Next-gen consoles, whether the hardware will be called PS4 or Xbox 720 is anyone’s guess, will be the last of the “traditional” boxes according to many industry folks, and Blizzard’s Rob Pardo suspects the same as well.
Speaking in a wide-ranging interview with GI International, the executive vice president of game design and lead designer on World of Warcraft thinks there will always be consoles of some sort – they’ll just evolve into “something new” once next-gen systems have reached the end of their lifecycle.
“We’re certainly on the cusp of a lot of change; it’s just a matter of how and when it all changes,” said Pardo. “I don’t view myself as a prophet; my guess is as good as anyone else’s out there. The big question is: Is this upcoming console generation going to be as successful as the last one? Tablets are getting more and more popular, mobile’s getting popular. The computing and graphics power in those systems are really going to catch up rapidly.
“Are people going to go out and pay $300 plus for a gaming system that plugs into their TV the way the last generation did? I personally think the answer is yes for one more generation. I still think that the console systems will have enough of an advantage, and people are still used to buying them as a consumer product. They’ll be able to deliver really good games that I don’t think you can experience yet on tablets.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the last traditional console generation and it evolves into something new after that.”
Pardo believe tablets could affect gaming in the future once manufacturers overcome the computing power, but he’s worried input devices will suffer.
“The idea of using a gamepad or a plastic guitar or any of those sort of input devices… I really worry when those don’t exist any more,” he said. “The input device, more than anything, is what drives the different types of games that are out there. If you think about back in the day when flight simulators were really popular, fifteen or twenty years ago, when people stopped wanting to buy $100 joysticks you saw that whole genre disappear.
“I think it would be really sad if the only kind of games we could interact with in the future will be touch-based games. I love touch-based games, I also love other types of games too.
“You can still buy joysticks and gamepads for the PC, there’s just not enough people to do it. If you’re a publisher or a game maker, do you want to make a game that requires this peripheral that consumers don’t already have as an installed base?
“Unless you have a game or software that gets people to buy it, like something on the level of Guitar Hero, then you can get people to go out and buy the peripherals.”
No matter what form of hardware comes next through, Pardo said it’s the game developers which drive innovation, because consoles sales are “driven as much by the games that are on it,” as much as what’s inside the box.
“Software is ultimately what drives the industry,” he said.