Epic and Crytek Expect Xbox 720, PS4 in 2012; WildTangent CEO Declares Consoles Dead

BOOM widget 118984While technology developers such as Epic Games and Crytek believe the next generation of consoles will appear in 2012, WildTangent CEO Alex St. John believes that the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii represent "the last generation of consoles."

"There's not going to be an Xbox 720 or a PS4, I'll make that bet, not going to happen," St. John told UK newspaper Telegraph. "The era of consoles defined by graphics and high-production values is over."

He explained that consoles are a "game-disabling experience" designed "to prevent you [from] playing games you didn't pay for," a technique he believes is rendered obsolete by games that require players to be online, such as Blizzard's World of Warcraft (PC).

"The principal reason that Sony and Microsoft get a cut of everybody's games is because they prevent piracy," he said. "This allows the publishers to invest more money in a game because they can be confident that it won't get stolen and will have to be paid for at a premium."

As for the Wii and its incredibly popular interface, St. John likened the Wii's focus on a motion controls to the peripheral-centric arcade games that signaled the arcade's demise. "The only arcade machines you can find left today are ones based on big input controllers which are expensive to put into the home: dance pads, steering wheels, guns," he reasoned.

In addition to massively multiplayer games, the WildTangent CEO thinks that the online distribution of PC games, such as Valve's Steam and WildTangent's upcoming Orb storefront, represents the industry's future.

"I'm the guy who talked Microsoft into the console business in the first place," boasted St. John, who helped craft Microsoft's game-focused DirectX initiative. "I made several observations about the console business and why it would be strategic for Microsoft at that time. What's interesting is that the assumptions that got Microsoft into the game business are also reasons why I think consoles may be at an end."

Meanwhile, Crysis and Far Cry creator Crytek, which is increasing its focus on consoles and moving away from PC-exclusive projects, thinks the next generation of consoles will arrive alongside its new engine in 2012.

That time will also be marked by "renaissance of graphics programming," Crytek CEO Caveat Yerli said during a recent keynote. He also promised that the new CryENGINE will produce graphics three to five times better than Crysis, according to 1UP.

Gears of War and Unreal Tournament developer Epic Games likewise estimates that the next generation of consoles will hit in 2012, the same timeframe projected for its console-focused Unreal Engine 4.

"Version 4 [of Unreal Engine] will exclusively target the next console generation," Epic founder Tim Sweeney said earlier this year. "Microsoft's successor for the Xbox 360, Sony's successor for the Playstation 3--and if Nintendo ships a machine with similar hardware specs, then that also...PCs will follow after that."

However, St. John is not without his supporters. Last year, former EA VP and CEO of publisher Trion World Network Lars Buttler prophecized that "the console are numbered" with "one more generation of gaming consoles and that is it."

Since then, Trion has become a licensed PlayStation 3 publisher.