At GDC last year, we saw multiple tech companies begin discussing the potential for bringing real-time ray-tracing to videogames. Nvidia was the first to really begin pushing that boat with the launch of RTX graphics cards, featuring specific hardware to make ray-tracing faster and more efficient. From next month on though, you won't need an RTX-specific GPU in order to make use of ray-tracing.
Ray-tracing has always been possible on non-RTX graphics cards. The RT Cores found within Turing just make ray-tracing operations faster. Microsoft's DXR API is the layer that actually makes it all function. Until now, Nvidia's driver has locked out non-RTX GPUs from running DXR but that will be changing in April, with Nvidia opening DXR compatibility to the GTX 10-series and the new GTX 16-series of graphics cards.
Essentially what this means is that you will be able to turn on ray-tracing in Battlefield V, Metro Exodus and other supported games. However, it is worth keeping in mind that performance will be worse than what you would find on an RTX graphics card, due to the lack of RT cores. That being said, Nvidia expects game devs to offer a range of IQ settings when it comes to the ray-tracing options, with some settings offering a reduced ray count for higher performance, while still theoretically looking better than having no ray-tracing at all.
Settings like that would prove easier to run for non-RTX cards, but beyond that, these older cards won't be able to use DLSS to gain back some of that lost performance, as DLSS requires the RTX-specific Tensor cores.
So your mileage will vary but soon, millions of GPU owners will be able to use ray-tracing on the hardware they already own. This will also give more developers a reason to support ray-tracing in games, as the potential user base will be dramatically higher. We are already starting to see other game creators make the jump, with Crytek recently demoing its own ray-tracing implementation running on an AMD RX Vega 56.
Nvidia's DXR-unlocking driver will support the GTX 1060 (6GB) and up. It will be available some time in April.
KitGuru Says: While the reviewers here at KitGuru have had a chance to experience ray-tracing first hand, I have yet to see it for myself outside of YouTube videos. With that in mind, I'm looking forward to checking it out, although I'm not expecting much in terms of performance from my GTX 1080 Ti.