Friday, August 1, 2008

Video Game Developers Expect Current-Generation Consoles to Last for Four to Ten Years from Now

The winner of the current-generation game consoles is still not clear, but Microsoft Corp., Nintendo Corp. and Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. are already at work, developing next Xbox, PlayStation 4 and the successor of Wii. Meanwhile, game developers believe that even the current-gen consoles will have such a long lifespan that its end is even not on the horizon.

“One of the things I like about this generation is we are still very early and there’s still a lot of room for growth as we move down those price curves. Those engines have a lot of steam left in them. We think it could be seven or eight years before new machines start to roll out,” said Brian Farrell, chief executive of THQ in an interview withForbes.

The president of Epic Games, Mike Capps, also estimates that next-generation systems, which will succeed PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Wii, will not hit shelves until somewhere between 2012 and 2018.

Perhaps, next-generation game consoles are not exactly around the corner, partly because both Microsoft and Sony invested massive amounts of money into Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 and game developers yet have to take advantage of existing hardware. Nonetheless, it is almost clear that technology conglomerates are considering future steps based on perception of existing devices by the consumers as well as advantages and disadvantages their consoles have currently.

According to a news-story by Forbes, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony are, in fact, talking to companies like ATI, graphics product group or Advanced Micro Devices, Intel Corp. and Nvidia over the next-generation graphics processing units to power their future game consoles.

“We are always preparing for the next hardware. We are under development. But the hardware is a kind of box that consumers reluctantly buy in order to play our games. […] Every hardware needs some revolutionary features. This time around, it happened to be we had a revolutionary user interface. Will it be the same for the next generation? I really can’t tell,” said Satoru Iwata, president of Nintendo.

Nintendo Wii is the least powerful game system in this generation, but it has unique motion sensing game controller and easy-to-use interface, which made the system more successful among consumers compared to rivals PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.

“It’s natural for the current customer to expect Nintendo is going to once again do something different. If the people are expecting so many different things from Nintendo, it’s going to be difficult for us to go beyond that expectation again,” Mr. Iwata added.

One of the things Nintendo could do differently is not to wait for Microsoft and Sony to unveil their next-gen consoles, but to release the successor for Wii earlier than competitors, but after the enthusiasm towards Wii slowdowns considerably, something, which is unlikely to happen soon. Moreover, since casual gamers are unlikely to like the idea of acquiring a new game system every few years, Nintendo Wii may indeed have a long life cycle.

Microsoft Corp. does not admit that the third Xbox game console is in development, whereas Sony Computer Entertainment America claims that the next-generation PlayStation will, exactly as the current generation, be aimed at certain specific group of gamers.

“As far as next generation is concerned, I think one of the distinct advantages that we have is we don’t have to go in a specific direction. I don’t think the fact that we have a high-end machine keeps us from doing byte-sized casual entertainment. I don’t think we’re relegated to PC shooters or youth-oriented casual games. We can span the gamut,” said Jack Tretton, president and chief exec of SCEA.

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