Bethesda’s Pete Hines has some strong, bold words for where he wants to see games go in the future. During a PAX Aus panel today, Hines said he believes the gaming industry would benefit from moving away from the idea of platform exclusives. No one buys physical media like a DVD or Blu-ray and worries about having the necessary hardware to play it, and Hines would like to see that model in games.
«I think you’re going to see platforms get more homogenised,» he said. «Because truthfully, there’s really not a reason for [competing consoles] to be different. You don’t buy a DVD and then worry about which DVD player you have. You just buy a DVD and anything that plays DVDs works. And I think games are going to start to move closer and closer to that.»
Hines said he sees a future where you buy a game and play it on whatever platform you want.
«You might decide to play it on the Sony machine or the Microsoft machine or use the Google [streaming] service, but it will start—I think—to look more like it really doesn’t matter what you choose to play it on,» he said. «You just want to play this game on the thing you choose to play your games on whether that’s because where your friends are or whatever. Things like cross-platform play, cross-platform progression, all of that stuff.
«We as an industry need to start to move to not be so beholden to, ‘I only make a thing for that machine and not this one.’ The faster we get to that the better it’ll be for developers, the better it’ll be for games. I think we as an industry—because we need to—are going to move less toward differentiation—‘Why is a thing better on one platform than another’—and more toward I just want to make a thing that everybody can play. Because that’s ultimately what’s going to get you the most players; that’s what’s going to get devs the most money. and reach the most fans.»
Hines’ comments seem to fall in line with the rumours about new consoles like the Xbox Scarlett system and others placing more of an emphasis on streaming. In the movie, TV, and music business—which is now dominated by digital and streaming—the content you purchase generally is able to move with you to whatever new piece of hardware from any supplier that you buy. There are those in gaming who believe game streaming—the «Netflix of games»—is going to be a very big deal very soon. Sony already operates in that space with PlayStation Now, while Microsoft is working on a game-streaming service of its own. EA is also working on a game-streaming network.
Platform-exclusives like God of War for PS4 an Forza Horizon 4 on Xbox One are largely marketing vehicles to help sell consoles. If you want to play God of War, you need to buy a PS4. There is no other way to play it. But if streaming picks up and platform-holders relax their policies, that could result in major changes in where and how people play games. Google’s Project Cloud streaming service is already showing with Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey that you don’t need a console to play the newest, best-looking games.
Also during the talk, Hines said making games that work on a variety of platforms could help cut down on «crunch» at video game studios. If games can be made to play on any number of different platforms—including those from competing companies—developers wouldn’t have to wrangle with the specifics and particulars of each system and instead build something that plays on everything.
Hines has already teased that he knows something about new consoles, so he very well might have been alluding to the capabilities of those systems, though nothing is confirmed. Intriguingly, the CEO of Take-Two, Strauss Zelnick, has made very similar comments to what Hines said today. During a presentation recently, Zelnick talked about how the «closed system walls» that exist between Microsoft, Sony, and others need to come down. He didn’t mention new consoles by name, but it makes sense that he is among those who would be briefed on new hardware before it’s announced.
«The closed system walls are coming down, and they have to,» he said. «Streaming is going to accelerate those walls coming down. We’re all here for the consumers. If you’re going to create rules that don’t benefit the consumers but somehow you think benefit your enterprise, you’re mistaken. Consumers will go elsewhere. You have to pay attention to what the consumer wants.»
What do you think about the future of gaming as it relates to streaming and being able to play anywhere you want? Let us know in the comments below!