Industry icons get connected

Luminaries with ties to EA, Ubisoft, Sony, Microsoft converge to talk about the online future of the gaming industry.

by

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA--Online gaming has been "the next big thing" for years now, and the success stories are beginning to show their impact on the industry. From Counter-Strike to World of Warcraft, breakthrough games are piling up, increasingly making some form of connectivity a mandatory feature for upcoming products.

Last night, the Churchill Club held a panel discussion featuring a few industry heavyweights to discuss the changing landscape of game design in light of an online world. The lineup gathered to discuss "The Era of Connected Gaming - An Inside Look At An Industry On Revolution" included Lars Butler, former vice president of global online for Electronic Arts and current CEO of the upstart TWN; Laurent Detoc, president of Ubisoft North America; Raph Koster, chief creative officer of Sony Online Entertainment; and Peter Moore, corporate vice president of Microsoft's interactive entertainment business. The panel was moderated by GameSpot cofounder and senior vice president of CNET Networks' games and entertainment division, Vince Broady.

Addressing an auditorium filled with sharply dressed businesspeople, the luminaries engaged in a discussion spanning a multitude of issues facing the industry, from the impact of user-created content to end-user privacy concerns.

Broady started the conversation by asking the panelists what they thought "the connected era" meant. Moore answered with a rare response that did not begin with an in-depth explanation of an Xbox 360 selling point.

"In the future, if your console isn't connected, it's no different than a laptop that doesn't connect to the Internet," Moore said. "It's an inferior experience and it really is a step backwards for the industry... Offline seems primitive at this point."

Koster went beyond simply calling offline games primitive.

"The entire video game industry's history thus far has been an aberration," Koster told the audience. "It has been a mutant monster only made possible by unconnected computers. People always play games together. All of you learned to play games with each other. When you were kids, you played tag, tea parties, cops and robbers, what have you. The single-player game is a strange mutant monster which has only existed for 21 years and is about to go away because it is unnatural and abnormal."

Detoc and Butler weren't sold on the inevitable death of single-player games, with Butler borrowing an analogy that the entire crowd instantly understood, if the laughter was any indication.

"Linear entertainment in single-player is to media what masturbation is to sex," Butler said. "It'll always be there, but it is not the real experience."

Be that as it may, Koster suggested that even the games that say "for one player" on their boxes have largely ceased to be solitary experiences.

"The players, once they go connected, they don't go back," Koster explained. "They find it difficult to go back to experiences where they can't share experiences with others. Even any single-player game today is going to have wrapped around it the forums, the cheat sites, and so on endlessly."

However one interprets the semantics of the connected era, Butler thinks the industry still has a ways to go before it completely transitions.

"The first thing that people do is they take their old stuff and put it into this new world, like NBC doing cable," Butler said. "But the real value will come from people who create new entertainment experiences that leverage the full power of the broadband world, just as CNN and MTV and HBO and ESPN create original entertainment for the cable world."

The impact the true arrival of this connected era has on the industry will be immediate and pronounced, Butler said. "Calling [online-connected games] revolutionary is absolutely on the ball. I think that most companies that are still going strong today will wake up tomorrow as if they've been hit by a truck. It is such a fundamental shift in the industry."

While the arrival of that truck is likely to shake out a good number of game developers and publishers, Moore said that the retail landscape is set to undergo a particularly drastic change of face. Even though he made a point that the current retail model was hugely important to Microsoft's plans for the near future, he sees its days as numbered.

"Let's be fair. Whether it's five, 10, 15, 20 years from now, the concept of driving to the store to buy a plastic disc with data on it and driving back and popping it in the drive will be ridiculous," Moore said. "We'll tell our grandchildren that and they'll laugh at us."

That move to digital distribution is just one in a series of transitions to a connected era the industry is currently undergoing. Moore could easily have been addressing the sum of those changes when he referred to the Xbox 360 as "a living entertainment experience powered by human energy," but it seemed every member of the panel foresaw a gaming industry where the publishers and the games themselves were much more closely integrated with the consumers.

"In the long run that is actually the unique selling proposition of a connected platform: that it is bidirectional, that it is persistent," Koster said. "That's really long-term what we're selling. We're not selling the bits. We're selling those other intangibles, the opportunity to feel special, to show off your achievements, the opportunity to upload something."

As Koster had noted earlier in the evening, "Using the word 'connection' even feels small. It's a place. And all of this industry is moving toward realizing this, and all of this is going to be a place that serves a medium like entertainment in a lot of ways beyond shooting games."

Discussion

72 comments
acatsmeow2003
acatsmeow2003

What would the payment structure of downloading these games? Would it be credit card only? What those would do without a credit card , how would they get to play those games? Hopefuly there is something that will let people access games that have no credit card if they go this route of digital delivery of games.

soulknight63133
soulknight63133

I don't believe any online can match the immersiveness of single player games. Online games are cool but some things are not feasible. Remember the cinematic effect when using a "summoning" spell in FFVII? Look at the in-depth moves you can pull off in adventure games such Ninja Gaiden, Devil May Cry, and Prince of Persia. There no way a server handle all that and have the graphical quality and animation these games have with thousands of people online. Just think of how bad the lag gonna be if they try to put everything that's in a single player game online.

Xandrilios
Xandrilios

When playing online they can't go back.... been there, it sucked, I'm going back to playing TimeSplitters with a few friends in the living room, where you can actually see the person in real life who you are playing with. And by the way, some of those Sony-are-copy-cats people ever think about the fact that the Xbox had absolutely nothing original (except for the size of the controller), it's just a mix of a pc and a ps2, whoohee, now sony copies something again, like thats so bad. Even the NES was a copy of arcade machines, come on, give it a rest.

zhuojloh
zhuojloh

A lot of people dont realize, Sony do have Online Market and Experiences. SOE have Starwars Galaxy and EverQuest I and EverQuest II. PS2 side, they have Socom and Champion of Norath in the market. WTH are those fan boy talking about?

niels200683
niels200683

Meh, I don't like either... I don't really enjoy myself while playing alone (unless I just got the game and everything is 'new' in it... and then I have to force myself to beat it...) But I don't like playing online with unseen people either. It seems a little like having invisible friends to me. The thing I like best is having three or more people in my house, and playing till dawn together. It's much more fun when you can actually scream & shout and above all see the look on one of your friends faces when you just manage to pass him before the finish line in some race game. -Fanboyism warning- Another reason for me to love nintendo... with four joypads since N64 (even though snes had an almost never used multitap...) I also think they make great multiplayer games (mario kart, lylat wars, goldeneye, smash bros.). So non-online won't keep me from buying a good game. - - But hey, it is more challenging than just beating a computer with limited AI. I won't mind playing any game with online just because I like playing next to actual people better. It's just that the last online game I seriously played was Jedi Academy until the clan fell apart... I loved the special moves / sabers / counter system in it. but that's quite some time back. First online game ever played was duke nukem 3D... over modem. Oh no, wait... it was rise of the triad (a classic!)... great shoot em up with john woo style guns (even rocket launchers!) and the great old dog mode... still liked dragging my PC over to a friend to play it on LAN better though. What happened? Oh yeah, goldeneye came out...

PSP360Gamr83
PSP360Gamr83

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

PSP360Gamr83
PSP360Gamr83

Haha, now sony is going to "show off achievments" hmm seems oddly familiar to us 360 owners. I mean yeah i still love single player but online is exactly like what they comapred it to, sex. online is the real-deal for next gen gameplay. I DID want to get a PS3 to put with my 360 but now its kinda just hangin there on teh balence. ive seen amazing games for 360 and amazing games for PS3. I think that I'll only get a PS3 after it comes out when its worth it, after it gets to the price original Xbox's and PS2's are today. oh well I don't want to start a rant because I'm no fanboy, just stating the facts. SOny will make a big mistake not focusing on online gameplay.

acatsmeow2003
acatsmeow2003

BTW also what with digital distribution, what if you wanted to trade in your old games to trade for a new release what then? What will become of Ebgames/Gamestop and the like who sell and buy games new & used?

Auron_X2099
Auron_X2099

[amazingwebhead wrote : One more point: I like going out to but a new game, and to open the seal and feel the product in my hand. At least then I can physically see what my money bought and store it away to play many years from now when I stumble across it sometime. I don't want it all t be 'digital', transferred and stored on hard disk. Stupid and not progress at all. Just keep it the way it is.] I must agree, I to feel it's not the same as owing the physical copy and storing it in your collection, then playing the game years from now. If they do go digital distribution they should then I it has an alternative not the only choice on how we buy our games in the future.

acatsmeow2003
acatsmeow2003

[s0l0123 wrote : I'd go for Single-player over online anytime, single-player all the way! ] Yeah I do I agree with your statement. As for digital distribution I'm not too keen as this method. I prefer actualy owning the physical copy something that I can sitting in my collection. As oppose to containing within a HDD.

Vastet
Vastet

Saying single player games is akin to masturbation compared to sex is blatantly false. That's like suggesting you can't properly enjoy a movie or a book by yourself. The best games are single player. Multi player is for casual gaming.

shadowhunter0
shadowhunter0

i agree with FuguNabe i prefer good solo game over online games most of the time these r th game that i have the most fun in but i do like online games has well example metal gear series and gta series those 4 very fun solo games and there is alot more that i like solo but cant remember there title

shadowhunter0
shadowhunter0

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

rbarahona
rbarahona

I like the idea of being connected. That's great stuff. It will be interesting to see how the industry moves forward and evolves toward this new era.

samekila
samekila

i get broadband dsl for same price of dial up aol threw valor its 2006

red_ace
red_ace

People have said copying somebody is the biggest form of flattery.

ZEELIX
ZEELIX

how much of the world doesnt have highspeed? like hello bastards i still ain got it. what you ggonna leave us in the dark well thanks many. jesus when will we get it. i mean common.. ill be dammed if the rest of the games that common are all multiplayer. btw classics n retro rule [-;E

FuguNabe
FuguNabe

I embrace online but their will be certain genre that need not ever have to cater to online. MMORPG is fine and dandy but there should still exist the traditional singleplayer RPGs, STR/RPG, ACT/RPG. There's also the Mario of this world.While I can understand FPS being catered to online experience I still believe that a single player campaign/missions with good story, narrative, plots, etc is still important. If game companies only consider online only as the main component of a game then I feel that games will lose much creative directions and ability for each game to convey a differences to another. Many game of the same genre would all literally play the same, this and that game may really be all the same experience. I certainly wouldn't want that. I can't imagine series like Metal Gear ever become a completely online game. The single player experience is still too important to just be chucked out the door (MGS3 Subsistance is not bad the way they opted to have both single and online game). I hope that they would consider both singleplayer and multiplayer experience in future games equally and not rush only one side. Phantasy Star Universe seems a game whereby catering to both that's on the horizon that might work well with both single player and multiplayer. We'll see. Point being both type of gameplay is important and provides vastly different experience if done right.

FyreHeart
FyreHeart

Hmmm... Books are linear, single "player" experiences, and they've been around for... oh... millennia? Multiplayer won't replace single player. It's a "Both...And" kinda thing.

brothaval
brothaval

nintendo's probably gonna do a better job than sony in their online plans

brothaval
brothaval

i bet nintendo will do a better job than sony in their online plans

solidus_07
solidus_07

I think some games should still be single player. Games like Shadow of the Colossus use single player to their advantage. I feel so alone when I play those games and they can be very rewarding.

ObiKKa
ObiKKa

"The single-player game is a strange mutant monster which has only existed for 21 years and is about to go away because it is unnatural and abnormal." Man! What a moron Raph Koster, the chief "creative" *coughs* officer of Sony is! No wonder Sony mostly fails time & again to adhere to the needs of gamers' of all kinds. That's why I only like the Microsoft & Nintendo organizations (in terms of console manufacturers).

ObiKKa
ObiKKa

"The single-player game is a strange mutant monster which has only existed for 21 years and is about to go away because it is unnatural and abnormal." Man! What a moron Raph Koster, the chief "creative" *coughs* officer of Sony is! No wonder Sony mostly fails time & again to adhere to the needs of gamers' of all kinds. That's why I only like the Microsoft & Nintendo organizations (in terms of console manufacturers).

s0l0123
s0l0123

I'd go for Single-player over online anytime, single-player all the way! About the online games distribution thing, well, that would suck if you had a crappy net connection and the games was like 5GB, I prefer buying it from the stores.

Gmex
Gmex

jeez why am i not suprised by this...

kaziechameleon
kaziechameleon

wow they act like the pc hasn't been providing expansive online experiences for almost a decade, and after so many multiplayer focused, or specific games for about a four-five year period the FPS genre got a wonderful selection of single player games, half-life 2, farcry, doom3, chronicles of riddick, fear, call of duty 1 and 2. why was there such a resurgence of single player A list titleswithin a two year period, simply because multiplayer only offers sertian kinds of experiences, online is filled with hacks, jerks, bugs, lag, spam, things that haven't really gone away since the time of quake 1, the online experience isn't getting that much better. the only system that came close to changing things was x box live, you had a persistent online presence that was the same for every game. but what more can we really do, multiplayer will never have a cinematic effect because players are generally more concerned with finding exploits and bunny hoping to avoid fire, breaking the wonderfully immersive experience into a commical, not nearly as cinematic, joke something that i think lives in the shadow of the single player of the game, the only online games that i think have the power to change that are the mmo games such as Guild wars, witch with it's no fees draws in the hardcore and the budget crowd, and WOW witch is the most successful game in, well, i'd put it up there with GTA, half-life, Mario, zelda, tomb raider, halo, goldeneye, doom, quake, and the rest of the genre defining financial success stories. i think that integrating the internet is a must, i love the free steam content i keep gettingfor half-life 2, as i also love the updates and maps i get for BF2. i think online has had it's time, no the consoles are drueling over it, but they can't possibly change it that much, but pc games are reaching for the stars with games like spore, and the eventual release of the PPU, (physics processing Unit) games like Huxely aren't revolutionary because they are online but because of the gameplay variety that it will hopefully offer. if there is one thing that the pc needs it's a RTS revolution, this genre is in the same place now as it was when star craft came out, when will it change. don't get me wrong i love online capabilities, the internet allows for persistent communities, user created content, multiplayer, MMO, constant updates, but what more can really happen. online happened, and now the consoles are getting it, just like FPS vehicles happend back in tribes, and halo only resently brought that to the consoles successfully. i am just sitting back and waiting to see what happens on the pc, i expect online distribution to become the new standard(saddly, i don't always have online) i think that hard copies are invaluable though so this saddens me, but online distribution will cut back on pirating, but it will also cause the possibility of game identity theft witch a friend of mine has been a victum of twice, BF2 and CS source. yeah, peace

spinecaton
spinecaton

"Sony can do it, if 25% of the ps2 fans were to get a ps3 and go online with it that would still grossly out number all of the xboxonline users. You have to remember xbox has only really been a hit in the states" I'm pretty sure xbox is huge over in europe too. As a matter of fact, I end up playing a lot with French, German, and British people almost everyday.

Medicine_Man
Medicine_Man

Sony can do it, if 25% of the ps2 fans were to get a ps3 and go online with it that would still grossly out number all of the xboxonline users. You have to remember xbox has only really been a hit in the states,

chrisdojo
chrisdojo

sony......copy?????? ps3 is gonna suck because it will copy everything else (but not copy well)

IgnatiusX
IgnatiusX

Just more proof that the industry is stepping towards sequels and idiocy. A game without online play is primitive? Super Smash Brothers. Final Fantasy VII. Super Mario World. Resident Evil 4. Primitive... and yet, some of the best games ever created. Good job idiots, way to focus on what is NOT a game and what is a FEATURE of one.

buzzoinks
buzzoinks

i guess flipping through a good magazine (alone), putting together an escher picture puzzle (alone), or playing solitare (alone) is "not the real experience." oh please... this boys club on the panel all have their careers staked on growing interest in online. Raph Koster of Sony Online calling unconnected gaming a monster that is about to go away? now THATS masturbation!

Gohanmohan
Gohanmohan

Nikita_acid: "online is not important. resident evil ,ff7 and i can go on for ages." Well looks like someone prefers masturbation to the real thing.

NextGenAdam
NextGenAdam

I quote: "Let's be fair. Whether it's five, 10, 15, 20 years from now, the concept of driving to the store to buy a plastic disc with data on it and driving back and popping it in the drive will be ridiculous," Moore said. "We'll tell our grandchildren that and they'll laugh at us." For goodness sake... what rubbish. Well he is some main guy at MS for xbx, so what do we expect.

nikita_acid
nikita_acid

online is not important. resident evil ,ff7 and i can go on for ages.

Gaara79
Gaara79

They keep repeating the same thing, but the market keeps saying... your wrong dudes! Most acclaimed game of the year this year was RE4, no online at all, PDZ had great online , but was bashed for the single player.. Infact I havent finished the single player since i played it online.. That wasnt becouse singe player games are obsolete, it was becouse the PDZ single player just inst that great... I dread the day that all RGP's become MMO's.. IBecouse i hate the damn things, whats the point of playing an RPH when you cant get to the end of the story? And the Downloadabel games thing? Yeah only when storage becomes cheap enough to hold more thne a 100 games, and basic internet speeds become so fast you can DL a 100GB (lest say games of the future are that big) file in less then 5 minutes, Im not interested.. Besides, what if a game like psyconoauts comes out, I want to buy it, but the developer tkaes if off the server becouse of lack of sales before i can dl it.. Wih games in stores there is always a chance to find what you want if you look for it, I saw Ico a game that was suposedly sold out sitting on a store shelf like two year ago, and bouth it right away.. Same with Otogi, I dont see that happening with the DL service..

mikekare79
mikekare79

Online is the future. I only rent single player games. I buy multi player ones.

azizrulez
azizrulez

thats way too much for me to read

hush404
hush404

Not all games should be online. In fact if every game was online it would ruin some genres and totally mess everything up. I'm not against online, there's lots of fun to be had in a nice race against someone in burnout or frag someone in half-life 2 but I could care less about online when I'm playing Xenosaga or Syberia. Also, not that anyone in the group of contributers bother to mention is that online is subscription based, thus you've got to have that supply of money. If you force games to move to the online world you'll see casual games alienated because they don't feel that a game (or game service) is worth paying per month for. Or perhaps a child/teen is SOL because he/she is too young to get a credit card and mommy/daddy won't fork their's over to pay for the game service. Some of the men in that meeting said that Single player only games were primitive... odd I don't consider the countless RPG's Square has released (and continues to release) to be primitive... infact they turn out to be beautiful (in visual, audio, story) creations.

samekila
samekila

i been playing games since atari 2600 i loved my playstation 2 i got a xbox a few years ago i didnt have dsl at the time but i still took to the xbox basically because of custom soundtrack feature then got dsl about a year ago now my closet has a lot of systems with dust om them i just cant stay offline now i own a xbox 360 i just cant play single player games much anymore online interaction defiantly they way to go

xeidog69
xeidog69

If they do anything remotely close to this idea..I hope its only gonna be simple things for single player games..like maybe a few moths down the line have expansion for single payer games...Like resident evil 4 you have finally played it 5 times through..you finally got all the best weapons and all the upgrades to the max...now its just plain easy....hmmm connect to online and maybe download extra feature/content..like uber difficulty levels..more treasure/weapons/upgrades to be had only to further that games lifespan....now that perticular facet of online enabling would be sweet....did anyone have the pleasure of owning dreamcast? I did I use to like the little monthly events they would hold..some would win prizes...cristmas rolls around and although you r on single player..you suddenly have christmas decorations strewn about the environments...these things are more then welcomed to my single player experiences..other then that leave well enough alone..and focus more on creating the next new innovative multibillion copy seller game....see this is an example of how they could make gaming better but will probably think dollars and end up ruining gaming as we know it someday by forcing something on us we dont necessarily want....

xeidog69
xeidog69

hmm to some degree games should have something to do online..like a good pc game that has both and is really mainly a single player rpg..would be dungeon seige 1+expansion and dungeon seige 2...both have pretty decent sized single player campaigns...but then you can connect to an online server and play with someone whos hosting a game, you can host a game or be matched up automatically...I mean it works great...sure FF7 would not due very well with an online portion because you may end up with 4 clouds in one party and that would be lame..however if games have a create a player feature and such then it should be a standard..let us enjoy the game by ourselves then delve into the online world once we have leveled up our characters..but as far as everything being online period..stick that one up your poopers idiots..maybe I would like to just have wifi on my computer...and another thing if this happens it just means more money for microsoft/sony online/and whatever other company charges additional fees to play the game in adition to the cost of your broadband/dsl connections...I believe that all online games should have a single player campaign or network feature on them so you and friends can all have yourself a network party via wifi... and play together that way.....but who am I...I have only been a gaming finatic for the last 23 years...sure certain online games wouldnt work that way because people would be able to cheat on how much gold they have etc..but theres ways for them to stop that from happening...maybe in single player limit what types of armor are available, and how much gold is available to hold, and even havea lower lvl cap while in single player..once connected you would start out at lvl 15 have minimal gold and if your stats would be set according to what your lvl allows..people wouldnt be able to cheat then would they...LOL I like the bit about 20+ year old monster...HAHAHAH....KINDA SCARY THAT these idiots are who are making the decisions on what games r gonna be available to us in the future...cant wait until I am forced to pay subscription cost just to play games..oh and I definately cant wasit until the day that I cant walk into my local eb games and browse for the next game im gonna play, and ill have to have the fastest internet connection in the world to download the games...I want because by that time games will have been using 25gyg+ bluray disc and who knows what else...LOL IDIOTS....

EvIlKiNgKoOpA
EvIlKiNgKoOpA

Imagine all the game are online,just think of that,now think that you want to play with someone or in some server,with people,but see all the games have online,and so there isnt that much people playing the certain,or old game you still have,this would make a deep dent in online gaming,what sony ms and NINTENDO needs to is talk to 3rd party devolopers,and ask them to allow a multipltform games be able to connect with others,dispite the console they have,just as long they have a good broadband speed,also ofcourse the people can have there own content,some games can have for the 360 could have a mod section ,where you use some mods,as the same for the ps3 and revolution,each system with there own members,and content and what ever,what im trying to say is,the samething you see happening with the PC and MAC's,both diferent OS's,but can play in the same servers instead of saying which is best,lets break that crappy exculsive wall,and make online like it should be,aworldwide connection to everyone in the world

Rasgueado
Rasgueado

How many of those people actually MAKE games?

davahsa
davahsa

Sony just got owned! They better get on the ball 'cause square-enix might even abandom them if they don't pull out some kind of nline structure. E3 is gonna reveal just how much Sony has fallen.... crazy how fast it goes down!

PossibleGamer
PossibleGamer

I think that all 3 methods of playing, single player, multi-player, and online, are all great in their own respects. It's always good to sit down and play with other people, but it's always satisfying to sit down for hours on end and finally beat that final boss. Then you can look back and say, "Look what I did". But playing with other people is great too, both side by side or over the internet. Developers should let online play evolve, but that doesn't mean get rid of the good old styles. Ya? And I'm also opposed to the idea of downloading games over the internet. Like sum1 said before, it's always so exciting to get that new game and take it out of the wrapping. And that great feeling of anticipation on the car ride home. That way, the game is a tangible thing that you have in your hands. I mean, what if your hardrive gets wiped or something else happens? You just blew like 60$! Downloadable content? Cool. Downloadable (full-length) games? No thanks.

mhder
mhder

I look at multiplayer as a bonus or way to lengthen long term enjoyment of a game. Some games are meant to be single player with a multiplayer bonus. Other games are multiplayer based but I usually find the games with a good, strong single player core to be a better game overall because those are more difficult to pull off. I'm not knocking multiplayer games at all but in the case of online games etc - it's the interaction that brings more pleasure than the game itself.

shrum91
shrum91

yea MS..lets just stop making games with great storylines and make soul less multiplayer games only...*rolls eyes*