Despite the game industry's recent financial hit, THQ CEO Brian Farrell believes "gaming can come roaring back" with emerging technologies like cloud computing, as well as the opportunities in downloadable games and the brand extension potential offered by social gaming.
Cloud computing-based gaming, by which real-time graphics are rendered remotely and streamed to the player's screen rather than generated locally by a PC or console, has not yet reached mainstream consumers, but competing firms like OnLive and Gakai are racing to get the technology into players' homes.
"We like this idea of games in the cloud," Farrell said in an IGN interview
. "Why do consumers need to pay for that computing power [of a dedicated console]? If the consumer is comfortable with digital delivery, why doesn't that concept work where we can deliver great games and lower hardware investment in a digital world? I like that world, frankly."
Farrell acknowledged that such a world would still need to involve retail in some way, and noted that the major console hardware manufacturers may resist such a move, but he remains convinced that whatever the future may hold, the "traditional cycle of massive upgrades for graphics...is over."
"If we can get the hardware away from the TV and in the cloud and then start delivering small- to medium-sized bites for the right price point, gaming can come roaring back," he said.
He said THQ is also keeping a close eye on the "hyper-casual" world of Facebook -- but not with the intention of giving up its core game business. Rather, one of THQ's plans is to use social games as brand extensions, bringing its intellectual property into the social world to broaden the company's reach.
"It's just a matter of keeping that gamer engaged with your brand in each of those environments," he explained.
And THQ is already known to be increasing its focus on the downloadable game space. Earlier this month, the company said it would significantly scale down two studios
and reorient them towards downloadable games, with Farrell more recently indicating Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC will be the main targeted platforms.
"There's a lot of things to like about digital. Piracy can be more effectively dealt with. Used games, which has been a huge threat to the industry, you know. [If] you own it digitally, hopefully at a lower price point, everybody can win," he said.
"We're doing it obviously on Steam now with all of our PC games. If first parties allow that, we'll certainly embrace that, because if that's what gamers want, that's who we're going to serve."