It's the question every developer tries to dodge in interviews. If they don't know the answer they could end up looking clueless, and if they do know the answer, well, then they have to be really careful about what they say. It's the journalist's stalwart, the fanboy's obsession, and an inevitable part of an industry that's always looking forward. So, how about that next generation?
"I'm not even allowed to speculate," cries out Epic's Mike Capps across a plate of macaroons when faced with the question. "Because if I speculate then... you know..."
One thing is for sure, it's a whole different ball game to the last time shiny plastic boxes were dropped into the clammy hands of queuing gamers. Free-to-play has shown you don't need AAA titles or a AAA budget to make money, and cloud computing suggests that eventually all a gamer will need to play blockbuster titles is a television with the right connection. So is the next generation even about consoles? Where do mobiles and tablets fit in? And what can a series of different sized devices offer a world that's hungry for fast connected content?
GamesIndustry.biz cornered a group of industry insiders, each representing a different area of the current gaming market, and each with their own, very specific interests in what the next generation might be, to ask what "next generation" will mean this time around.
The AAA Guy
Luckily, Mike Capps, president of Epic Games, did decide to speculate a little. And if you listen to anyone when it comes to next gen, the Epic boys are a good shout. They influenced key technical decisions in the development of the original Xbox, so there's a good chance they know what the hardware manufacturers are planning this time around. But, he says, this time it's mobile and PC that are the major influences on the market.
Folks are loving omnipresent gaming, so that's great, but that's not the console modelMike Capps, Epic
"Mobile gaming has so changed in the US," he says. "To me, the iPhone, is pretty close to Xbox one tech, and if they keep multiplying 9x every year it's not going to be long before it's past 360 and whatever is next from Microsoft."
"And of course web gaming, PC gaming is back, and it's really exciting to have that new model, but I'm not sure how really they all play nicely together right now. Folks are loving omnipresent gaming, so that's great, but that's not the console model."
Capps argues that it's not that consoles and triple AAA titles will be killed off come the next generation, but that intellectual property will have to change to encompass all the new platforms together.
"Playing Skyrim on the big TV at home versus playing Infinity Blade?" he says of Epic's iOS success.
"I'm super proud of it, but you know it's hard to beat stereo sound and a big TV screen, and that's something I want a console for, I don't want to sit in a chair at a desk and play on my PC. So I don't think that's going away, but you really want to find a way to engage people on all of those spheres with an IP now, in a way that you just didn't need to ten years ago. You could ship Splinter Cell and that was it. It was Splinter Cell and it was awesome and you played it and you liked it, and you'd want to get home to play it again, and we don't have that anymore."