Consoles are becoming an increasingly cost prohibitive business, for both the console manufacturers and the publishers investing heavily in massive triple-A game budgets. The new iPad launches today, and mobile and Facebook in general are putting the squeeze on consoles. Nevertheless, top names like Epic's Tim Sweeney see consoles as a powerful force for years to come. Disney's Warren Spector feels similarly.
"I think over the next 3 to 5 years, you're going to see lots of people changing the way they approach consoles," the Deus Ex and Epic Mickey designer told GamesIndustry International in an exclusive interview.
"If you are spending $50 million or $100 million or $200 million, which is what it's going to take, there aren't a lot of people who can take that kind of risk"
"I don't know that console gaming will ever go away," he continued. "I think it's going to become more - god I said I would never get into the business of prediction, but here I go - I think what you're going to see is an increasing sort of stratification, where you see fewer, much higher end games that continue to do exceptionally well on the console."
With budgets soaring out of control already on today's consoles, one can only imagine how difficult it might become for publishers whenever Microsoft and Sony ship their next platforms.
"That's going to leave a lot of people behind. It's a lot like when, frankly, the first CDs came around and everybody at Origin [Systems] was looking at this silver disk going 'oh my god, what happens when people with more money than we have start filling that thing with assets?' Well now, I mean, once you start actually doing Pixar quality interactive entertainment, there aren't going to be a lot of companies who can afford to do that," cautioned Spector.
"I hope Disney continues to be one of them. But the reality is, most of us are going to have to find a way to become part of the interconnected gaming ecosystem and not compete with real-time interactive Pixar movies."
Spector still looks forward to graphically intense, story-rich games, but he recognizes that the costs are spiraling too high.
"It's going to be a very tough business to be in. If you are spending $50 million or $100 million or $200 million, which is what it's going to take, there aren't a lot of people who can take that kind of risk. So, I am not saying we shouldn't do that, but I am saying it's going to be a very tough business and most people, most companies won't be able to play on that field," he said.
So what does it all mean? Well, for Disney and many others, it clearly means embracing mobile and social, and Spector categorized Disney as still "transitioning" and he noted that he definitely would love to take on an iOS game.
"Disney has been hugely supportive of the console efforts that we're doing, but we are all, all of us at Disney, working on how to not just exist in this one little part of the ecosystem but how do we inhabit the whole thing?" he remarked.
Spector added that he's up for the challenge of making a compelling, story-driven experience for mobile, something that hasn't really been adequately tackled.
"I think a lot about 'how do I bring that idea that playstyle matters and choice and consequence gaming, character-driven story stuff, to that little iPhone or the little Android device?' No one has really done that, and so for me personally, I'm looking at that as an opportunity and hoping I get a chance to do it."
We hope so too, Warren.