Comments made by video game development company Electronic Arts indicate that the company doesn’t see hardware upgrades as the main drivers of innovation in future video game consoles.
The remarks came from Electronic Arts creative director Rich Hilleman, who spoke during this week’s DICE Europe Conference. According Polygon, Hilleman shared his insight about the future of console gaming while providing audience members with an on-high look at future gaming in general.
While direct quotes in the publication’s profile are hard to come by, one has Hilleman saying that, “the platform of the future is not hardware, it is the network side, not the hardware side.” That’s a bold vision coming from the creative director of one of the largest traditional gaming development houses in the world.
If Hilleman is right, the day could come where users wouldn’t need to purchase new consoles with upgraded internals at the beginning of each console generation. Instead, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 would support seamless gameplay rendered in the cloud and then streamed directly to their console.
To Sony’s credit, the PlayStation Vita already provides this sort of experience when paired with a PlayStation 4, though to get a decent experience, the user’s Vita handheld and the PlayStation 4 must be on the same network. Sony recently purchased Gakai, a video game streaming service that it says will offer gaming streaming features to users beginning sometime next year.
Microsoft’s Xbox One gaming console also allows game developers to take advantage of Xbox LIVE’s new cloud computing power. Right now, the company says that the service is best used for games that need persistent online sharing and processing that aren’t immediately needed by the game, however what Hilleman is describing isn’t that far from what Microsoft is doing.
It’s unclear how such a future would directly effect the economics of video games in general. Microsoft has received no end of criticism for requiring users to pay for Xbox LIVE to use the service’s online multiplayer and entertainment features. It’s a lead Sony is following with the introduction of PlayStation 4. Robust cloud services are notoriously expensive and require a constant stream of cash to sustain them.
How one-time $60 payments for games would sustain cloud gaming is anyone’s guess.