Japanese Video Game Guru Says Console Days Are Numbered

from the can't-hold-back-progress dept

We’ve talked in the past about the differences between open and closed platforms in driving innovation and adoption. Unlike some, I’m not against inherently closed platforms. I just don’t think that they will survive long-term. In fact, I think that closed platforms often do a very good job of defining initial markets, and convincing people to leap into those markets. However, in the long term, it usually seems that the open platforms, which may start out a lot less polished and useful, not only catch up, but surpass the closed platforms. It’s not difficult to understand why this happens. When you have a closed platform, the company putting it out has to account for everything — and thus, initially, it’s a lot more advanced and well thought out. However, with an open platform, the initial offering is often chaotic and messy and difficult for new users to understand and adopt. But over time, with many more people able to work on that platform and to innovate on that platform, it gets better and better and better. And it becomes more difficult for the closed platforms to catch up.

Does this always happen? No. But it’s happened enough that you have to have a good reason for why it won’t happen in any particular market. Of course, one of the examples that people have used for where this has not happened is in the video game market. There, it’s the closed platforms — PS3, Xbox and the Wii — that have continued to dominate, while the more open PC platform has languished in comparison. There could be a variety of reasons for this — including the fact that there is a fair bit of competition between the three platforms and the fact that no one has really built a credible open competitor (the PC may be too general purpose). But, apparently, some still think the era of the closed video gaming console is unlikely to last much longer — and at least one prognosticator is certainly someone who knows the business quite well.

Hideo Kojima, the creator of Metal Gear Solid surprised a lot of people by saying that the video game console is dying, and the future is a much more open solution, that involves games that you can play on any device: computer, mobile, TV, etc.

“In the near future, we’ll have games that don’t depend on any platform,” Kojima said at a news conference announcing the latest installment in a game saga that began in 1987.

“Gamers should be able to take the experience with them in their living rooms, on the go, when they travel — wherever they are and whenever they want to play. It should be the same software and the same experience,” he said.

Who knows if this is true or not, but it would certainly fit the pattern we’ve seen elsewhere…

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Comments on “Japanese Video Game Guru Says Console Days Are Numbered”

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31 Comments
Steve (user link) says:

I actually have a different opinion on the matter (being a Linux developer and video game player myself). I think what may eventually happen is that we have platforms that still have fixed hardware specs., but they are open to development.

We’ve already seen this *partially* happening with the PS3 (Other OS support, temporary as that was), and the drive with people to want to run stuff of their own on their consoles, since they realize that it’s as fast as and capable as a reasonable desktop computer these days.

It would be a risky move for a platform to open itself up to outside access completely, and surely the game developers will have a fit about it, because it will somehow make piracy easier, but I imagine someone, sometime, may take the bait and do it.

The other side of the spectrum — completely variable specs (Windows/Mac) — makes more work for the developers, since it requires support, DRM (for some), etc. I think there’d be a lot of appeal for a general gaming box that people can also do run games that are guaranteed to work without a headache.

I can see it happening eventually — we’re already starting to see people inch towards open access devices (Boxee is probably a close example, though even that one would be more of a hybrid). I dunno. Who knows what’s gonna happen next, but people wanting access to their devices can only be a good thing for the consumer market.

interval says:

Re: Re:

@Ima Kitsch: “He’s right, but unfortunately profits would be interfered with.”

In the short-term. I don’t know how long it will take, but eventually the need for specific hardware to run a particular bit of software will be done away with. As technology advances specific platforms will be less and less prevalent. Imagine a nanotech platform that rewires itself due to the needs and dictum of the application the user wants to run.

For example, a graphic-intensive application could grow an extra gpu (or three) and some additional DMA pipelines present the latest real-time fps. Or a particularly calculative application might induce the platform to dissolve the previous hardware and re-use the leftovers to create more CPUs and support hardware.

Such an advanced architecture wouldn’t need a particular hardware set after the technology was adopted by enough installations. After an individual software package was developed that package could be distributed without regard to what hardware was in place to run it.

Researchers are already working on this.

Xander C (profile) says:

The hint of truth in the matter...

By and large, the Console has had one of the weirdest lifespans of devices to date. If you think back to Pong Machines and going up from there, much like the automobile industry, there’s been waves of megers and splits and everything in between. Back in the 80’s before the meltdown, there was more choices in consoles, but little in the way of standards and quality control. After the meltdown though, we now have the big names that compete against each other, with smaller knock-offs that truly prove it’s not just innovation, but exaction which determines what lives and dies in the market.

With that said, the future looks cloudy for consoles push towards being a “All-it-can-be” device. We’re on the possible brink of another meltdown as there’s new competitors coming in soon, pushing for cloud-based gaming (LiveOn for example), and the original juggernauts are looking to capture on the Wii’s success with implements that might not be innovative enough to justify their price-tag. Add to that the 60$ game for Triple-A budgets and the consolidation of companies that produce the games…

It’s too difficult to tell where everything is going, but sooner or later, the same indy developers that started working on PC games will get a boost if there is another crash on the gaming world.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If you purchased a disc, why does there need to be a rights management cloud? You have the disc right there. In fact, the only latency would be from reading info from the disc. No network hassles at all.

Unless needless complexity and being locked out of your own content when Joe Programmer forgot to clear a register is part of some bright future.

a-dub (profile) says:

OnLive looks pretty amazing. It’s kinda like Hulu for video games, but I think it will be quite a while before consoles fade away since they are now also used as media extenders/servers. As long as more features and capabilities are added, I see their lifespan increasing. Its hard to beat popping in a disk and playing a game as soon as it loads..no internet connection required to just play the game …compare that to PC games with installation and compatibility issues that may arise.

PassinThru (profile) says:

The Good Reason

Economics – by having a single hardware platform to aim at, developers can make games faster and more easily. The PC as a platform is a huge range of incompatible hardware. The 360 or PS3 is the same for anyone who owns one. If you aim your game at the PC market, you usually compromise on performance – it’s much harder to “code to the metal” and squeeze every cycle out.

Of course, this advantage is undermined to some extent by the fact that there are 3 platforms, but 3 is better than thousands.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: The Good Reason

“Economics – by having a single hardware platform to aim at, developers can make games faster and more easily. The PC as a platform is a huge range of incompatible hardware. “

Not incompatible. Unpredictable, at least as far as a developer having to start planning and coding a game 18+ months prior to release.

There are 2 big things going for the future of PC games:

Windows XP is starting to die off and is being replaced by Windows 7 – this will give a more predictable base level of hardware, certain speed processor, RAM, video card. XP would run on decade old hardware, but Windows 7 won’t.

At the same time, the gains coming off of new hardware are starting to hit diminishing returns. Processors aren’t really getting much faster, there’s just more cores. Same for video cards – there’s more pipes and parellelization, but there’s not wildly changing underlying specs.

Both these issues will make the PC more predictable to code games for. We just now need to ween the big publishers off spending gobs of money on DRM (that won’t work and are simply a waste of money) instead of making games better.

Overcast (profile) says:

Honestly; I prefer to play on a PC. I’m not much into the consoles anymore. I like the flexibility of the PC, plus I’ve never really cared for most of the controllers out there. Mouse and Keyboard for me 🙂

Nice thing about PC games, is even if a lot of development stops for them, existing games can be modified so heavily they are good for quite sometime.

Evostick says:

Opinion or Fact?

“However, with an open platform, the initial offering is often chaotic and messy and difficult for new users to understand and adopt. But over time, with many more people able to work on that platform and to innovate on that platform, it gets better and better and better. And it becomes more difficult for the closed platforms to catch up. “

Either reference or state evidence for your opinion

chris (profile) says:

the demise of PC games is greatly exaggerated

PC gaming (in the traditional sense) isn’t languishing, it’s just not growing as fast as console gaming. there’s also a sector of PC gaming that no one in the PC world wants to claim.

the wii brought video games into a whole new sector: the casual gamer, but you know who else brought games to casual players? facebook.

i’ll bet if you tally the hours spent on farmville and mafia wars, you’ll see a staggeringly large number. add those hours to hardcore games like WOW, counterstrike, and the sims and you have PC gaming population that all 3 console manufacturers can’t touch.

until consoles can play facebook games and MMO’s in a simple and intuitive manner, PCs will continue to grow as a gaming platform.

also, until consoles can let you do your school work in a simple and intuitive manner, the PC will continue to grow as the dominant work platform.

the console vs. PC debate is like the netbook vs. desktop debate or the mobile phone vs. laptop debate. in all cases you have a market built around an expensive and complicated general use device which is invaded by a cheaper specialty device. naturally, the people who are using the general purpose device for only one function will defect to a cheaper device that is better suited to that function.

that’s all the console is: a cheaper version of the PC specifically adapted for games that is easier to use for games.

NAMELESS.ONE says:

@3 you can its called by the kid a computer with graphics card

nuff said and guess what he then gets a music box that can play music on,
if its a laptop its portable
gets something he can doo work on and such with open office for example

and can as he gets older if hes smart enough learn how to make graphics and games and such on a pc

wow my dad in 1970 instead of an atari got me a vic 20
both could play games
only the vic i made my own on….

NAMELESS.ONE says:

@16 i agree

in an uncertain time i do not want to have to buy a V, a ghetto blaster, a ipad , a ps3 , a xbox360 and a typewriter

sorry thats too much when a pc can do all these and more
including
making greeting cards personalized for holidays business cards
other stuff like that
scan documents with a scanner
communicate via voip and or email and other means like irc chats and such and even video communications.

ALL these things if you goto sourceforge.net you will prolly find apps for whether linux or windows

Anonymous Coward says:

What Hideo Kojima is saying is:-In future you don’t need to have device to play a game or any other heavy tasks. Everybody is shifting cloud computing. In future you just a need a device which can connect to your cloud service provided (just like your ISP or telephone service provider) and choose the game that you want and buy the processing speed (CPU)(or allocate if you have already bought it) and the RAM and the GPU (based on processing speed again–nvidia has a graphical processing server),,,,so all u gotta do is login to your account and start playing.it is just like RDP to your system which is online and you never have to worry about being out of date,,,

Richard (profile) says:

Re: Re:

,i>buy the processing speed (CPU)(or allocate if you have already bought it) and the RAM and the GPU (based on processing speed again–nvidia has a graphical processing server),
Sorry that model doesn’t work without more bandwidth than you can shake a stick at.

It’s much cheaper to have the computing and storage locally and always will be.

IMHO the cloud has been oversold. It offers benefits for some applications where access to data “from anywhere” matters but for processing it is a nonsense. In fact the trend there has all been the other way. Compute intensive applications have moved from accessing a remote supercomputer in the 70’s and 80’s through local parallel systems in the early 90’s to re-distributing your processing across the network (as in SETI at home) – which is the absolute opposite of what is now proposed as “cloud” computing. Processing is now cheap enough to have all you need locally. Why would anyone want to go back to the 70’s?

What will happen is that the games will stop needing the absolute latest hardware to play. When that happens it will be end of the current Xbox/PS model of subsidising the hardware via the games (and hence having to tax the games – forcing up the price and preventing free offerings)

At that point open/generic hardware will come into its own and the market will free up.

Bardsidhe says:

Re: Re: Re:

There will always be a place for competative hardware, while the development of the CPU has stalled due to technology limitations in the last few years, this has allowed Consoles and home computers to catch up with the “Super-Computers”
lets face it, you have more computing power in an Xbox (original) than the US and Russians Combined during the Cold War.
but as for Non-CPU development, it’s miles behind, GPU’s are nothing compared to the CPU, most on the market are little more than what the CPU was back 1998.
certainly advancing, but have a long way to catch up with the tech inside the Core CPU.
Audio Processing is not nearly as developed either, nor is the Data Buslines in the systems, in fact many “high Tech” systems are bottlenecked by thier Data Bus.

a perfect example of this is the Data Cable between the DVD Drive and the main system bus, even using SATA connections or even the old but often superior SCSI bus, the cable reduces the flow of information that can move from the Hard Drive and the Optical Drive to the Core System, in the case of the original Xbox, the Core and the Drives were 133 MB/s while the cable installed on manufacturing was 100 MB/s

Console Modders quickly realized that replacing this IDE (ATA/PATA) cable with a PCs ATA 133 MB/s cable would actually improve performance of the Xbox (performance related to load times)

so even in the much loved Xbox, the hardware can be improved while the system runs basicly the same, showing that there will always be a place for improved hardware in one way or another, there will not be a vanilla hardware market in a one OS world. besides that the OS will change as well.

Bardsidhe says:

He's Right

He’s right, while the Companies reposition themselves time and time again, at the end of the day, their machines are becoming Controller (aka Joystick) driven PC’s.

Compare their processing power and functions, the only thing you cannot do on a console, (due to manufacturer limitations) is Wordprocessing/Data Entry which has been the main purpose of a PC since its invention,
Both Consoles and PC/Mac play video, play music, play games, have HDMI output, Surround sound, DVI, Bluray, DVD, CD playback, Harddrives, there are even Keyboards for PS/Xbox (hard to get maybe, but they do exist)

as Microsoft rework their OS to make improvements, long time members of the industry can see that even Windows is becoming less like the old Operating systems of old and more like the proprietory OS found inside your PS3/Xbox Wii, Mobile Phone, or Ipod.

this is evolution, Consoles are nothing more than a Games/Entertainment based computer, which is growing into a multi-purpose system, just as the old Data Entry PC/Mac has done. I think perhaps those that disagree with me, simply have not been on earth long enough to see it

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