EA advocating single open platform

Publisher's head of international publishing predicts standardized console will deliver games over the Internet in "15 years."

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As one of its most popular and lucrative series, EA has made sure to reach as broad an audience as possible with its annual Madden NFL franchise. As of October, the game is available on 10 different platforms: the Xbox 360, Xbox, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, Wii, GameCube, Nintendo DS, PC, and Mac. According to Gerhard Florin, EA's head of international publishing, life would have been a lot easier had the publisher only needed to make one version.

Speaking to the BBC, Florin said that the numerous incompatible consoles on the market are making things too difficult for both consumers and publishers. "We're platform agnostic, and we definitely don't want to have one platform which is a walled garden," said Florin.

The solution, Florin believes, is a single, open console. "We want an open, standard platform which is much easier than having five which are not compatible," he told the BBC. Though the change is still far off--"we could be talking up to 15 years"--Florin thinks that the future lies in "server-based games streamed to PCs or set-top boxes." "You don't need an Xbox 360, PS3, or Wii--the consumer won't even realise the platform it is being played on."

While a single platform might be ideal for publishers, console manufactures may not be so keen on the idea. Microsoft and Sony have invested heavily in recent years to secure and expand the market for their proprietary cutting-edge technology. Despite an unforeseen $1 billion hit due to faulty hardware in July, Microsoft hopes its game division will turn a quarterly profit this year for the first time since its inception in 2001. Sony, which made a tsunami-sized splash with the original PlayStation and PlayStation 2, is currently feeling the adverse affects of the console race with the PlayStation 3. The company's games division posted a loss of more than $1 billion after its first- and second-quarter financials, and analysts are fretting over the PS3's September sales.

Likewise, Nintendo is unlikely to so readily part ways with its cash-printing Wii, which has sold more than 9 million units worldwide in less than 12 months on the market. Nintendo is currently projecting more than $11.6 billion in revenue for the year, with some analysts pegging its 12-month stock price to top out at $870 a share.

However, games consultant Nick Parker believes that competition among console makers may no longer be necessary. "Competition was required to ensure the pace of technology was maintained," Parker told the BBC. "Going forward that is irrelevant. Gaming will just require potentially a [$100] box from Tesco made in China with a hard drive, a Wi-Fi connection, and a games engine inside. Games will be provided over the net."

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