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Hawkins: 'The Browser Is The Platform Of The Future'
Hawkins: 'The Browser Is The Platform Of The Future'
March 8, 2011 | By Leigh Alexander

March 8, 2011 | By Leigh Alexander
More: Console/PC

At the Game Developers Conference last week, Electronic Arts and now Digital Chocolate (Millionaire City) founder Trip Hawkins worried that evolutions in the multiplatform space would pose major challenges for developers trying to earn money in emerging spaces.

Now, speaking on Bloomberg Television, the industry veteran is offering his thoughts on how it might all shake out. "For all of the big media companies, this phase of disruption is dramatic and happening fast," he says. "Where it's really going to lead is where the function of the browser is going."

The explosion of browsers onto mobile devices and the rise of cloud-based gaming can take much of the credit for why Hawkins, who was also Apple's director of marketing prior to founding EA, believes that it'll end up the game industry's most central platform.

"The browser has taken over 2 billion PCs--it's going to be taking over a billion tablets over the next few years, billions of mobile devices," he says.

And it'll even enter new areas: "It will end up in my opinion very strong on the television. The browser is the platform of the future," Hawkins adds.

Cloud-based rendering is increasingly enabling consumers to access content from a number of devices whether or not they own that content, thus "there is going to be enormous growth there," he says.

Consumers will be able to integrate that content more persistently in their daily lives and want to remain engaged with it, versus traditionally when content was segregated to the living room or to a single computer.

"We are seeing a shift from passive escapist media where people 'check out,' and people are feeling too checked out," Hawkins observes. "They are looking for social media, ways to check in. That is a fundamental shift."

"Every company needs to be doing more to migrate," he adds. "I think every one of these big companies need to be doing more than they are."

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Tim Carter
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Talent is the platform of the future.


If the talent says, "Let's do a game on [Platform X]..." listen to them.

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Agreed. A lot of people fail to realize that talent is what leads this industry (along with, in the backkseat, drive and imagination :) ).

Martain Chandler
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In 1996 the talent said, "Let's do a game in VRML." That was a good laugh.

Tim Carter
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I suppose no executive has ever made a mistake like that, huh?

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I support this, but in a way until we can all develop and play the games we want (especially games using higher graphics), it's going to be a while.

However, with games such as Infinity Blade, this could come soon. Who knows what the future holds?

I'll have to mull this over today.

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@ Steve than that is what we work for. The point is that whether you or I like it or not, we are moving to cloud gaming. I personally like holding the disc. I like both my consoles and my PC.

But, downloading is becoming more and more prevalent. We must service both groups.

Ken Williamson
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Cloud gaming is just another transient buzz concept. Until the internet is basically lag-free or all users can access connections to the render banks that are essentially lag-free (due to close proximity etc.), cloud gaming is never going to produce the same experience. Essentially turning your computer into a dumb terminal is not the answer, certainly not in any games that require fast and precise input (i.e. most).

However, cloud gaming could really empower mobile platforms. That, at least, could produce some really exciting possibilities.

Steven Miron
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Er no - that's the whole point. It's not "whether you like it or not" - it's whether the market will like it or not. No one can enforce their will on the market - not for long anyway. It doesn't matter what "you are working for". If this coincides with demand, then you can possibly turn a profit. If you have no customers, you will go broke. It's that simple. The tail does not wag the dog.

Anyway everyone is entitled to their opinion. If you see a "trend" towards "cloud gaming", then by all means follow that trend. Myself, all I see is a fad.

Joe McGinn
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>>I support this, but in a way until we can all develop and play the games we want (especially games using higher graphics), it's going to be a while.<<

It will be a while. About six months, I think. ;-) Molehill (Flash 3D) exposes the graphics hardware - even in full-screen mode, if your game wants - to the web browser. Will be out later this year, is already out in beta for testing and development.

I think Trip has a good point. What is the iPhone/iTunes success all about? *Frictionless* access to content and apps. Web browsers - once they have proper access to the graphics hardware - is the frictionless path to software on non-Apple devices. Imagine being able to offer the beginning of your game freely, with a single click, no install or client, the user is on it as easily as they are on a web page.

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Right, as I stated before we are not there yet. But as we come closer to this seamless access (Summer Wars anyone xD?), this will become more and more prevalent, and we may as well innovate and push the space anyway.

Steven Miron
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Oh God, I hope not. That's all we need, yet one more layer of buggy bloatware between our code and the hardware...

This reminds me of the fad around 2001 where everything was suddenly a web browser from your refrigerator to your television. For some reason people preferred to keep their internet on their computers (and in extreme cases, cell phones), and it never caught on.

While running games in a browser is probably a publishing company's wet dream (because if the app code is on the server side there is no risk of 'piracy' and they can go crazy with the micropayment model), today's ever increasing broadband speeds really leaves no excuse for not simply downloading a binary that is optimized for speed and graphics and doesn't have to trust a browser's API, virtualization and security interfaces.

Plus when you talk about running in a browser - WHICH browser? Despite huge attempts at standardization, some of the major browser players always support these standards in a very loose way. I can't see how this would change in the future.

George Blott
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I agree, however a unified browser seems more attainable than the unified console dream of yesteryear. (with apologies to OnLive and it's ilk)

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I'm sadden every time I hear a hardware or software tech talk about the future. When ever they talk about the future they leave out the one element that will make it all possible. The Human element. It always seems like they just go on and on about how the future will be this device, or this software, or this hardware, and they just forget to put people in the investment. The future will be McDonald, and Walmart if we don't start investing in teaching people in our homeyard how to use and create form this technology. Technology can do nothing for itself if the human is left out of the equation.

Michael Joseph
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I don't know what the future holds but what is clear is that all of the things that were fun during the days of the BBS and BBS games still hold true and the internet and the web in particular have popularized concepts that are relatively old. The number of users has exploded of course so to avoid being lost in a sea of obscurity user tend to congregate into online cliques by hobbies and interests or in the case of clever social networking sites like Facebook, by known associates.

This fits with the truism that "fun is fun" or universal and there's usually a way to bring something that is considered niche into the mainstream if it's packaged and presented in a certain way. Likewise there's usually a way to model real world fun experiences or behaviors into fun virtual or online ones.

The web has been a great enabler because it's inherently cross platform and just like sneaking a personal computer and gaming system onto a phone (as opposed to selling people on the idea of owning a PDA) the web browser offers a backdoor way to get people who do non gaming things online (ebay, webmail, news reading, research, staying in touch with others, etc) to play games.

So yeah, there will be more games packaged and delivered over the web because the barrier for attracting new players is so low (eg. just click this link!) but that doesn't mean web games are going to replace certain console, arcade and PC games that have always targeted cutting edge hardware.

Samuel Batista
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Honestly, I do see this as a strong possibility for the future. Google's testing the waters of a browser based laptop with their Cr-48, and it's still very early to imagine a world where everything you do in a computer will be within the confines of a browser, but as browsers become more powerful and sophisticated, allowing native code and direct access to hardware, it's a pretty good way of fostering a healthy marketplace while maintaining strong safety features since everything in a browser runs in a sandbox.

I think it might take quite a bit of time for the browser to be as useful as an Operating System, but it's not hard to imagine a world where the browser is king.

Matt Hackett
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Take a step back and examine what application people spend most of them using on their computers. It's their web browser. Makes sense for games to follow the people and their behavior.

Anthony Bowyer-Lowe
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Things are indeed inevitably moving to be more browser-based, just never quite as fast as people tend to predict.

There are several technical hurdles to overcome first. Things like allowing proper full screen modes, capturing the mouse properly for FPS controls (don't you just hate it when Flash games stop working because the cursor has strayed out of the widget area), ensuring that accidentally hitting certain browser-specific key combinations don't stop gameplay/input, enabling decent low-latency access to audio hardware, unifying capabilities and format support across aggressively competitive platform vendors, etc.

Solutions for these issues aren't necessarily difficult - particularly when addressed by browser-hosted native platforms such as Unity - but require some focused implementation consideration lest they be easily abused by a next generation of scammers, spammers and ne'er-do-wells.

Daniel Brogan
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Whilst the amount of browsers is a big problem, there is another, far simpler, major issue to contend with.

The below-average and indeed average PC user has a PC of a similar type. Many PCs are bought from stores of the low-price variety, with a big CPU and everything around it being a bottleneck or a lesser CPU with smorgasbord of components built around it, but always - and I mean always - built to a cost. As another example, it could be done to build a PC for around £600 that's quad-core, a mid/high-end graphics card, at least 4GB of RAM, 512GB hard drive, monitor, Win 7 Home, keyboard and mouse.

And now that sounds good and all, but its £600 and many an average user has to get a finance deal and such deals are usually only offered by typical "red-top" stores and some supermarkets. I strongly suspect there are people out there using machines that are based around an early Intel Celeron or AMD Sempron with barely 1GB of RAM, onboard video etc and running XP even in this day and age.

But, why not put all this to the test? We already have Quake Live and have had for some time now, so all those two billion PCs cited in the article that can run a browser (being that of course, a browser doesn't have huge system requirements) but can they ALL then run something with content mainly dating back to 1999 (with some tweaks) at playable (nay, more than playable) framerates within a chosen browser? Along with everything else?

Even systems that are supposedly better than another specification-wise may not be in reality, it's something that cannot be ignored. But let's not also ignore another side of this: the content itself.

I just mentioned Quake Live, but there are parents out there who would never let their 8 year-old play that. Now you, the reader, may have a different opinion based on what you done as a child (I know I was playing Doom at the tender age of about 10 or so, Duke Nukem 3D at 12 or so etc) but ultimately there would need to be better protection than just a simple age check if you wanted to create a game that involved the merest hint of bloodshed. What if, instead of bloodshed, there were more mature story themes? I'm not talking x-rated material, but rather characters dealing with social issues and giving the player choices in a dramatic fashion.

Anyway, just an idea.

John Woznack
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I can just imagine execs at Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo all doing spit-takes right now reading this article's headlines.

zed zeek
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Of course this will happen, the only question is when?

Well you can argue that its already happened on the PC. i.e. more gaming hours are spent on browser games (mostly flash) than native games.

phones/consoles will be quite a while coming though (esp consoles, as I cant see sony/nintendo/MS wanting this at all)

Ild like to see javascript improved majorly sooner rather than later, strong variable typing for a start!

Kamruz Moslemi
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Every time a new vein is found and a gold rush comes about a new "future" is declared, but then so many of these future's have been left in the past. It would do the enthusiasts good to remember that no bubble expands with impunity.

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