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Harrison Sees Open, Browser-Based Future For Gaming
Harrison Sees Open, Browser-Based Future For Gaming
December 3, 2010 | By Kyle Orland

December 3, 2010 | By Kyle Orland
More: Console/PC

Former Sony and Atari executive Phil Harrison says gaming's future will be dominated by high-quality games delivered through web browsers and open platforms, rather than dedicated game consoles.

Speaking at the Italian Videogame Developers Conference in Rome, the London Venture Partners founder said he thinks we'll see games the quality of Modern Warfare 2 running in web browsers and other non-traditional platforms in the near future.

"I think in the next five-to-ten years we will easily get this level of game inside a web browser, on your mobile platform, on your iPad, and we will be able to deliver that level of immersion to any kind of screen," Harrison said, as reported by Develop.

Noting that over 68 percent of venture capital in the industry is currently going towards online games, Harrison pointed out that countries like Korea -- where the retail game business is practically nonexistent -- represent the future of the worldwide game industry.

The companies that succeed in that industry of the future, he said, will be the ones that can "satisfy the needs of the core gamer" on an open, browser-based platform like Facebook, rather than closed platforms like the iPhone and major consoles.

"The console companies, I believe, will want to figure out how to become more open and to deliver more content without restriction to more people, to stimulate creativity," he said.

“I think we have probably seen the last of the traditional game console companies already in the market. I don’t think we’re going to see a new entrant who is going to be able to compete at the level that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have established," he added.

The last few years have seen a proliferation of game engines designed to work within web browsers, including de facto web standard Flash but also engines like Unity 3D, Microsoft's Silverlight and Monumental's Prime MMO engine.

However, not all businesses in this are are guaranteed to succeed - browser-based gaming company InstantAction announced it was shutting down earlier this month after failing to gain traction with its web-page-embeddable selection of classic games and original titles.

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steve roger
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I think he is wrong. The console system will continue and you will end up with both, web based games delivered through a console system browser and discs sold in a shop or order retail online. I doubt that any of these companies game makers and console producers will ever cut off a revenue stream to spite their face.

Sure "someday" there maybe a world connected exclusively by internet. But that future world is way the heck off.

John Gordon
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I think he's half right. This will probably be the future of PC gaming and possibly handheld gaming. Console gaming is here to stay though.

Bart Stewart
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"The console companies, I believe, will want to figure out how to become more open and to deliver more content without restriction to more people, to stimulate creativity."

Not a chance. They will continue to try to protect their fiefdoms, and will probably be successful in doing so for the next 5-10 years.


"I think in the next five-to-ten years we will easily get this level of game inside a web browser, on your mobile platform, on your iPad, and we will be able to deliver that level of immersion to any kind of screen."

Agreed. While the Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft console monopolists obsess over defending their dinosaurs, browser-based gaming -- which adapts to the new high-speed online and mobile world -- is likely to grow far past them. My money would be on companies like Rocket Pack (

William Hartzel
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I just don't see it. I'm sure Sony/Nintendo/Microsoft loves creativity as much as the next guy. But if the creativity isn't on their closed source console why should they bother to promote it. I've seen some impressive things rendered on in-browser engines and while I'm not saying it will never happen I just don't see it happening for a while.

Until the infrastructure and can actually handle that much data consoles will still be around. If anything I can see it moving to consoles with PC support (which is unfortunate being a PC gamer) much like how those Dreamcast dev consoles looked. I actually thought it was moving in that direction with linux support on the PS3.

Not that I want to see people use a 360 running Win 7 and using it as their one stop shop. I would rather it be the other way around and have a nice PC be able to run 360 games.

Omar Gonzalez
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Just a little compilation of the Harrison´s wisdom:

"We invented realtime 3D graphic 1994 with Playstation. Nintendo 64 came out 1996 and had Realtime 3D graphics too. But we didn't blame Nintendo and said: "Nintendo, you stole our idea!"

He expects that every PS3 game will use the motion sensor technology.

I and the consumers don't care about Live Anywhere.

Sony has some plans with MySpace but Harrison can't talk about it.

He believes that PS3 is the place where consumers will use the internet, watch movies and play games. "The Playstation 3 is a computer. We don't need the PC"

Kris Morness
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We're in the middle of an explosive growth of browser based games and they will continue to gain market share over the next several years. Portable casual games are huge and quickly becoming not so casual -- the ability to play at home, at work, on portable tablets while commuting on trains or whatnot. Being able to play a few minutes here and there while on the go is awesome!

But there will always be room for a home theater setup with high quality graphics and audio, being able to kick up your feet and play some awesome console games with abusively loud volume. I would not want to play Assassin's Creed 2 or the upcoming Deus Ex on an iPad or at a desktop computer. Heh, just realized both are from the same studio. Not intentional!

Nothing is going to win or lose here -- simply a big balance shift. Premium retail barely exists in countries like China and Korea, and we're slowly migrating in that direction. Mediocre console games need to go, and your seeing that with many of the Activision studio shutdowns. That may have a pretty big impact on console developers. The console market might have trouble sustaining itself with less dollars going into it.

Curtis Turner - IceIYIaN
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You can plug a computer into a home theatre system and use a controller... The computer version will also give you far more options compared to the console version, usually. Not to mention computers are already past the hardware of consoles.

Brad Borne
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You can, and I have, but it's a complete pain in the ass. Consoles thrive on standardization and focused hardware.

Mouse and keyboard only works for so many genres, and frankly, I don't find it to be a very fun way to play a game. There's hardly even an easy way to get surround sound out of a computer (HDMI from certain cards being the easiest, even then you have to order an adapter), and there's the whole controller issue, which is made a little better by games for Windows and the 360 controller, which is the first USB gamepad that isn't a sad mess.

When developers can count on certain things standard, they can create vastly better games.

Hayden Dawson
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Long as the consumer is keeping the two gaming 'worlds' separate in their minds (and I don't see any evidence that the mainstream console gamer wants the browser game experience) console gaming and its ilk won't just be up and moving to the 'cloud'.

The industry should not play dangerous games of chicken thinking they can just 'make' the consumer do what they want. The market doesn't work that way.

Jaroslaw Szpilewski
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first get the middleware into the browser then start telling stories about how the browser is the future.

no one wants to do something more complicated than minesweeper in JavaScript.

Dave Smith
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web based= television

AAA = movies

Alan Rimkeit
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Spammers must die...

Ian Uniacke
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Agreed. What's with spamming forums lately? Governments need to crack down on this BS. X(

(not that I know a good way how)

Ian Uniacke
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I think Phil's comments are missing the point a little. The console is becoming what's in your hand not what's on the screen. How do you do a 3ds game in a browser? Or a wii game? Or a kinect game? Console will continue to innovate but not on graphics any more they will be innovating on how the player interacts with the game. Nintendo already predicted this years ago which is why they made the push for peripheral driven games (wiimote, balance board, wheel, stylus etc). I do agree if you mean the traditional form of console, it's quite possible that they will eventually die out. But here's the question, if (say) Nintendo were to create a wiimote that was compatible with a pc and a bunch of games on the pc that require Nintendo's patented wiimote, is that a console? I would say yes.

Thomas Lo
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The problem of the commons is that there is no one driving person or company protecting the brand and cultivating key properties which help build an audience and sustain them for other developers. Yes, an open platform can create great things. Just look at sourceforge. However, such open and accessible software has a problem ... people don't think they are worth anything. Yes, facebook games have huge audiences but they make a pittance per user. Trying to up the ante through microtransactions is a dubious proposition at best.

Take for example the world's most popular MMO ... Runescape. And compare it to the world's most popular paid MMO ... WOW. One makes billions. One keeps 4th graders up all night (and these kids don't pay anything for the game).

A platform that really works hard to protect the user experience and maintain it at a high level is far more valuable than many people believe.

Mark Harris
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See Apple.

I don't like Apple products and I don't use them if I can help it (damn wife and her iPod :p), however, those things sell like hotcakes and it's because of exactly what you describe.

"A platform that really works hard to protect the user experience and maintain it at a high level"

[User Banned]
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Andrew Grapsas
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Browser games will always have to deal with browser compatibility, unpredictable internet connections, and a varied environment of hardware. Console games just have to deal with the unpredictable internet portion.

Eric Geer
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browser based gaming just sounds cheap to me--

Not to mention I hate playing browser games---I don't think they could ever gain a full foot in the market--they are too flimsy of a medium.

And with browser based games, you never really give the consumer anything to buy into which in turn makes it a format with no true dedication or customer loyalty--it will be the same thing you see with the 99 cent apps and games on the iphone---Whats the new flavor of the day? And most people arent willing to pay much for that kind of gaming experience. Good for the casual audience not for the core audience.

Mark Harris
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It only works if you can provide a console-like experience through the browser. I'd play Mass Effect or it's ilk through the Bioware portal in a browser if it gave me the same experience. Vendor-specific logins (EA, Acti, whatev) would even allow them to sell me "DLC". Basically access to new content in the browser game that is locked out if you don't buy the "DLC".

I don't think it will happen any time soon, but instant-play AAA games in a browser would be a big draw.

Eric Geer
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Still not intrigued--well at least not now because browser based games imply the need to be constantly and consistantly connected to the web---they are talking about consoles/platforms as being a barrier---what about a good internet connection that won't fail you mid game--or an internet connection at all---there are many people that still are not connected as the monthly charges are quite absurd.

But if i buy a console and games--i can still play--with or without a connection.