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Last Updated: Friday, 19 October 2007, 11:22 GMT 12:22 UK
EA wants 'open gaming platform'
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website

Battlefield
Games are exploiting the increasing power of games consoles

Rival gaming systems should make way for a single open platform, a senior executive at Electronic Arts has said.

Gerhard Florin said incompatible consoles made life harder for developers and consumers.

"We want an open, standard platform which is much easier than having five which are not compatible," said EA's head of international publishing.

He said the web and set-top boxes would grow in importance to the industry.

"We're platform agnostic and we definitely don't want to have one platform which is a walled garden," said Mr Florin.

EA currently produces games for more than 14 different gaming systems, including consoles, portable devices and PCs.

"I am not sure how long we will have dedicated consoles - but we could be talking up to 15 years," Mr Florin added.

Gaming will just require potentially a 49.99 box from Tesco made in China with a hard drive, a wi-fi connection and a games engine inside
Nick Parker, analyst

He predicted that server-based games streamed to PCs or set-top boxes, would become increasingly important.

"You don't need an Xbox 360, PS3 or Wii - the consumer won't even realise the platform it is being played on."

Set-top boxes are becoming increasingly more powerful as they include technology to deal with High Definition TV streams and access to the internet.

Basic games

Both Sky and BT offer personal video recorders that play basic games.

In the 1980s Microsoft led an initiative to create a common home computer platform, called MSX, and supported by Sony and Philips among others.

It became a popular games platform in Japan but died out due to the growth of consoles and the rise of PCs.

Games consultant Nick Parker said the long term future of gaming would most likely not lie with dedicated consoles.

But he said competition among manufacturers had driven innovation.

"Competition was required to ensure the pace of technology was maintained."

He added: "Going forward that is irrelevant. Gaming will just require potentially a 49.99 box from Tesco made in China with a hard drive, a wi-fi connection and a games engine inside.

"It's basically a boiled-down PC."

But he predicted that walled gardens would still surround platforms and that an open system would not emerge.

Microsoft and Sony have positioned their consoles as all-in-one entertainment devices in recent years but both firms have struggled with non-gaming content.

Outside of the US, Microsoft has yet to strike deals with firms for meaningful video content while Sony has turned to companies like Sky after being unable to agree licensing terms with its own in-house content providers, such as Sony Pictures and MGM.

Absorb consoles

Mr Parker said he believed they were in danger of being overtaken by other companies, such as Apple, and PC technology.

"There are a lot of companies coming into the market."

With space in the living room limited, set-top boxes could yet absorb console functionality.

Mr Parker said: "Games will be provided over the net. There might not be a need for a PS4 or dedicated consoles."

With Microsoft's track record in licensing its technology to other hardware manufacturers and Sony hoping to recoup the cost of developing the Cell processor, both firms could move toward a business plan of offering their services and hardware to other manufacturers.

Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo could instead be walled garden content providers and licensors, said Mr Parker.

"There could be a Nintendo channel, a PlayStation channel and an Xbox channel on your set-top box," he added.



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