Ninja Theory’s Antoniades: Xbox One is “completely the wrong direction”, mobile is the future

UPDATE: Ninja Theory has given us the below statement to clarify Tameem Antionades’ comments in Helsinki last week:

“Although we’re very excited by mobile opportunities, and the release of our first mobile title Fightback, we are not transitioning to a mobile only studio. We are currently developing for both mobile and console platforms and intend to do so for the foreseeable future. Tameem’s comments were intended to convey the belief in the studio that the future of gaming is digital, regardless of platform, be it mobile, console or any other form of gaming.

In addition, Tameem is misquoted as saying, ‘If I was to make a bet, I’d say that the Steam Box has the capacity to disrupt before mobile does.’ Whereas actually what Tameem said was: ‘If I was to make a bet, I’d say that the Steam Box has the capacity to disrupt the living room before mobile does’.”

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Original story follows:

Speaking at the Slush business conference in Helsinki last week, Ninja Theory’s design chief Tameem Antoniades was less than complimentary about the current state of console gaming. He said that Ninja Theory is heading entirely for mobile, because the AAA console model is broken and the consoles themselves have at most ten years of life left. He also urged creatives to change the form of all media, to break the constraints of the clichéd forms that movies, music and games come in. Here are a few selected quotes.

On AAA games
“The AAA games console model is a little bit broken. To us, success is being able to survive. But every now and then you look around at a conference and realise that there’s no-one left. That’s because of the barriers to entry at the $60 model. The platform holders control the platform and the distribution, the publishers control the marketing and the funding.”

On the death of forms, media and genres.
“Well, no media ever dies. Actually, they do die. TV had a devastating effect on cinema attendance and it’s really never recovered. TV still exists, arcades still exist… the Venetian Opera still exists. It was one of the most popular forms of mass entertainment in Europe. When was the last time any of us went to a Venetian Opera?

Ninja Theory’s last AAA game, DmC: Devil May Cry, sold below expectations.

Convenience being digital means mobile will win
“The winner is and always has been the convenience factor. It doesn’t matter what the platform is, what the delivery mechanism is. Simple to use, always available, cheap or free. And convenience is very much digital. We’ve effectively replaced letters with email. I use Spotify for all my music. If there’s a band that’s not on there, Pink Floyd or whoever, I simply don’t listen to them. Digital has pretty much replaced retail media and it’s inevitable that it happens to console. Angry Birds has 2 billion downloads. We think of things as PC- or console-based, but most of the world is rapidly acquiring mobiles. It’s the most convenient device we’ve ever created and it’s basically absorbed everything; music, digital cameras, email.”

On mobiles and Tablet PCs
“Who here thought, five years ago, that tablets would replace PCs? We always hear from developers that mobile has bad inputs, that it’s low-powered, that the battery life isn’t up to scratch. It’s a mixture of misinformation and problems that will eventually be solved. Mobiles and tablets are already approaching current gen games. It’s the most intuitive interface. We’re already seeing high-end displays on tablets. As Bruce Lee said; it’s not how you fight the tide, it’s how you flow with it.”

PS3-exclusive Heavenly Sword sold just over a million copies; the mooted sequel has never materialised.

Why Xbox One is wrong and Valve are right
“So you heard the XBox One announcement? TV, TV, TV. That couldn’t be further from the truth, it’s completely the wrong direction. It does seem like, despite the best intentions of Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, they’ve still got too much momentum to steer.”

“One platform that does seem to be going in the right direction is the Steam Box. It’s an open development platform, fully digital and a media server, will doubtless integrate with mobile and tablets, and includes all the flexible pricing included from Steam. If I was to make a bet, I’d say that the Steam Box has the capacity to disrupt before mobile does. There are still technical limitations on mobile – bandwidth for streaming, processing and battery power that will just hold it back for a few years. After a few years, I fully expect mobile devices to be the dominant form.”

“It’s not all doom and gloom for consoles. If they embrace some of those lessons, we will get there. I think consoles will be the main hub of entertainment for the next 5-10 years. To do that, they do have to adapt to what mobile is leading. They have to be fully digital open platforms, media servers for all their entertainment and integration with mobile.”

Again, Enslaved: Journey to the West sold less than half its prediction, despite strong reviews.

On why certain genres will die on mobile

“The touchscreen. Yes, it limits you. Certain genres of games don’t work on it – they are bad for it. Throughout the course of history, from arcades to consoles to PCs, games have died. The 2D side-scrolling beat-em-up has gone. Entire genres of gaming won’t exist or have a very clunky existence on mobile. But, happily, things like the point and click adventure game genre are coming back.”

On breaking from legacy forms.
“There’s no reason to stick with legacy forms. A 15 hour AAA game is a crushing development experience for the producer. It constrains creativity, there’s a lot of checkboxes to justify $60. I always said that I didn’t know why we didn’t go to the 100 hour movie – and we are now. Between Netflix and boxed sets, we watch series from start to finish in one sitting. Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones to me are long forms of old media. I would love, more than anything, to do a 2 hour AAA game and release it for a few dollars. I don’t know why we don’t have an endless song, that changes as we walk around and senses inputs from the world. We could create entirely new categories of entertainment.”

“As creators, our task is to reinvent new forms of entertainment using what we know, in terms of AAA console development, artistry, mobile, free-to-play, in terms of meeting the demand that our players require. ”