to Tom's Hardware.

While Mantle has certainly compelled Microsoft to improve DirectX, I doubt the API will be around five years from now. OpenGL already provides a cross-platform alternative to DirectX while being supported by all graphics vendors, not just AMD, and any performance advantage that Mantle has will be short-lived. If the goal of Mantle was to push the graphics industry forward, then AMD succeeded. But Mantle doesn't give AMD an advantage against NVIDIA, and the latter will likely keep its market-leading position.

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  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2014, at 10:12 PM, rav55 wrote:

    @Timothy Green

    When Mantle is still around 5 years from now will you promise to stop writing?

    Mantle will get better and massively multiplayer game developers are very excited to be able to finally develop epic games.

    DirectX 12 ore whatever will NOT see the light of day for at least a year. And Windows 9 wil probably be the O/S.

    So for MOST of the world you either deal with the innefficiencies of Directx11 or use Mantle.

    DirectX 12 is vaporware. It is nothing but a promise from Microsoft and a dangerous one for Intel as well. The CPU is now the culprit for graphic bottlenecks, Mantle opens that bottleneck and makes better use of the GPU. Intel is ALL about the PRIMACY of the CPU.

    With AMD winning the Console business, one has to assume that any API written either by Sony or Microsoft is very close to Mantle. That also puts Microsoft at a disadvantage XBOX API would also not run on nVidia or Intel GPU's. So they have to dummy down there new version of Direct X and it will as a matter of course perform at a much lower level.

    While Sony and Microsoft have both come out and stated that MAntle suppor twil not be a part of their consoles, neither have they come out and stated that their console API's are proprietaru either. It would stand to reason the API instruction set used by both consoles OEM's belongs to AMD.

    You also don;t really have much of a clue about what drives game development.

    It's ALL about the WOW factor. Mantle gives developers the ability to create games that are staggeringly apic.

    "Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door."

    Mantle is a better Mousetrap. If it is not then why is Microsoft announcing software it does not have? They have NEVER pre-announced vapor ware. It also took Intel and nVidia over a year to announce DirectX 11 compatibilty all while AMD was Directx11 compatible.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2014, at 10:38 PM, rav55 wrote:

    Direct 12 will not be available until at least Win8.2 or more likely 9. Given the adoption rate of the software, the eal world impact of directx11 will be miniscule. Since XP and Windows 7 are the two most popular Windows operating system I do not see Microsoft releasing Direct X 12 to run on legacy software. Instead they will use it as a carrot to beat the gaming community over the head to force them to purchase more Microsoft bloat ware.

    MANTLE is available NOW. Nobody is going to wait for empty promises from Microsoft and then have to upgrade their operating system and probably loose their entire installed game portfolio.

    What is errelevant is Direct X 11. It has been rendered obsolete overnight.

    This also shoots holes in Intels plan to give nVidia the boot and go it alone in the graphic space. Intel does not plan on supporting PCIe after 2016. How do I know this? Intle was ordered by the FTC to provide such support until that date. Thsi was in response to Oak Trail NOT having PCIe support.

    Without PCIe nVidia and AMD will not have access to the Intel bus. The ONLY purpose really for PCIe and AGP which is also dead is for discrete graphics cards. Intel expects that it's own IGP will replace most mid-range graphics cards and then they will introduce their own discrete GPU.

    However with the majority of game develoment NOT dependent upon DirectX, this becomes problematic for Intel. Intels plan can not be executed unless Microsoft controls gane development.

    So be careful what you wish for. AMD has been the best friend of the PC consumer by keeping Intel honest and prices low. By crowing about how AMD's latest disruptive technology will be trumped by Microsoft just may not be in the best interest of you or the game enthusiast in general.

    I fail to understand just why the market hates AMD so much maybe it's becasue without AMD we'd all be paying $1000 for a 1 gig single core cpu today.

    Without AMD Intel would not have to innovate and would have a monopoly over the entire industry.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2014, at 11:33 PM, jwtrotter wrote:

    Can someone on Fool promise to have a place for the AMD fanbois to write to each other that is screened from the rest of us . . please!!!

    I hope someone in the Fool editorial department understands that while you have at least someone making comments because these guys seem to live for that purpose, you are basically setting up an environment where no one else wants to post anything. It's not worth the trouble. And if you decide to delete this comment and not even respond to me, you are only enabling a pattern that is non-productive, non-inviting and non-informative. You might as well eliminate the comment section at this point imo.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2014, at 11:46 PM, TEBuddy wrote:

    Can this FOOL please explain how MSFT is going to know how to take advantage of a GPU which it knows nothing about? They have yet to demonstrate an ability to provide an API that actually utilizes a GPU or good multithreading. However, if they do, who is responsible for that. Lets think about this. AMD!!!! AMD provides the Xbox hardware with an 8-core processor with integrated graphics on the APU. SO....tell me how is MSFT going to beat AMD at AMD's game? How is MSFT going to make something work better on a GPU than AMD, when AMD has likely taught MSFT everyhing they know about graphics API and gaming hardware.

  • Report this Comment On March 05, 2014, at 11:47 PM, TEBuddy wrote:

    PLEASE, tell us where nvapi fits in, where is your story about nVidia's proprietary api is a non starter or complete failure?

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 7:48 AM, RingoStarbuck wrote:

    While I think that comments and debate are good, people who are not actually game developers should not post about game development. The Xbox One API is not Mantle, I know this for a fact as I am in game development. I work with Intel, AMD and NVIDIA and they are all good in their own way, they all have good engineers, but some of the posts on here are so inaccurate that it is embarrassing.

    Mantle is interesting and a throwback to the days or "Metal" and "Glide" (for those of you older enough to remember), but that is not always the right thing to do. Mantle is additional work, not less, so as game developers we have to weigh up what the real return on investment is for, say, an additional six months for a 20 man team and how many copies we sell of a game, over and above what we think we will sell anyway.

    Mantle only works with GCN based products from AMD. Using Steam data as a rough guide, that is maybe 1-2% of the PC installed base of gamers.

    We will keep looking at Mantle and if the installed base increases to a reasonable number (of GCN enabled PC's) then it is something that we may consider implementing.

    Anyway guys, not often that I post on any boards (in fact we are actively encouraged not to), but sometmes, people just have to put the record straight, or at least add real-world input.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 9:29 AM, rav55 wrote:

    So Ringo. To follow your logic then this artical should never have been written as the author is not a game developer.

    SO what if it takes work! Anything worth doing takes work. Sounds like you are just too damm lazy to learn to do something better. Or maybe you don't a high performance API, Pac-Man and Space invaders isn't very demanding.

    Likely you are not a game developer either.

    Mantle is NOT a throw back to Metal or Glide. And yes it works best with GCN. Why not? AMD has critical mass with the game consoles. The Console API's are all quite likely similar to Mantle and likely were developed by AMD.

    I also did not say that Sony or XBOX API is Mantle they are however similar. But what XBOX and Sony is not is Direct X. The purpose of Mantle is to limit the CPU bottleneck. That was the PURPOSE behind ATI's seduction of AMD and AMD's subsequent acquisition 7 years ago. But if you are a game developer then you kknow all about that.

    DirectX 11 cannot resolve 100,000 AI objects. Just 5000. Directx 11 is obsolete. Unless you right games like Angry Birds or Mario Brothers then Directx is still just fine for you.

    One other thing. Regardless of who I am I will write about what I choose to wite about not what some else says I should or should not write about.

    Engadget just wrote a storey today that repeats exactly what I said earlier about Directx 12 NOT being available for at least a year and if then only probably on Windows 9.

    "They also say that Microsoft's "close to the metal" lower-level access API is a relatively new project in Redmond, meaning it probably won't muscle in on Mantle's territory until sometime next year. Between that, and the fact that Microsoft has recently taken to limiting Direct X upgrades to Windows upgrades, it's possible that we might not see DirectX 12 in access until we're installing Windows 9."

    A year is a lifetime in Game development. Since Directx 12 is far from release you have 2 choices. Write epic gamaes with Mantle or the same ol same ol medocre games with Directx hoping that you can rewrite it later with Microsofts promises also knowing that the Windows distribution is likely to be pretty poor and the hardware implemetation will be another year away. Pretty uncertain to base your company or your life's work.

    After Microsfot released Directx 11 it took Intel a full year to get Ivy Bridge compatible while AMD had been Direct X 11 compatible from the get go.

    So stop your whining, learn something new and impress us with your game.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 11:28 AM, lrkbik5 wrote:


    "So for MOST of the world you either deal with the innefficiencies of Directx11 or use Mantle."

    I think you mean:

    "So for MOST of the world you either deal with the innefficiencies of Directx11 AND use Mantle."

    Developers will not stop using DirectX, if you believe that you are delusional.

    "You also don;t really have much of a clue about what drives game development.

    It's ALL about the WOW factor. Mantle gives developers the ability to create games that are staggeringly apic."

    I think you don't really have much of a clue about what drives game development.

    Firstly if you think an average of 10% gains is what is needed to make games "staggeringly apic", you are once again, delusional.

    Furthermore, developing a "staggeringly apic" game for Mantle means that developers are making a game that can only be run on a very small fraction of 18% of the total GPU market. How on earth is that cost effective? They would need to charge well over 100 dollars a game to make their money back.

    If developers make a game that is similar for both Mantle and DirectX, and not "staggeringly apic", it still isn't cost effective. Game developers will not sell more games by making it capable of running Mantle, all of the GCN users are able to play with the DirectX version.

    There is no actual value added for the developers with Mantle. There is cost added however.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 11:41 AM, TEBuddy wrote:

    wow RINGO, you should never post because of how inaccurate you are and I guess don't understand a thing.

    I mean you say Mantle is not less work it is more, but qualify that in NO WAY. What you should have said is that Mantle is less work to code for than DIRECTX. Obviously if you are going to do DX, then also doing Mantle is additional work. But if you do Mantle first, then you can say doing DX is A LOT more work.

    And your figures for STEAM are ridiculous, 1-2% AMD. WRONG. So not sure what your point was when you are so obviously not opening your mind to reasonable thought.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 12:15 PM, lrkbik5 wrote:

    @ TEBuddy

    "And your figures for STEAM are ridiculous, 1-2% AMD. WRONG."

    You do realize the 1-2% figures are based upon Mantle capable GPUs, not all AMD GPUs right?

    And yes this is true:

    "Obviously if you are going to do DX, then also doing Mantle is additional work. But if you do Mantle first, then you can say doing DX is A LOT more work."

    So lets say that Mantle is 60% easier to code for than DirectX, ignoring all the cost associated with having to learn this new API and finding any psosible bugs with it since it is so new, and that ease of coding is directly proportional to the development cost.

    For the fun of it we will also assume that every AMD GPU is capable of running Mantle.

    By only using Mantle, these developers have cut their TAM BY OVER 80%. For a cost savings of 40%.

    Please use a better argument.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 12:16 PM, lrkbik5 wrote:

    @ rav55

    "But what XBOX and Sony is not is Direct X"

    Xbox One uses Direct 3D. Do your research.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 12:21 PM, cptnjarhead wrote:

    Wow, AMD has really stirred the proverbial pot.

    In any case, Mantle is an API just as DirectX is an API. Mantle is not meant to be vendor specific, but as of yet there is no SDK so we really cannot debate much at this point. But obviously mantle has somthing going for it, because MS is now touting a new DX with "low-level" type function. This whole "low-level" or "direct to metal" is being way over stated.

    "Relative to Microsoft's Direct3D (D3D), Mantle is indeed more low-level. But it's not low-level in the sense that we are exposed to individual architectural decisions"

    "A lot of the things an API has traditionally managed aren't really necessary any more. Mantle puts the responsibility onto the developer. Some feel that is too much, but this really isn't any different than managing multiple CPUs on a system, which we have gotten pretty good at. We don't program multiple CPUs with an API, we just handle it ourselves. Mantle gives us a similar capability for the GPU."

    If you are interested in what mantle is, and what it is not, then you need to read this:

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 12:49 PM, closebut wrote:

    No one is doing Mantle only development. You develop in Direct3D first, then it takes 2 additional man months to add support for Mantle. It will not take 6 months for a team of 20, but 2 weeks for a team of 4 for the initial version. GCN is for all future AMD cards, Steam survey doesn't include selections for all the new AMD cards, so they would probably be classified under other. AMD market share is projected to reach 40% in a few years. Even adoption of CTM D3D will help sell more AMD APUs as it closes the gaming gap with Intel by removing CPU bottlenecks games coming out with DX12.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 7:03 PM, miako1221 wrote:

    ok heres the thing MANTLE IS HERE AND NOW, while the new DX is just being develop or something.. Developers can use MANTLE now..


    i have read an article weeks ago that mantle is like a double edge sword and a disruptive technology.. in my point ALL API'S ARE LIKE THAT, you know why.. cos when use or implement somethine new it means you will change the way you work, its a new maintenance and a new workload.. its that simple..

    it will be the game developers choice if they will use MANTLE but hey they are already using it and the results are great.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 11:37 PM, TEBuddy wrote:

    irkbit, what exactly is your argument? You have none, and this article is proof positive that its title is BS. IF Mantle were irrelevant, why is Microsoft now willing to make a move? By that shear fact, obviously Mantle is both relevant and powerful, so much so to scare Microsoft into action. And therefore Mantle will forever be relevant, and my guess is that it will remain a lot more relevant to STEAM, since they wont be running Windows. By the time DX12 comes out, AMD GCN GPUs could be 50% of that STEAM stat. AND the 1-2% is a GUESS, and its likely WRONG still. People that bother to report that likely have some graphics card AMD sold in the last 2 years. The number will rise significantly from now on since all of their APUs are now GCN.

    So you go find a single argument why this article is anything but trash talk.

  • Report this Comment On March 06, 2014, at 11:54 PM, Yawn wrote:

    Blah..Blab Time, Cost to Dev.., Blah blah no benefit to Nvidia....

    You act like Mantle cripples Nvida cards.....

    The newest version of DirectX has through time only been available with each new windows version. When DirectX is available in a Year or so, only Windows 9 will have it...

    Using a proprietary low level API for graphics has been done before with a company called 3dfx.. In the late 90's 3DFX used its Glide API that only supported its VOODOO cards to capture the performance crown, and popularity crown. 90%+ of the game dev's supported glide.. 3DFX's downfall were limited updates to glide along with major improvements to DirectX and OpenGL.. i'm pretty sure 3DFX killed of the Matrix company..Matrix Who? Matrix video cards were the best at one time before Glide..

    Common Sense: Mantle will be supported widely!! it improves graphic for customers,YOU KNOW, the ones funding these game companies, (Not MS or Nvidia). Gamers spend $1000'S on gaming rigs for MAX performance. Games marketed to run smoother with more detail, high res using Mantle will appeal to a large percentage of the market ,Customers who fund, expect the game companies to use all tools available to offer the best product..either that or they will or lose market share...

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 10:24 AM, cptnjarhead wrote:

    "i'm pretty sure 3DFX killed of the Matrix company"

    I think you mean "Matrox", and they are still around.

    They are still developing video/audio tech, just in a different direction.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 10:25 AM, rav55 wrote:


    You should at least give Wiki credit as your source.

    Microsoft has not anounced just WHAT the API is for XBOX. It maybe Direct 3d X it might be the next iteration of Direct3dx 12 also. They have not said. They are also NOT going to realease an API that makes XBOX ONE look bad. So as they are talking "Mantleesque" and closer to the metal, likely it is what will become Direct3dX 12. Which would be different enough NOT to be Direct 3d 11.x.

    When Microsoft announces what it is then we will all know.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 10:42 AM, rav55 wrote:


    How many times do you use the word "delusional".

    You seem to have an unhealthy obsession with that word.

    Why don't you shoot for some creativity and find another word.

    Where Mantle romps on Direct X is the 100,000 AI oblects that can be drawn with Mantle.

    The phrase "staggeringly epic" I quoted from the Mantle Video that been on the web for a couple of months.

    For instance the Space simulator genre has just about disappeared as the games want to be more complex; in the words of developers, "epic". With Mantle they can be. With Direct X the developers have maxed out the abilities of the API. DirectX has also managed to keep nVidia and Radeon roughly equal. Mantle disrupts that balance.

    The problem with Direct X is the CPU is a bottleneck. With Mantle the CPU bottleneck is reduced or eliminated and the work is done by the GPU.

    If the CPU load for a game is not high then Mantle will not make that much of a difference. But Mantle really shines when the GPU can carry most of the work load.

    This is NOT want Intel wants to hear.

    Intel does not want to use 3rd party hardware to improve the performance of it's silicon. Which is why Mantle is getting such a hysterical response from Wintel.

    A Mantle upgrade for XBOX is simply new silicon from AMD.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 11:28 AM, cptnjarhead wrote:


    I think mantle also creates a "console" like environment for devs. something they are used to.

    By basing mantle around GCN, and or if whatever nvidia decides to do, the devs are dealing with sort of a standard architecture, and i think that is more appealing to them, than multiple PC configs with DX. Obviously AMD is in the drivers seat, because they are leveraging/exploiting both platforms. Not to mention the hUMA tech for low-end desktops. This allows low-budget gamers to play AAA titles, while devs can use mantle to squeeze out all the visuals on those low-end rigs. its a win win for AMD right now.

    It seems to me that DX has become more about brute-force, ie. if you want decent frames with all the bells and whistles then you need to upgrade your pc, and the OS too. While Mantle is more about giving developers the tools to push the graphics envelope in a longer hardware cycle. Now the performance is in their hands, and some PC only devs would rather pump out the game, and let the end user worry about how it plays.

  • Report this Comment On March 07, 2014, at 9:27 PM, lrkbik5 wrote:


    "Microsoft has not anounced just WHAT the API is for XBOX. "

    I encourage you to Google "Raising the Bar with Direct3D". In their blog post the Windows App Team officially states:

    "The Xbox One graphics API is “Direct3D 11.x” and the Xbox One hardware provides a superset of Direct3D 11.2 functionality"

    Please do some research.

  • Report this Comment On March 08, 2014, at 12:41 AM, rav55 wrote:

    Imitation is the best form of flattery. Why even bother with DirectX 12 when even Microsoft says Mantle is "the real thing" and that DirectX will just be an imitation.

  • Report this Comment On March 08, 2014, at 10:00 PM, LordJoseph wrote:

    I read the article. Sorry don't have time to read all comments. Mr. Green, my take on your article is your support of stocks you own, while not being in touch with the gaming and development community. Companies that will not add "tasks which adds both cost and time to the development process" are companies that die. I agree the trend has been to do as little as possible under the smallest budget. But industry sale declines reflect something has to change. I don't support half of the big names, do to "half-cooked" products and sheer lack of effort. Recent quote from Chris Roberts on his 40+Million$ kick-starter project: "On top of that, we’re doing things like obviously supporting Mantle which is from AMD and basically that makes the arithmetic go straight to the GPU hardware and bypasses DirectX, which is a big bottleneck." I sent the man a hundred dollars just for the fun of it. In conclusion, it's articles like this that remind me why I take most fool advice with a grain of salt.

  • Report this Comment On March 21, 2014, at 2:02 AM, rav55 wrote:

    "Microsoft adopts Mantle but calls it DX12

    GDC 2014: Completely different because it is not called Mantle, just ask MS PR"

    Charlie Dermajian is not often wrong.

    Developing Mantle would be an asset only if AMD could gain a critical mass, if you will, of game developers. That is why the console wins where a necessity almost at any cost, or certainly at reduced margins.

    I can remember when folks rolled their eyes when AMD commented that XBOX would have Avatar-like graphics. Well with Mantle or a low level API they will.

    This also scares the bejeazous out of Intel who is all about maintaining the primacy of the CPU which is becoming the bottleneck for high performance graphics. This was also predicted by ATI in 2006 and is the concept behind how ATI seduced AMD into acquiring them and why AMD pioneered the APU. Mantle also eliminates the mid price point market for discrete graphics cards. The majority of the gaming market is not bleeding edge enthusiasts but rather those folks would would rather pay $80 for an APU from AMD that can compete easily with a Intel/NVidia pairing costing several times that. Intel HD graphics are a non-competitive joke and aren't even a consideration. This is probably the source of the rumour that NVidia may retreat from consumer graphics silicon entirely.

    Hence the end of DirectX; now Intel will not have Microsoft to create the great equalizer called DirectX. And for Microsoft to make XBOX competitive they are going to have to adopt Mantle or suffer the consequences. Hence DirectX12 = Mantle. Why else would AMD already announce support for an API that doesn't exist yet?

    "AMD Demonstrates Full Support for DirectX 12 at Game Developer Conference

    Today, AMD announced support for Microsoft and its revamped graphics application programming interface, DirectX 12, a new "console-like" version of the graphics API that has inspired PC gaming for nearly two decades. During the Microsoft-sponsored panel, DirectX: Evolving Microsoft's Graphics Platform, AMD revealed that it will support DirectX 12 on all AMD Radeon GPUs that feature the Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture."

    Clearly DirectX 12 is Mantle that is dummied down to be compatible with NVidia GPU. Of course AMD had fully supported Direct X 11 almost a year before Intel or NVidia.

    The gaming industry is all about the visual experience as well as a great story. A good story that looks bad will not sell.

    The old fighter pilot adage comes to mind here; "he'd rather die looking good than live looking bad."

    The game developers are going to line up behind Mantle as they can not afford not too.

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