ECGC 2011: The Future of the Gaming Industry

It's nearly 5pm here on the east coast. My feet are tired and my voice is hoarse after spending two days knee-deep in the local developer community. As I watch the booths begin to break down and the attendees wander out of the convention center, I'm left even more puzzled than I was before I eagerly marched through the doors on Wednesday morning: where is the gaming industry heading?

The East Coast Game Conference (ECGC) is now wrapping up in Raleigh, North Carolina. It's not the mammoth exposition seen at E3 or PAX East-- for now, it's somewhat small and primarily focused on the local developers including Red Storm Entertainment, Insomniac Games, Vicious Cycle Software and Epic Games. This is my first venture to ECGC, and I'm told it's the biggest turnout since the original show launched years back (more later).

But I’m straying from the topic at hand. There are a lot of mixed messages here, and it's leading me to believe that the industry isn't sure where it's going. While I’ll explain more in additional, separate articles, one view seems to be that we'll move entirely into the cloud-- or at least, consumer demands will push software into the cloud. It has nothing to do with the physical vs. digital argument. Instead, it means we as consumers would rather bypass the whole process of installing software. It also means we want said software to run on most any hardware configuration, and do so without crashing, locking the PC, or doing serious damage to the system itself. OnLive is just the tip of the iceberg.

On the gaming front, I've listened to the theory that the gaming industry will need to focus on monetization and socialization to prevent a market crash. The monetization aspect dips back into the old-school arcade days when games were designed to reel in consumer quarters. The idea was to get you to play up until 2.5 minutes, then jam another quarter into the machine. A continuous feed meant the owner of the machine may actually get a profit after paying off the initial purchase. What does this have to do with games of today? Publishers are spending insane amounts of money to create titles that may or may not sell well. Getting players to purchase DLC or other virtual items will help publishers get some of those prior expenses back.

Then we have the hardware sector. Nvidia was present during the conference, and during the keynote presentation, attendees were shown two photos of a similar sports car parked in the same location. We were asked to determine which was real, and which was rendered by a Nvidia GPU. From my seat, it was impossible, and when it was revealed which image was actually rendered, it was audibly clear I was not the only one in the audience baffled. We're told that a Nvidia GPU can render photo-realistic imagery at two frames per second. That will probably jump to 30 frames per second in five years. Five years.

So if gaming is moving to the cloud, why would consumers even bother with GPUs capable of photo-realism at 30 fps in the first place? I was told by one developer that it will all tie in somehow--OnLive or another cloud service would update their servers to provide photo-realism to subscribers running lower-spec machines. The monetization aspect could also be applied to the cloud structure, giving publishers even more revenue on top of the fact that physical production costs are lowered to nearly nothing.

Looking back, maybe the future of the gaming industry isn't so confusing after all. If anything, a huge change is on the rise, and it all seemingly started with Apple and  a thing called the iPhone. Believe it or not, when I heard the word "change," it was followed by the word "Apple." I'll reveal more on that as I go through the hours upon hours of audio taken from the sessions and keynotes. I was surprised to say the least.

Unfortunately, things look bleak in the PC gaming sector thanks to the overall development circle. The industry has seemingly backed itself into a corner, and PC gaming will suffer because of it. But that's a topic for another article coming shortly...

  • proton9
    cloud based gaming? *dislike*
  • dalethepcman
    and it all seemingly started with Apple and a thing called the iPhone.

    and it all seemingly started with Facebook and a thing called farmville.

    There I fixed it.
  • mister g
    Am I the only one that finds this news a little wrong? With the way the industry has been going I don't think PC games are going to look so good if they keep getting ported from consoles. Even with Nvidia's new tech which developer is actually going to use it in this decade?
  • dalethepcman
    On a more serious note, the gaming industry should realize the reason game sales are down is because the market is over saturated with garbage.

    Look at how many games come out every month that are just carbon copies of other games. Look at the mess that is Wii games, 90% of them are garbage that can only be enjoyed by someone with severe ADD and massive short term memory problems.

    Now lets look at one of the big franchises. If they did more than change the players names and randomize some numbers that represent statistics for the players, rename it by adding 2010 to the end and sell it for $60, then maybe more consumers would have faith in the gaming industry.
  • ^ +1. I could not agree more. There are so many games out there that are either clones of other games or are poorly developed. If consumers are going to pay an expensive $60 game it better have hours of gameplay and be polished. Rushing games out w/o polish is bad business. It's like selling car that's a lemon. It's just shady and deceptive business. I'm not going to endorse piracy, but there are people that torrent games because they are afraid of being ripped off. Games like Fallout 3 New Vegas have momentum but are so glitchy and buggy that it's almost non-stop problems so people would like to test the games before committing.

    I know this will never happen, but they need to release demo's for every game so consumers are aware of the junk that is out there. I have no sympathy for developers of garbage games. They need to get culled from the industry. The movie industry needs to do the same thing. At least DirectTV lets you watch so many minutes in before you purchase.

    /ends rant.
  • "With the way the industry has been going I don't think PC games are going to look so good if they keep getting ported from consoles."

    But what if consoles do not survive? Streaming has the potential to kill off the consoles as we know them, and make all gaming PC gaming.

    If they can solve the latency and bandwidth issues with streaming games then there would be no need for a dedicated gaming PC, but also no need for a console. You would just play over a browser on a PC, Tablet, Phone, or with an adapter for your TV (Onlive already sells one.)

    As this streaming technology advances they could offer that Nvidia photorealistic gaming on any display, PC, Tablet, or Phone. With Onlive and other streaming companies wanting more graphically advanced titles to offer, and those titles to be run on x86 hardware with Nvidia/Ati graphics, this could mean that PC gamers could start seeing a surge of new graphically intense games that they can run locally on their x86 Nvidia/Ati hardware!

    The console era may soon be over, replaced by streaming photo realistic games for the masses, and local versions for the PC enthusiasts with the hardware to run them.

  • kinggraves
    Alright so they think cloud gaming is the future even though OnLive isn't doing well, they think that small app games are the future even though only casual gamers ever play those social games, and they think that monetization is a good path to take even though most cash shop MMOs fail and bomb within a year.
    I think that too many publishers have went the corporate route, and rely on studies and analysts to make their decisions, instead of paying attention to real gamers. They obviously have no clue what people actually want and they're trying to shake people for every last dime when the industry really isn't going belly up.

    Nintendo alone has enough revenue from Wii and DS to withstand a whole new generation even if it totally fails. At the present moment, their pool of games is getting shallow, but they still have room to shake things up at E3. E3 is a real conference where announcements take place, not this circle jerk of Ex-PC turncoat developers. When that's said and done, and we see the gaming industry's real hand, then maybe people can speculate on the future. Right about now it's April, which isn't the high point for gaming, and consoles are nearing the end of their life cycles, which is also usually a weak point. Oh, and I don't think the recession is helping, or the fact Japan sort of got slapped around a bit by Mother Nature. Right now is a low point, this isn't when you start to decide the future.

    And yeah, it's already been said, games these days just aren't as worth playing. If they think trying to turn into home arcades is going to save them, they haven't really learned from the past. DLC is fine if it's used to release original content and continue updating a game, but it's a slap in the face to release a half made game for full price then try and charge for the other half.
  • piesquared
    fusion render cloud

    we've been informed of this 2 years ago.

    Oh, and anyone advocating or making excuses for piracy in any way for any reason, go f--k yourself. self entitled nerds sitting behind their keyboards thinking they have the final decision on the rules are delusional if they think game makers are going to continue to make games if so many scumbags aren't paying for them. So many self entitled nerdy kids justifying why piracy is ok in certain circumstances. If there are any like that reading this post, give your head a shake and get a clue. the warning was loud and clear 5 years ago, so the onus is on all those that shrugged there shoulders, made excuses and said so what we're allowed to do what we want.

    For those that justify theft because there is so many bad games out there, you can read the reviews and then decide not to buy it if you don't like it. There's a million review sites out there. The burden is on the buyer.
  • joytech22
    Why on earth would I own so many hard drives if I knew there was cloud based gaming?

    Reason: I want to put MY system though it's paces, I don't want ANY delay between my controls and the response time of my screen, I don't have speedy internet and the list goes on (although my internet IS fast enough for OnLive).

    Us enthusiasts out there built our systems as a hobby, We built them so they could run games we want to play at OUR preferred settings, We are so starved of content that can actually stress our systems enough to make games unplayable that there's virtually no reason to upgrade anymore..

    Let me see, one of the most demanding games PC ever had was Crysis, it had large destructible environments with great graphics and gameplay that you could take advantage of.

    Crysis 2 was the sequel, it had a very small linear sandbox for each and every map, clearly designed around a consoles limitations and barely any freedom to do what you wanted.

    There was Metro 2033, A great game with incredibly demanding graphics, A new benchmark for some.

    This list can also go on and on..

    Now to the point (finally!)

    We all know developers want to know where the moneys at, what does almost every average house hold contain, A computer.

    Which community is starving for incredible content developed AROUND today's hardware, Why the PC community!

    What are developers doing? They're developing games around the limitations of consoles because that's the smart thing to do, but it negatively impacts PC gamers.

    I think my typing will end here, I don't remember where I was going with this.

    Oh and why is every ones post so long hehe
  • enforcer22
    IMO if they went back to making well thought out games and pushing the limits of PC hardware. PC sales would sky rocket again. Not to mention it would drive a new revolution in hardware that could do better. I mean go ahead and make a console version sure it makes sense. But don't push 7 year old tech ported pos onto the pc and expect people to care. I mean i have a 8 year almost old computer right now that has the same video card in it when i got it. And i still can play games released today........ Thats just sad. While in the console world thats the desired effect but in the PC world you devs are really letting us down in the PC market. THATS why we don't buy your games not pirating. When i see a good game running dx 10 with amazing graphics and its well built and is fun. Ill throw down my $50 on that no hesitation. Its just been YEARS since thats really happened. At least with good games. crysis and gears of war need not apply.