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Last Updated: Monday, 6 September, 2004, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Next gen games prove a challenge
By Alfred Hermida
BBC News Online technology editor

Heavenly Sword screenshot (Courtesy Just Add Monsters)
Heavenly Sword promises epic action on a grand scale
There are likely to be fewer games for the next generation of consoles than for the current machines, a games conference has been told.

This is because it will take a great deal of time and money to produce games for the new consoles, said independent developer Tameem Antoniades.

The good news is that the games will offer much more than current titles.

"We have the opportunity to elevate games to be the tenth art," said the co-founder of Just Add Monsters.

Time pressures

Gamers can expect a glimpse of the new consoles in May next year at the annual video games extravaganza in Los Angeles.

Tameem Antoniades
The expectations of players and publishers are rocketing. With every new generation, people want more realism
Tameem Antoniades, Just Add Monsters
But the new consoles may not make it to the shops until late 2005 or even 2006.

Game makers are already working on games for the new machines.

Mr Antoniades has been directing the design of a new game for the next generation of consoles since 2003.

During a session at the European Developers Forum in London last week, he shared some of the experiences of his team.

"We found that everything takes a very long time to make," he said.

Games for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox take between 400 and 500 man months of work. But a game for the next gen machines could take at least 1,500 man months.

Samurai epic

At Cambridge-based Just Add Monsters, a team of 22 people have spent nine months working on a prototype of a next generation game called Heavenly Sword, a samurai revenge epic.

According to Mr Antoniades, game makers need to be prepared to spend up to two years preparing for a new title, before it goes into production.

Heavenly Sword screenshot (Courtesy Just Add Monsters)
The team have been working for nine months on the next gen game
At the same time, the costs of making the game could easily be three times more expensive than at the moment.

"The expectations of players and publishers are rocketing. With every new generation, people want more realism," he told delegates.

"The problem is I don't see the retail price increasing as games are already expensive.

"In the past, sales of 500,000 units would be a hit. Now you need to sell millions."

The upshot is big changes ahead for the games industry, and the types and number of titles it produces.

"In the next generation there will be far fewer publishers, sinking their money into far fewer games," said Mr Antoniades.

"I believe that most independent developers will disappear, either through going bust or due to merger or acquisition."

Emotional experience

His comments echoed those of a senior executive at games giant, Electronic Arts, who recently compared the transition to the next gen to a forest fire sweeping through the industry.

Kung Fu Chaos
Just Add Monsters was responsible for the Kung Fu Chaos game
But the message to delegates at the London conference was not all doom and gloom.

Mr Antoniades talked of the huge opportunity offered by more powerful processors, realistic graphics and better sound, comparing the jump to the next gen of consoles to the shift from silent films to talkies.

"With the next generation, we have the potential to change how people view games," he said.

"Before it was about challenging players, now the need is to entertain players as we need to sell millions.

"We need to find ways of creating great experiences, well-rounded emotional experiences."

The European Games Developers conference was part of a series of industry and consumer events focusing on video games held in London last week.

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