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The Future Human: An Interview with Tim Sweeney
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The Future Human: An Interview with Tim Sweeney

December 28, 2012 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 3 Next

So the next generation of consoles is going to have whatever success it has, and we'll see how that works out. But I want to ask in advance, do you see console as a viable future platform? Because it seems to me that PC is going to continue to evolve and push forward in terms of graphical advances -- and mobile is coming up so fast. Obviously, with Infinity Blade Dungeons, that's a proper Diablo-style game on an iPad. Maybe you're not going to need a console at a certain point. When you're pushing these graphical advances, where do you see them living?

TS: The platform equation is getting a lot more interesting nowadays, but gamers aren't changing that much. There are still hardcore gamers who want to play games where you sit down and have a very immersive experience for two or three hours at a time, and the iPad just isn't a good device for that. It's too small. It's not enough of a viewing window, and the sound isn't moving around you.

But I think you're seeing at the core, as we improve graphics on all platforms, there's still going to be a difference for the sort of game you design for iPad versus console or PC.

Certainly Infinity Blade: Dungeons is based on re-envisioning the Diablo-style game around the sort of experience you want when you're sitting there with your iPhone; a game which you can play for a few minutes at a time if you want, a game that doesn't require the deep and lasting commitment to have some fun a little bit at a time, and a game that's not as huge -- a project that's being developed over the course of about nine months as compared to six or seven years.

So it's a very different scope and scale, and I don't envision the core experience that you have playing a game like Gears of War or World of Warcraft going away. I think consoles are basically just a mechanism for playing games on your TV when you want to sit back on your couch and have an awesome game experience. That's very different from sitting at your computer: better in some ways and worse in some ways.

Infinity Blade: Dungeons

Right. I just wonder, as these things do appear to be converging, what about an Apple TV or a Microsoft Surface kind of situation where you essentially have that console experience there if you want? I'm not trying to bait you or anything, but I feel like this is the last console generation. I do believe console gamers will still exist -- I hope they will, but I feel like they'll wind up moving to PC.

TS: There is no question of whether gamers are going away; the question is, do they move to different platforms? There's some plausibility in that, but the console is a very immersive way to play games. They're more immersive than sitting in a chair in front of your computer with a mouse in a bright room. I have a hard time seeing that experience going away, but I think a lot of these games that are being developed now exclusively for console are going to become more important also on the PC. Most of the companies shipping games on console are also shipping them on the PC -- and doing extraordinarily well, especially through services like Steam, where it's all online and there's no hassle of going into a retail store. So certainly the PC will be a growing part of the new ecosystem.

That's kind of the thing for me. It will become so much easier to port things to different platforms, and you guys are trying very hard to make that happen. In that universe where, say, you could stream something from your Microsoft Surface or whatever to your TV, does there need to be an Xbox and PlayStation 3 and a PC when things seem to all be converging to one point? Portability is important, but convergence is also happening.

TS: Yeah, the convergence is happening, but it comes in fits and starts, and often ideas don't completely work. Also, the thing that's awesome about the controls on an iPad or an iPhone or maybe a future Microsoft tablet is the fact that you have this screen that displays images and you're able to touch it and interact with that image; when you take that device and broadcast that image to the TV, then suddenly you just have a big, flat mouse-like surface. It's not a very compelling control device compared to a game controller, or even mouse and keyboard on the PC. I think you need more to the equation than just a smartphone or tablet beaming a signal to a TV; the controls are a problem there.

So what happens there eventually? I don't know. Are you going to have an Apple TV or a game controller or a console that won't have a game controller? Will all these devices have compatibility in terms of transferring video back and forth? I don't know. There are a lot of unanswered questions, but when the next generation of consoles comes out, you know that they're going to be highly polished devices that will work perfectly for playing games.

A lot of the other ideas that are being thrown around have potential, but are not anywhere near being a finished, polished, usable format. I think you have another solid generation of consoles coming out ahead. After that, who knows? Maybe you'll be wearing your display device around with you everywhere you go and your TV, computer, monitor, and iPhone screen have vanished because it's all mounted to your head.

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