Square Enix boss asks: Could consoles be extinct in three years?

Square Enix president and CEO Yoichi Wada has a visionary plan to cope with the digital transition, should the static games console become irrelevant.

Last week, Square Enix unveiled Core Online, a brand new HD games streaming service for browsers. The service has back catalogue titles available free-to-play with a unique TV-like advertising element that gives players credits to keep playing if they watch interstitial ads.

It’s just one part of a forward thinking online strategy at the firm preparing it for the rise of cloud and server based games, and the possible extinction of PlayStations and Xboxes "in the next five years or so, give or take a few years".

In an interview with MCV this week, Wada and Square Enix Europe CEO Phil Rogers explained the thinking behind the service.

Wada called Core Online a "relaxed experiment" and "a rough plan B we are experimenting with" as it still is dedicated to pay-to-download titles and games on disc – but it is needed as the technology market shifts back and forth between technologies.

Said Wada: "Previously when we used to think about how to make a game work, we only had to think about the game console, and now time has changed.

"But if you think about the previous 30 to 40 years in computing, we had host computers or a server, and the clients running on them. The pendulum has been swinging between them over time, from IBM on servers to Microsoft on PC and then back to servers with companies like Google and again back to host computers with Apples native apps. Currently, HTML 5 and Google Chrome has shifted back to servers again."

Core Online has been built using a mixture of Square Enix and Google technology, and helps the firm hedge its bets "and to cope with this transformational period in our industry," said Wada.

"We have a polarised way of thinking," he said on the fact that the firm is developing both cloud-based and traditional games, but he’s adamant that in time the server will totally dominate.

"Currently only the CPU and the GPU remains on the computer side. But in the next five years or so, give or take a few years, there is a chance you won’t even need the CPU and GPU on the client side."

Wada’s claim come right on schedule – three years ago he similarly told MCV that consoles faced extinction within the next decade. His visionary strategy has clearly unwavered as, since then, OnLive has sprung up, as has Gaikai, now owned by Sony.

Square Enix Europe CEO Rogers added the firm’s mantra now "has become ‘new ways to pay and play’.

"We see tremendous changes in the industry, exciting changes – people say the industry is in trouble but really the boundaries are being pushed further than ever.

"The real power here is where those changes meet technical and engineering ideas – and that’s what happened with CoreOnline."

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