Garriott: “Consoles’ days are numbered”

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The console business – including Steam Box – isn’t sustainable in its current form according to Richard Garriott.

The Ultima creator and Portalarium founder told us that he sees consoles as a middleman that’s no longer necessary.

“Tablets are becoming so powerful, your television is already connected to the internet and frankly it’s powerful. And there’s a cloud of computing behind there that’s easily accessed, so I’m going, ‘Why in the long run do we need a console? All you really need is a controller’. It’s going to be interesting to see how consoles evolve in the next few iterations to see if they can find some new compelling reason to exist. Because, at least from my perspective, I think their days might be numbered.”

So what of Valve’s Steam Box? Garriott admires the technology, but maintains that the idea of an extra box under the TV might be ‘streamlined out’.

“Valve’s product is one I only know cursorily,” he says. “But the case I’ll still go back to make is the same. I think digital distribution with things like Steam is great, I actually think that people need to have convenient, ubiquitous access to digital content, and Steam is not only a great way to buy it, but also to stream it. The technology of Steam is fantastic.

“But I look at it and go, ‘Steam can be delivered on anything, you don’t need a particular piece of hardware’. It could be on your television, in the cloud, on your phone, on a computer. If I watch Hulu or one of the digital movie services, I can start watching on my phone or my tablet, and flick it up to my TV. When the definition of a controller and the definition of a screen is so freely interchangeable, why do I need another particular piece of hardware? People are going to want to streamline, and consoles seem like they might be streamlined out.”

Garriott has just launched a Kickstarter campaign for Ultima’s spiritual successor Shroud Of The Avatar, but while he might question the next PlayStation’s relevance, he hasn’t ruled out a PS4 port.

“We’re developing on the Unity platform, and one of the great advantages of that is that we can cross-compiles to basically, everything,” he says. “We can already make a build for PC or Mac or Linux even without difficulty.

“As a gamer myself, I spend about half of my time playing on PC, and the other half playing on tablets, so I would really love to see SOTA shoehorn onto a tablet. Currently it does, so I have a tablet build that I test and look at the game on myself. And whenever platforms can run it well, there’s no reason we wouldn’t want to cross-compile onto those platforms.”

We spoke to Garriott in detail about Shroud Of The Avatar last week, and you can see the first screenshots and artwork from the game in this gallery.