"We want an open, standard platform which is much easier than having five which are not compatible," EA executive Gerhard Florin (pictured left) told BBC. "We're platform agnostic and we definitely don't want to have one platform which is a walled garden."
Florin's belief is becoming a common one amongst developers. "Honestly, we'd rather spend time making the games than worrying about the hardware," Silicon Knights president Denis Dyack said during this year's Game Developers Conference. "And if everyone had the same hardware and when you made a game you knew you got 100% penetration because anyone who plays this game had to buy this hardware platform just like a DVD or whatever standard media format's going to be. I think that would ultimately be much better for gamers."
Renowned game designer John Romero made a similar statement earlier this year. "My prediction is that the game console in the vein of the PS3 and Xbox 360 is going to either undergo a massive rethink or go away altogether," Romero said. "The hardcore gamers are going to either be playing on their PCs or a new PC-like platform that sits in the living room but still serves the whole house over wifi, even the video signal."
The stance that dedicated consoles will be replaced by a standardized set-top box with content delivered via the internet is rooted in the growing role of digital distribution in today's market. All three of the major consoles--Sony's PlayStation 3, Microsoft's Xbox 360, and Nintendo's Wii--are capable of connecting to the internet and downloading new games. PC software such as Valve's Steam and Turner Broadcasting's GameTap allows users to buy and download new and older titles without leaving their home.
Several companies, such as Infinium Labs and the Envizions Computer Entertainment Corporation, have made attempts at pioneering the standardized set-top box gaming market, though they have yet to experience their projected success.
"I believe the days of the console are numbered," Trion World Network CEO Lars Buttler, who formerly served as a vice president of EA's global online divison, claimed. "There is one more generation of gaming consoles and that is it."
That said, Florin is a bit more generous in his projected life span of the console market. "I am not sure how long we will have dedicated consoles--but we could be talking up to 15 years," he noted.