Do you foresee a future with one console, or one locus of gaming?
NB: Yeah. It's going to be the PC. Really, what the answer is, whether you talk about software solutions, like the Media Center PC or what have you, all you have to do is have a PC with a good graphics card hooked to the internet, hooked to the living room TV, with good user interfaces, and boom, you're there. That's starting to happen more and more.
There are huge benefits to open platforms, as opposed to closed platforms. The PC is open, so it's going to have another interesting part. A lot of people haven't woken up to the fact that you now have hardware encryption, and hardware encryption allows you to actually sell games that if you have a license for it you can play, and if you don't have a license for it, you can't play.
Most of the consoles have existed because of the inability to monetize software on the other consoles. Imagine actually having a game that you can sell in China and earn money from it. Because of the hardware encryption, the TPM chip that's now on virtually all motherboards, that's going to happen.
You don't think they'll find a way to get around that in China?
I'm skeptical of that. They always find a way.
NB: We always say that all of us are smarter than any of us, but when you have a private secret that is more than just a number -- that's an actual algorithm, in which the secret that's held in hardware -- you really can't get around it. Remember, games are a whole different ballgame than movies or music. If I can hear the music, I can copy it. If I can see the movie, I can copy it. Games, you're down into the bowels of code. You can maybe copy the concept, but you have to rewrite the game. And that is, in general, not a really doable thing.
But with hardware encryption, if your motherboard goes, so too do all of your games, unless there's something set up there.
NB: Well, key management is actually one of the areas that a lot of people are talking about, but in terms of monetizing your software investment, I think the thing has changed. I mean, software has always... you're always going to be able to crack it. Once it's cracked, it's cracked once and cracked for all, so there's an opportunity to it.
But when there's a different secret in every hardware system, crack once doesn't mean crack for all. I just think it's a really different thing. Remember, the reason you believe that China can crack any code is that up until now, it's been all of these software straw men who have said, "My system is crack-free." That's just not the case anymore.
It seems like maybe online registration keys are more feasible, in terms of being able to still have your game, if everything is connected online. If things are just stored locally, then developers or publishers...
TL: It also circles back to the whole idea of the whole advertising model of games. You're going to see more of that, and it lends itself to the PC and the combination thereof. You're going to see games that were being sold, six months from now, tests and trials of free-but-with-advertising-supported models with them.
NB: Yeah, there are a lot of games right now that were perfectly dreadful games last year and have zero market value, whereas if you play them for nothing or on an ad watch, all of a sudden there's some... the bad games are not quite so fail-hard.
In terms of having the PC be the future console for people, I think there's still a lot of consumer education that needs to happen for that to be possible.
My mom still asks me how to attach a document to an e-mail, because she can't figure it out.
NB: It's even worse than that. We've got one of these wire octopuses behind our television set, from the stereo system around it, the surround sound, three different kinds of video games, a DVD player, and this and that.
And I say to myself, "Okay, there are actually households in the world in which one of the members is not an electrical engineer. What the hell do they do?" (laughter) I spent a half an hour the other day just to get my DVD working again, because the kids have been messing around. I said, "There's got to be a better way, here."
TL: Hence the Geek Squad was born.