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Last Updated: Friday, 22 February 2008, 03:10 GMT
Gaming's future 'on the network'
By Darren Waters
Technology editor, BBC News website, in San Francisco

(From top left) Neil Young, Peter Molyneux, Raph Koster, Chris Taylor, Dave Perry and Phil Harrison
The gaming luminaries span the games industry
The future of the games industry lies with the internet and content delivered from central servers, a panel of game luminaries has predicted.

"Everything is moving towards the network," said Neil Young, general manager of EA Los Angeles.

Phil Harrison, Sony's head of worldwide studios, said: "Public utility computing is absolutely the future of the games industry."

The panel was assembled by developer Dave Perry to discuss industry issues.

The panel included online gaming pioneer Raph Koster, Fable creator Peter Molyneux and Dungeon Siege creator Chris Taylor.

"A huge game changer for our industry is for there not to be a requirement for there to be a machine in the home," said Mr Young.

"[Instead] the game is playing as an instance on a Google server farm in Oregon, for it to be rendered, sent down the pipe and shown on a television that you paid an extra five or 10 dollars to your cable company to guarantee you had good enough bandwidth for gaming.

"That to me seems inevitable."

Flash is pointing the way to the future more so than the current generations of hardware
Raph Koster

Mr Koster added: "The games will be playing off the same back end, and will be serving different heads of the game on different devices."

Mr Harrison pointed out there would always be an issue with delivering gaming content to players from servers due to the "speed of light".

Data sent over fibre optic networks is subject to the limitations of the speed of light, which means interactivity between the server and gamer will never have a latency below 70 milliseconds.

That could impact the kinds of experiences it was possible to offer people in the future because data could not move back and forth fast enough.

In the short term, Mr Young, said different devices, from consoles to the web and PCs, would co-exist in the home.

"For content creators your canvas just got bigger," he said.

Raph Koster, who was the lead designer on Ultima Online and Star Wars Galaxies, said the console industry was already being beaten by the web.

"Overall if you look at audience reach, quantity of games made and for that matter, although its difficult to measure, creativity, the web is kicking the console industry's ass in a major way."

He said Flash was the next big platform.

Are the days of the console numbered?

"It's pointing the way to the future more so than the current generations of hardware precisely because it is well on its way to becoming completely ubiquitous."

He said advances in the graphic possibilities of Flash in the coming year would further challenge the console business.

But he admitted that no-one was making money from Flash games at the moment.

Mr Harrison, who oversees the software line-up for the PlayStation 3, said: "In our proprietary view of a platform, it is a combination of technology, business model and consumer experience.

"The web, with Flash, is missing the business model aspect and consistency of consumer experience.

"Once it has figured it out then what you [Raph Koster] have said will become absolutely true."

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