Above: Shawn DuBravac from the CEA.
Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
GamesBeat: The cloud also seems very useful in a mobile context. Shawn DuBravac, the chief economist for the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), was saying yesterday that there’s a common architecture emerging for a lot of digital toys and things like that, where you have a small device that doesn’t have much processing power, and it links over to a smartphone that has more processing power, and the smartphone is connected to the cloud, which can tap even more. With this kind of architecture, you can make a very limited device much more powerful without consuming all of the battery power in that device. Those of you who are interested in the mobile side must be interested in that kind of architecture.
Laes: Of course. Our mobile games, and especially mobile social games, are multiplayer games. They’re cloud connected. We have a backend server system that takes care of a lot of processing and gameplay logic. That’s been the case for a long time already in mobile, for games that need that connection. It’s not a new thing, per se.
Streaming doesn’t happen that much. That usually happens at the start of a game, where we leverage asset servers to refresh the game, but we don’t do that much on the fly on mobile. If you’re not on a Wi-Fi connection, that can be choppy. But cloud processing — taking some of the stuff that you can interchangeably do between the client and the backend server — that’s not something we’ve done on mobile. We’ve separated out the things that happen on the backend and things that happen on the client side.
It’s interesting that you mention things like Bluetooth connectivity with physical toys. That’s a very interesting future trend. It’s not only happening with mobile but also consoles and other home devices. Networking technologies like Bluetooth and using your smartphone or smart service as a control mechanism can enable a lot of cool stuff.
There’s an even more low-fidelity version of this that we’ve done on mobile, which is what we did with Hasbro on the Telepods, first in Angry Birds Star Wars 2 and now in Angry Birds Go. You can scan a micro QR code into your tablet or smartphone, and then you’re able to take that character into the digital side of the game. We bridge the physical and digital worlds together on mobile, in a different way from what Disney does with Infinity or what Activision does with Skylanders. The physical-digital integration, whether it’s through Bluetooth or toys or other devices, a lot of cool things are going to be happening.
The same things are happening on the gadget side of things. I have a smartwatch on my wrist. A lot of things can be done over that kind of proximity network, doing the computing on your device rather than in the cloud.
Above: Oculus VR’s latest Rift unit has a sharper picture and no motion sickness.
Image Credit: Dean Takahashi
GamesBeat: Nate, how do you guys get virtual reality to work on mobile?
Mitchell: For mobile VR, we’re already pretty much there today. We’re at the beginning of mobile VR. We have demos of the Oculus Rift plugging into the display connector on a phone, and you can do a fully immersive VR experience. It’s on the lower end. We’re not talking about Unreal Engine 4, at least not on phones today. But you can have a pretty compelling VR experience.
There’s a demo in the Oculus community called VR Cinema. We have an Android version of that. You can run it on an Android phone, plug in the Rift, and be in a VR movie theater watching a 3D movie. That sort of experience is doable today on mobile technology, even with VR. It is the upper echelon of the hardware that’s out there, but give what we’re talking about with hardware moving so fast on mobile, the doors are going to continue to open up.
We’ve collaborated a lot with Epic Games in the past. The Unreal Engine was demoed on the Tegra K1 device shown two days ago by Nvidia. We’re really excited to try that out and see what’s possible. There are going to be really high-fidelity experiences you can have in VR on mobile in a very short amount of time.
GamesBeat: You guys have this challenge, Nate, getting virtual-reality content.
Mitchell: We’ve focused a lot on content. It goes back to one of our original points, that content is king. You can build the best VR hardware in the world, just as Microsoft and Sony can build the best consoles in the world. It doesn’t matter if great content creators don’t show up to build experiences people want to play. Valve does have an interesting challenge ahead of them with SteamOS. Bringing all of that content to SteamOS is going to be hard. But I’m excited to see what they come up with.
For us, it’s about the community. We’ve seen an incredible amount of support from our community. We launched Oculus on Kickstarter. That’s carried forward through the DNA of the company. To build a frictionless developer platform, Microsoft and Sony have certainly mastered it. Apple has done a phenomenal job. We want to do the same, where anyone in this room that’s interested in VR games can jump in and try to build something, whether using Unity or Unreal. That opens a lot of doors. With a frictionless dev platform, publishing support, you can do a lot.
We’re hopeful to see a lot of VR content coming out in the next year, especially made-for-VR content, which is the most exciting. Things designed from the ground up for virtual reality, that’s where we’ll see the truly inspiring experiences that should define the next generation.
Above: Xbox One is nearly keeping pace with PlayStation 4.
Image Credit: Microsoft
GamesBeat: Albert, what do you have to strengthen your ecosystem, but keep your users from defecting to other ecosystems as well? New ones are emerging every day.
Penello: The funny thing is, I don’t see it as a zero-sum game. Game consoles have a long, rich history. I’m proud to have worked on three boxes. I’m proud of the box that we’ve launched. But every generation we have to earn it back again. It’s tougher this generation than it ever has been. A lot of interesting technologies are out there. Gamers’ tastes are changing. They’re playing on more devices. I think there’s room for all these ideas to succeed.
I’m excited to see the Steam Machines. I don’t really think about them in the same category as a gaming device. No offense meant to what they’re doing, but it’s still more like a PC than a plug-and-play gaming device.
The content point is right, though. There is still a finite number, in any creative industry, of people who can create awe-inspiring content, whether it’s movies or TV or games. We’re all competing for the attention of those people. We’re competing for them on consoles just as much as we’re competing with cloud technology or VR. You have to have a great installed base. You have to have a great ecosystem. We have to embrace the changes in what they want to do. I feel good about the product we build being built for the future and embracing new models. But I don’t think, again, that this is a zero-sum game. I’m going to play everything and experience all of this stuff. It’s a great time to be a gamer.