During a talk at the DICE Summit in Las Vegas, industry veteran and Shiny Entertainment founder Dave Perry (Earthworm Jim, Messiah) reflected on gaming's past -- and pointed to the future, where he sees single-player experiences taking a distant back seat to online free-to-play games.
Perry began by showing old marketing material from his first computer, the Sinclair ZX81. At the time, said Perry, the overriding mainstream thought was that computers would br solely used for productivity purposes. "I, like everone else, however, used it to make and play video games," he said.
Looking at how technology has progressed this those days, with increasing storage space and read/write speeds, Perry speculated as to how storage will progress in the future: to unlimited storage through virtual media with fast, ubiquitous wi-fi.
Similarly, he continued, processing will become not traditionally single-core or multicore, but rather clouds of processors.
Part of the technology he has been looking into, he explained, is focused on remote storage and processing, even in games, then delivering the final rendered frames to gamers via Flash video -- removing the need for players to themselves own powerful software and hardware. "It's like going back in time to when we had terminals instead of desktops," he summed up.
As more of the distribution goes online, stores like GameStop -- which Perry dubbed "Used GameStop," with accompanying PhotoShopped picture, much to the amusement of the crowd -- will have less of a hold on the industry.
"It kind of bugs me that we advertise and we co-promote [with these stores], then we send gamer sinto these used game stores," he said.
A GameStop executive recently predicted the era of full digital distribution is 12 to 17 years away, a timeframe Perry dismissed as ridiculous in the context of PC game distribution, Xbox Live Arcade, and entire Asian countries which are largely dependent on digtial distribution.
Perry has been working on a Flash API that he says will streamline Flash game development. Alongisde that will come FanHub, a portal which promises an 80 percent revenue share for "pro developers."
The future, according to Perry, is online and free-to-play. "I perosnally think the days of single-player games are numbered," he said. "Without question, our focus is entirely on multiplayer."
Showing names like Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima on the screen, Perry said Japan has produced some of the best video game designers of all time -- "but would you be willing to bet China will never produce one of those names?" he asked.
If that level of talent emerges in China or Korea, and decides to make games using the free-play-model, traditional game developers with traditional business models may be unable to compete for an audience, Perry warned.
"The key trend is that we are going to be closer to our audience than ever before," Perry said, summing up his talk with a theme that was also espoused by Valve's Gabe Newell the previous day. "We must listen to them at every step. ...Your entire executive team must speak with them, not to them."