EA Exec Down On Consoles

Or, perhaps more pertinently, up on PCs. EA’s Gerhard Florin told the BBC that multiple console formats were not a sustainable option.

“We want an open, standard platform which is much easier than having five which are not compatible,” said EA’s head of international publishing. He said the web and set-top boxes would grow in importance to the industry.

“We’re platform agnostic and we definitely don’t want to have one platform which is a walled garden,” said Mr Florin. EA currently produces games for more than 14 different gaming systems, including consoles, portable devices and PCs. “I am not sure how long we will have dedicated consoles – but we could be talking up to 15 years,” Mr Florin added.

He predicted that server-based games streamed to PCs or set-top boxes, would become increasingly important.

The BBC article concludes that gaming will end up with a set-top box that is “basically a boiled-down PC.”

21 Comments

  1. Kast says:

    I read this article a couple of hours ago and I’m still not sure what the impications are, or how feasible the whole idea is. It seems more of a pipe dream than anything.

    Besides, what quality of games can you get out of a £50 PC?

  2. Theory says:

    What’s all this “resend form data” business? I get it on every page with Firefox.

    Also, first to mention Phantom.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    That’s an interesting question. I bet you could play Peggle on a £50 PC.

  4. schizoslayer says:

    Well with the Xbox 360 Arcade SKU official (Predicted a year ago by me!) and with the massive success of Steam it seems digital distribution will be the gateway into this world of a unified gaming platform.

    And by that I mean a PC.

    Steam is home to both high-end technical show cases and also Peggle. It also proves that those of us who buy the high-end technical showcases also buy Peggle.

    Peggle Peggle Peggle.

  5. CrashT says:

    Standardised harware seems… dubious.

    But I can imagine some degree of standardised software would be a benefit, something like DirectX that worked across PCs and Consoles would be pretty useful I can imagine. And having most games being powered by DirectX hasn’t resulted in any specific loss of creativity.

  6. MPK says:

    Does EA > Nintendo? Or Sony? Could EA conceivably tell Microsoft that they wouldn’t publish any more games for their console unless they conformed to Sony’s current format? I could see Nintendo surviving without EA – and, in fact, they already are as far as I can tell, 08 releases notwithstanding. Ditto Sony.

    But how badly would the lack of Madden, NHL, NBA et al etc etc affect Microsoft?

  7. CrashT says:

    A more interesting question is could EA survive on it’s own? If the only game available were EA titles… I mean you’d only have NFL, Need For Speed, NHL, Madden, Half Life, Crysis and now stuff from BioWare and Pandemi… Oh shit… that’s it we’re all about to be EAten.

  8. The_B says:

    That could be a feasible idea for a possible future RPS article there. Exactly what is the cheapest computer you could get that will run Peggle?

  9. Kast says:

    Sky runs an advert for EA on either side of adverts between sci-fi shows. The adverts showcase a single game like Skate or MoH: Airbourne but behind those are reams of big games names. It’s really quite to see just how many of those my favourite games are published or even developed by one company.

    And yet I don’t mind at all that Valve published dozens and dozens on Steam on the behalf of other publishers. I’m such a hypocrit.

  10. schizoslayer says:

    Valve don’t publish on Steam. They distribute.

    It’s a significant difference in that developers are not being paid by Valve to make games for Valve and as such are not beholden to Valve in any way shape or form.

  11. Kast says:

    Ah, right, yes. Thanks for pointing out that crucial distinction.

    So my love and improper-fondling of Valve is all well and good. My conscience is appeased.

  12. Martin says:

    I still claim that this is a very viable way to go as the shift moves from hardware to software/services.

    That’s how the computer industry is re-shaping itself – at least in the business segment – just because there’s nothing really new in hardware that justifies this box over that box.

    That this is true for current-gen consoles (besides the Wii) has been pointed out numerous times by various sites as well. The Eurogamer head-to-head comparisons between multiplatform titles on the X360 and the PS3 shows this especially well – there is very little to differentiate the platforms by except the games.

    This means that if there is a Unified Console Platform that is fast enough to run software in a Common Runtime Language (such as Java or – more likely to be honest – C#) without hampering performance then it’d be up to the software and service suppliers to compete on an even ground.

    You prefer Xbox Live over PSN but still want to play Final Fantasy XXV? With the UCP you can!

    You love the streaming content offered by Sony’s huge catalog but still want to play Halo 3 over Xbox Live? You can do that with the UCP!

    Anyone who wants to make the hardware is free to do so, competing on quality, user interface design, looks, etc. Just like with a DVD player.

    I’m telling ya – this is the future!

  13. Thelps says:

    From the hardware manufacturer’s point of view, of course, they will fight this tooth and nail, all the way to the bank.

    Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have a billion reasons why they would do all they can to prevent this development from happening, since they take a software cut on every game sold (Consoles are, for the most part, sold at a loss. Developers are charged, effectively, for the privilege of developing for the machine). Losing platform exclusivity means that the big 3 console makers will have their entire business structure shaken, which is bad for them economically.

    I’m not saying this won’t happen, and I’d love to see the whole PC/Console market merged anyway, since it means more games available to everyone, but it will be hindered by the present structure, consciously as well as naturally.

  14. Daniel Puzey says:

    Random musings from a position of ignorance and speculation…

    It’s a technically viable thing. But, if you follow that route, then the console just becomes a different kind of PC, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.

    The reason the console market runs the way it does is because of the distinction between hardware. With a common platform, you lose all of the things that make the business market for a console what it is.

    The current model allows Sony/MS/Nintendo (excluding the Wii) to sell hardware as a loss-leader and recoup on the software licenses. With a common hardware model, this doesn’t work any more. Sony lose the ability to license software for their platform, and so their margins disappear, and so the hardware has to be sold at profit. Although hardware is getting cheaper, you’ll still lose the ability to buy a £300 console that can outperform a similarly-priced PC.

    You’ll also get other parties coming into the fray with their own variations. And these will complicate things further.

    Although the platform would superficially be the same, there will still always be differences between hardware – just as there are between nVidia and AMD/ATI cards on the PC at the moment. We already have a common gaming API on the PC – DirectX – and yet there are still innumerable problems writing games in DirectX caused by the specifics of different hardware.

    Regarding programming, C# won’t be a useful language for high performance gaming for a while yet. A lot of things are possible in C#, but managed code is still a problem for the kind of performance a game is looking for. (Besides, C# is Microsoft technology, and I don’t see Sony and Nintendo agreeing to that any time soon.)

  15. Daniel Puzey says:

    Heh, obviously spent far too long writing that post :)

  16. Monkfish says:

    Attempts at standardising in an environment where technology is constantly progressing isn’t really likely to happen. We’ve seen attempts at standardised platforms before, such as MSX, CD-i and 3DO, but none of these got close to becoming international standards in the same mold as VHS. Someone always wants to improve on whatever the current standard happens to be.

    Sadly, the only way we’re likely to see a true “standard platform” for gaming is if one of the Big Three totally dominates to a point where it no longer becomes viable to compete (just ask Sega!). That’s how standards tend to happen in consumer electronics. Quite where this leaves the PC depends on who becomes the eventual victor.

    The closest we’re likely to get in the forseable future is a unified development environment across all the major platforms. This would go some way, at least, to ease the pains of multi-platform development, and it’s something that’s already happening. It’s likely to be one of the big middleware developers, such as Epic, that will win in this arena – it’s certainly what they’re working towards.

    Anyway, he fact that we’re still seeing format wars within the home entertainment sector, where BluRay and HD-DVD are attempting to bludgeon each other into the ground, shows that we aren’t likely to see a standard games platform for many years to come. EA just aren’t going to have it that easy.

  17. Daniel Puzey says:

    Exactly – it’s all very well for EA to dream of a standardised platform, but that’s the last thing the console makers want to give them. What would happen to their exclusives?

  18. Cigol says:

    The idea of a set-top box that plays games and fits seamlessly into the home alongside DVD players is something the guys at MS have been kicking around for a while now. Microsoft has a lot of power in how the two markets function, just think about DirectX10 and Windows Vista. Anything like this – I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft running the show, not guys like EA or Nintendo. Sony are too busy shooting themselves in the foot with Blueray to be trusted to do anything at the moment.

  19. Garth says:

    I saw a somewhat similar speech from id Software about having a game like Quake 3 playable over the internet, with it’s requirements basically just being that you could use java. It would incorporate all it needed into the net, or something like that anyway.

    You’ll never have a unified console thing because there’s less money in it than having your own console. They want the chance to make hojillions off their own console, not the guarantee that they’ll make a few million.