Gaming consoles have proven themselves to be an enduring platform over the years, but current industry trends have begun to paint a picture wherein that particular hardware may start to face a decline in the future.
Smart-Phones and tablet devices have begun to catch up in recent years, with more and more impressive breakthroughs arriving every week. So it pretty much looks like we need to defenestrate our Xboxes and Playstations, and grab an iPad for our next Call of Duty title, right?
Not so says Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games and designer of the first Unreal engine, as he firmly believes that our current generation of consoles are still good for at least another 6-8 years on play.
Speaking with Games Industry International, Sweeney explained how the very bulk and design of consoles, was what kept them ahead of their competitors, even though they launched several years ago.
“The big difference between a console and a tablet is the console can consume 100 or 200 watts of power, while the tablet consumes one or two or three or four watts” Sweeney said.
That’s really the limiting factor of performance there. Just on the grounds of the laws of physics, you’d have to think it is three to four hardware generations, or six to eight years before the current highest end desktop or console performance you can achieve becomes achievable on tablets.
To me, that really defines the role of consoles in the world. They define the highest and most impressive graphics experience anywhere in the industry. They focus on delivering teraflops of computing performance in a way that a portable device or an economical computer really couldn’t, despite sheer focus on that one aspect.
That doesn’t mean that Sweeny isn’t impressed with what companies such as Apple have accomplished however, as he praised their recent technological achievements. “I’m continually astounded by Apple’s sheer will to push the industry forward”, Sweeney said.
Apple is by far the leading phone provider in terms of profits or any other objective measure of how well they are doing. A company in that position could just rest on their laurels and keep making more and more profit from each new phone.
Apple doesn’t take that approach. Rather, they push the technology forward as fast, or faster than possible to go from lower resolution displays.
Speaking more about the way in which playing games has begun to evolve and change, Sweeney used one of the projects that Epic had recently showcased, a game running on the Unreal Engine 3 on a web browser, as an example.
A lot of consumer devices that you wouldn’t expect now have web browsers built into them, a lot of TVs. I think we’re a ways away from the point where they have enough graphics horsepower to play games like Gears of War.
If you look at a console, the key thing that they do is deliver a huge amount of computing power in a consumer-friendly form factor. A TV might have one-tenth or one-twentieth or one-thirtieth of the power of a console.
So, I really don’t see that being a substitute for the console game experience – unless you put in a two or three teraflop GPU in there.
Six to eight years is an eternity in the world of video games, but then again, I’m perfectly happy playing more games on one solid platform for several more years anyway, especially when developers somehow find a way to squeeze more juice out of the hardware, resulting in games that continue to impress.