A leading games academic believes anyone seeking a career in the industry should be looking beyond the current generation of consoles in anticipation of an immersive play revolution.
Adam Barton, course leader for Southampton Solent’s BA (Hons) in Computer and Videogames, says the fanfares heralding PS4 and Xbox One are justified, but warns they could be short lived.
“Long term, even when a new console comes out, I like to get students to look beyond that. So they should already be asking ‘what is they PlayStation 5 going to do?’ The real challenge for the future will be the question of how well you can replicate a human. Players will be completely immersed when you reach that pivotal point.”
The former Argonaut artist believes graphical innovation must cede dominance to advances in immersive play if the console giants are to capture the imagination of consumers. He says: “Sony faces the challenge of upping its game every time. With the PS4 you have potential, yes. But the next generation of students has to look beyond this and consider ‘next gen’ not just in terms of graphics, but in terms of interface.
“The Oculus Rift and Leap Motion show us where things are going and highlight why the most important thing a console can have is a USB port.”
As for the current generation of consoles, Barton is impressed with Sony and Microsoft’s success in generating buzz against the chatter of mobile and casual games. But he sounds a note of caution.
“I think it will be interesting to see where the market is in six months. When there is a new bit of kit, there is a lot of interest and hype. But a lot of people are talking about Grand Theft Auto 5 on the PS3 and saying ‘that’s looks amazing – even on Xbox360 too – so why are you getting a PS4?’ Rockstar have done an amazing job right at the end of a cycle.
“The Xbox One does look like a leap. Developers have done so well to keep the games looking so good on what is basically a very old PC.”
And the buzz around the new consoles has filtered to those students attending open days at his university, Barton says. Though anyone sufficiently caught up in the hype of fresh hardware to sign up for a course at Southampton Solent beware: only applicants with a strong portfolio and traceable interest in games can land a place.
Once they are studying games, Barton feels students enter the industry at an exciting time. Certainly the rapid route to publishing promised by the new consoles will help them, he believes. But the effect of indie-friendly next gen platforms on consumer choice may not be so welcome. “It’s a question of how indie do you go,” says Barton. “It’s great to have a lot of indies on board, but you reach a critical point where so many people are doing rubbish. You need an editorial process – Android has shown us that, to a degree.
“We think its gong to be a bit like going back to the 80s era when people banged out games and some of them were good. Things were filtered through naturally and taste was driven by the zeitgeist. It’s very exciting that they are opening the doors to people who don’t have huge finances. And very good news for those who have suffered from very expensive dev cycles which have seen the cost of a game grow from $2 to $20 to $200m dollars.”