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EA's Riccitiello Sees Pause In Console 'Arms Race,' Prepared For 'Very Extended' Console Cycle
EA's Riccitiello Sees Pause In Console 'Arms Race,' Prepared For 'Very Extended' Console Cycle Exclusive
May 6, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

Electronic Arts is prepared for a "very extended" current console cycle, CEO John Riccitiello said today.

On the company's quarterly results call to investors, Lazard Capital Markets analyst Colin Sebastian asked Riccitiello, via indirect reference, to weigh in on recent comments made by Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot warning publishers to start investing in future platforms or risk being left behind.

"I think there's always going to be new aspects.. new handhelds, new peripherals, new things coming out that invite investment from companies like ours," Riccitiello conceded. "[There is an] increased rate of change provided for by the first parties... look at the iPhone... [it's] a new platform in the handheld industry."

"If you're looking for good solid reasons for investing in R&D against new platforms, the market is providing us that," he said.

But to Riccitiello, that doesn't mean a new console cycle in the traditional sense is imminent. "However, I would point out that what traditionally is viewed as a new platform is when the industry steps forward with... more processing power traditionally married to different choices [of] media... cartridge, CD, or DVD," the CEO said.

"Those big changes are not something we're seeing the need for in the immediate term, and nor do we expect that in the medium term," he added.

"I think that arms race... I can never say that it's done, but the relevance of doing that faster and faster... seems to have subsided. We're projecting, relative to the core tech we develop, for [this] to be a very extended cycle."

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Richard Cody
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This time in GC and Xboxs life cycle something felt a little dated, these systems still feel new to me. Maybe it's a combination of new content delivery methods, new controller inputs leaving plenty of new experiences still, and people not utilizing hardware in every way possible. (To make an even greater variety of games)

If this turns out to be true that's great.

David Rodriguez
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I have to concur with Ric, so much money was invested in the next-gens and the power of their hardware hasn't been fully tapped. It's now a matter of concentrating on advance developement pipelines and digging deeper into the tech. PS3 arrived too soon for 3rd-partys but everyone knew it's technology was going to shine in the coming years. If a new console were to come out, it's not going to scale mountains in changing things as much as the previous and be worth the budget... adleast right now.

Mike Lopez
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I can't imagine the current gen h/w cycle going 10 years as claimed by Sony and some others. The fact is there will always be a loser in the competition (currently Sony) and that loser will have the incentive to jump the gun and initiate a new console launch to try to regain a dominant position.

Also the Wii, while already a phenomenal success, is just not as powerful as the other two consoles and will begin to show age faster. Also both Microsoft and Sony will be wanting to capture some of Nintendo's success with a new found emphasis on gameplay and control input innovation over horsepower and that new model will require a new console to be built around it with complete market saturation (vs. just a peripheral with marginal penetration and support).

Finally, digital distribution is quickly becoming a mainstream delivery model and currently only Microsoft has a strong toe hold in that realm. Sony has potential in DD but poor infrastructure, while Nintendo is heavily limited on the Wii. As DD becomes increasingly important Nintendo will have an incentive to release a new console to cater to that delivery model.

I give the current gen 3 1/2 more years before we see a new console released for Holiday 2012. I give current odds for a Sony console to be the first out the door at 62%, a Nintendo release to be first maybe 33% and Microsoft only 5% (only if their current advantages in DD and development ease are somehow heavily eroded). There is 0% chance IMO that any of the consoles last 7 more years until PS3/Wii turn 10.

Evan Combs
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Mike Lopez, when Sony says 10 years I don't think the mean 10 years without a new console. I think when they say that they are talking more about how long they will make and support the PS3, kind of like how they are still supporting the PS2 almost 3 years into the PS3's life.

Mike Lopez
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@ Evan

At launch Sony touted the horsepower of the PS3 as being sufficient to sustain the h/w cycle as the main platform for longer than the PS2 and quoted 10 years+. And I think it is clear that the PS3 will never have the success and longevity of the PS2. Sony and the publishers clearly have a vested interest in continuing to make lofty claims as to the longevity of the h/w; the longer the cycle, the less frequent they have to invest hefty R&D costs to ramp up for a new generation of consoles.