At GameStop Expo, a panel of industry insiders gathered to look at the future of gaming. Veteran journalist John Gaudiosi moderated the panel, which included Mark Rein, VP Epic Games; Julie Uhrman, CEO of Ouya; and Eric Oria, director of marketing for GameStop. The panelists didn't agree on everything, which made for a lively discussion.
“It's well past its time for the transition to more powerful consoles,” said Rein. “There's explosive growth in mobile. It feels like a really good time to be a game developer. You can build games of all sizes and weights and find the audience that's interested in them on the platforms that they have.” He added, “I would be remiss if I didn't talk about the re-explosion – not like it ever really went anywhere – of PC gaming. We're seeing great PC games on Steam and other platforms, and the bespoke free-to-play games like World of Tanks and League of Legends.”
Oria is impressed with the quality of the games being shown for PS4 and Xbox One, as well as the latest games for the Xbox 360 and PS3. “I can't imagine where it's going to be three or four years from now once developers have mastered these new systems,” Oria said.
Julie Uhrman had a somewhat different take. “My existence on this panel shows the future of gaming is changing, and the future is here,” Uhrman said. “Devices are getting more powerful, game creators are coming from everywhere, and I think every single person is a gamer. Those lines and definitions between what a hard core gamer is and a casual gamer really don't exist any more because we're playing on every single platform. In the future we're not even going to recognize what gaming is – I'm not even sure the word console is going to be a part of it. The future of gaming is freedom for the creators and a great experience for gamers.”
“As a committed graphics whore, I'll tell you both their answers are right, “ said Rein. “On one tangent we're going to see amazing new experiences and visuals. Then there's this whole explosion of the independent developer. Even PlayStation and Xbox are making a big deal about giving developers access. Some of what next-gen is the ability to get experiences that weren't economical to bring to you from big huge companies, or were too crazy for those companies.”
Rein also gave a nod to the increasing capabilities of browser-based games. “I think now with HTML 5 you're going to see the ability for us to bring last-generation, say Xbox 360/PS3, console experiences directly to web browsers without any risks or nonsense. Over time I think the PC will continue to make it easier and easier to get games you couldn't get before.”
Uhrman points out that it's not all about the graphics. “I think what's getting lost in all that is the idea that games are just supposed to be fun,” Uhrman said. “Whether it's a deep, immersive story, or it's incredibly action-oriented, or it's visually appealing, games at the end of the day whether you're spending $60 or trying it out for free they absolutely have to be fun.”
What are the opportunities with the increasing power of smartphones and tablets, and how will they co-exist with consoles? “I'm not a big fan of companion apps,” said Rein. “I want the apps themselves. I don't want something that talks to Halo on my iPad – I want Halo on my iPad. I think that's inevitable, the power of these devices is increasing so quickly that sooner or later you're going to be able to deliver really awesome next-gen experiences. I think we we kicked it off on the iPhone 4 with Infinity Blade. The latsest XCom title on iPad is really, really good.”
Gaudiosi brought up the hybrid model between disc-based content and digital content, which sparked some commentary. “I don't think disc-based is going to go away,” said Rein. “I have Time-Warner cable and I have a 30 GB cap. The problem is as we get the next-generation, and both systems have Blu-ray discs, and now the games creep up in size, it's going to get expensive to download four of those games a month. We'll see a lot of improvements and add-ons coming in all the time through digital.”
It's not all rosy, though, and Rein is worried about one possible future.“It would really suck if the biggest amount of money in the system went to Internet providers,” Rein said. “If they started metering Internet service to homes in the United States, we'd be fucked. I am definitely in the camp of being worried about what the cable companies are going to do to consumers in the long term.”