With talk of next-gen consoles significantly heating up in recent weeks, thanks in part to Sony’s ‘See the Future’ teaser trailer, developers and publishers have begun teasing the futures of consoles as well. While they can’t give any specifics, or confirm some of those rumored specs that have been flying around out there, they can speak in broad generalizations.
And that’s just what Electronic Arts‘ Chief Financial Officer, Blake Jorgensen, did at a recent Q&A session. While Jorgensen’s boss, John Riccitiello, has said the publisher was “investing heavily” in the next generation of consoles, namely the Xbox 720 and PS4 (sorry Wii U), Jorgensen spoke a little more about peripheral elements involving the next-gen.
Some of Jorgensen’s talk dealt with EA’s next-gen costs, but most of the more interesting tidbits were in regards to software. For example, Jorgensen revealed that Frostbite has become their de-facto, proprietary engine. Moreover, EA has moved Frostbite over to what they call “gen-four” (an internal shorthand for mentioning the next generation of consoles), which should make development that much easier.
“Moving Frostbite up to gen-four was a big task, but once you’ve done that, you now can do that across multiple titles as long as they’re using the Frostbite engine. That’s been going on over the last year. The early look on some of those products is spectacular. It will be interesting to see how it plays out as it ultimately gets finished.”
One of the more interesting things that Jorgensen revealed, or at least speculated upon, is the backwards compatibility of next-gen consoles. It’s been such a long time that gamers haven’t thought about backwards compatibility, yet it’s likely to be become a hot button issue in the next few months.
Unfortunately, gamers will likely be hearing so much about backwards compatibility because it isn’t coming to next-gen consoles. Or at least that’s what Jorgensen thinks.
“An important thing to remember is that next-gen consoles will most likely not be backwards compatible… And if you [play] multiplayer on a game, you’ll most likely not be able to play with someone on a different generation.”
Jorgensen doesn’t clue gamers in to his line of thinking on the matter, but if there is anyone that might know it’s him.
Jorgensen also touched briefly upon the used games market and how it will be impacted by the next-gen. While rumors thus far have suggested both Microsoft and Sony are seeking out options that would block used games, Jorgensen doesn’t see that happening any time soon.
He acknowledges that used games hurt sales numbers for EA, but, at the same time, the best alternative — digital distribution — is not yet feasible for all consumers. Maybe as Internet bandwidth and speeds increase, and storage capacity is significantly ramped up, used games can be phased out effectively, but until then EA needs retailers support.
“It’s one of these classic double-edged swords. In one way the used game business has been critical for the health of the retail channel, and having a healthy retail channel is an important thing for us. The business will probably never be 100 percent digital. Bandwidths are a constraint, and will continue to be a constraint for many years to come, which hold back the ability to do full digital downloads of some games. So at the end of the day, it’s storage capacity. Unless you’ve got a giant storage server in your house, keeping hundreds of games can tax your storage capacity. And so having a healthy retail channel out there like GameStop or Best Buy or others is important, and to the extent that used games is important to them, I think that’s a positive.”
On the one hand, Jorgensen’s comments should please gamers concerned about the lack of used game support in consoles. But at the same time, talk of no backwards compatibility is likely to ruffle a few feathers. That said, whatever gives gamers the lowest cost, and the best experience, should win out in the end.
Would you be disappointed if next-gen consoles were not backwards compatible? Do you think used games support is a major issue?