With Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PlayStation 3 set to support a resolution of at least 720p, pushing high-definition as a prominent feature in the next-generation of consoles, Gamasutra asked our audience:“Is HD important to the future of video games?”
The responses from our audience of game professionals showed a surprising range of opinions, ranging from suggestions that HD is simply not important at all, all the way to the concept of HD being completely vital in taking video games to the next immersive experience.
HD is Important
Those that felt HD is important to the future of video games cited a variety of reasons why, but with no clear-cut consensus. Nonetheless, some notable suggestions were to better realize the artistic vision of game developers, to create a more immersive, realistic experience, and to better compete with television and movies as an entertainment medium.
HD is important in giving game developers access to a better, more standardized, medium for relating their visuals, but it is even more important to the future of the industry. To further abuse a marketing term, HDTVs are the center of the trend towards "convergence" of consumer multimedia electronics and high-power home computing. A progressive-scan HDTV is really just a wide-screen computer monitor, that tends to be much bigger and cheaper than such monitors were in the past. As the marketplace starts to look at their computers and their entertainment components as one and the same, less as idiot-boxes and more as productivity devices with "fun thrown in," it will become much less of a leap to market a high-end gaming PC/console as a gaming device with powerful productivity and media tools given as a bonus. Right now gaming PCs seem more like a work-box with overly expensive game components inside, and consoles seem like just another TV attachment that "lets" you play games offered by that specific console maker. The less boxes consumers have to buy, the more they can spend on one box, and the more likely it will be that they want to play the latest and greatest games on that box. As standards converge around a one-box-of-all-trades model, it will become much easier for game developers to reach a larger audience. As long as those standards remain open, and multiple hardware and software vendors compete to be the ultimate tool in standards compliance, equipment and software costs can only go lower for both the consumer and the developer communities. Lower cost means better accessibility, to a wider population, which is a boon to any industry. When we start talking about video games less in terms of market saturation, and more in terms of social ubiquity, that will be the first sign of success. HDTV, as an international and open visual interface standard, is central to that progression.
-Jared Hardy, Obey Kitty
It is, and it will be... but not right now. At the moment, there isn't a large enough installed base of HDTVs in consumers' homes, but in a few years there will be. I'd predict around 2007 is when it will really start to matter, in the U.S. at least. This is assuming we are talking about consoles though, as high resolution graphics have mattered for quite some time in the PC market.
-Derick Eisenhardt, EMH Games
If HD is used to create a more immersive experience for the gamer and the goal of a game is to include the player at the greatest level possible then it is important.
-Kent Simon, Novalogic
Personally I think that the console creators should make a deal with Sony or Dell or Panasonic… whoever to create monitors for the consoles. TV is bad for everyone anyways. All I ever wanted was a really kick butt screen to play movies and games on, as do many of the people I know. Who has time to waste watching television programs anyways? Let's create something that works with the consoles and the PCs, not the other way around. Start something new and innovative. If something like this existed, no one would need television. It would be sweet.
I work at one of the largest consumer electronic retailers in the U.S. and see firsthand the reaction people have to the "HD Experience" as it relates both to games and to traditional TV-entertainment. HD requires a leap of faith by the consumer. After they make that first leap, though, there is no turning back. HD is one of those features that you do not know you have until you lose it. HD as a technology is important to video games now, but it is not as accepted as “the way to play” quite yet. This generation of consoles may be seen as overkill as far as HD is concerned, but it's a step to get the consumer's feet wet for coming generations and make HD the norm for video games. Microsoft started this transition by defaulting with HD cables in their standard bundle, making composite/S-V cables the "RF-adapter" of the future.
Absolutely. After seeing a game like Oblivion in HD, I think most gamers will never look back. That's going to affect the amount of time and money that gets put into top-shelf games. It's certainly going to increase the market for texture designers.
-Morgan LaVigne, Classroom, Inc
Yes. As developers further push the bounds of realism in games (and related applications), it's important that the output and display technology available to the consumer be sufficient to realize the beauty and detail thereof. If the consumer cannot visually discern the level of detail in one game from another, even though the one has a significantly higher level of detail than the other, then the display technology in use has reached its limits. And, with current graphics technology, televisions of normal resolution are not sufficient to express the full level of detail displayed in many games. Computer monitors have been able to display graphics of higher resolution than that of the standard television for many years; it's time that console display technology catches up. On a related note, we must keep in mind that our eyes do not have a maximum resolution in the same way that televisions and computer monitors do, so there is really no point at which someone can say "Okay, that's enough, we don't need anymore detail than what we have now." And so, there is no reason to believe that graphics technology will not continue to evolve as it has so far, producing ever higher and higher levels of detail in games (and related applications). In the future, HD, as we currently understand it, will not be enough; it will reach its limits just as standard television displays have now. HD is a good start for now, but "for the future of video games" that's all it is.
-Matthew Thomas, University of Montana
Absolutely. HD is a reality of the home entertainment world. Video games will continue to compete with films and TV, and need to compare well with their use of HD.
-Justine Bizzocchi, BizArts
Yes... it is very important. High definition is the number one factor that can influence the PC gamer to purchase the console version over the PC version. Not only does HD help generate an interest in console games from the PC gamer market, but it also brings the original artistic vision of the game as it was intended by the developer to a high definition console system. No one wants to pay over 1000.00 US dollars to see a larger image of an 8-bit Mario, but someone will not think twice about spending that kind of money if it means their console games will look even better and more realistic than a standard television. Of course HD is only important if the game developer takes the time to build the game from the ground up using HD visuals. Take Gran Turismo 4, HD was thrown in as an afterthought... a very good decision pressured by the fan feedback during development, but clearly thought of after the code base was written for standard telvisions. I know I get tired of watching the game switch in and out of HD format based on where I am at in the game.
-Douglas Matulewic, MechLife