Phil Harrison sees the videogame industry’s next generation coming from the web browser rather than new hardware.
In the past, the videogame industry has tended to advance itself every few years through new hardware. The Nintendo became the Super Nintendo, the PlayStation became the PlayStation 2, the Xbox became the Xbox 360, and so on. Former president of Sony Worldwide Studios and Atari Phil Harrison doesn’t think the generation after the one we’re currently in will come from another hardware advancement, but from technology that puts better games in web browsers instead.
Speaking at the Italian Videogame Developers Conference in Rome, Harrison said that within the next 5-10 years he believes we’re going to see games on the quality level of Modern Warfare 2 inside of a web browser and on other mobile platforms like cellphones and the iPad. He believes the technology that can deliver “very rich, very impressive gameplay” on these platforms will create the industry’s next generation.
Harrison thinks this sort of advancement will lead to a new “browser war” as companies fight to be the best at delivering this sort of content. “Somebody is going to win,” he said. “Somebody is going to deliver console level 3D graphics, video and audio into a web browser. That will be the tipping point for the evolution of our industry that will accelerate what we can do in a browser, and I think will create the next generation platform for games.”
Also key to this “browser future” is the concept of an open platform. Microsoft, Sony, Apple, and Nintendo all have “closed policies” that make submitting games a complex process. Harrison feels that more open platforms, similar to Facebook, can dominate outside of the casual realm by catering to the hardcore crowd. “The battleground for the future, and the opportunity in the future is going to be about […] who is going to be satisfying the needs of the core gamer on an open platform,” he continued.
Games like FarmVille have largely found their success through accessibility, which Harrison believes is the future of the entire industry, even for the companies currently operating on a “closed” basis. “The console companies, I believe, will want to figure out how to become more open and to deliver more content without restriction to more people, to stimulate creativity,” he added.
Harrison himself might be trying to invest in this new kind of technology in his current position at London Venture Partners. It’s interesting that we’re seeing many, many games playable through browsers nowadays, but they’re mostly casual. Facebook developers are constantly saying that they have the platform’s first “hardcore” game, but these titles are never quite on the “core” level of Call of Duty or Fallout: New Vegas. The closest thing we’ve seen to Harrison’s future are technologies like OnLive and Gaikai, which potentially could lead the way.