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Disclosure: The organizers of ChinaJoy paid my way to Shanghai. Our coverage remains objective.
One of the best things about my job is talking to smart people about games. That’s one of the things I’ll enjoy about our conferences like our upcoming GamesBeat 2015 event, on Oct. 12-13 in San Francisco. We want to always find the right people to interview that our readers and event attendees want to hear from.
In years past, I had to interview most of my summer interviewees at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) during June. And I did interview a lot of interesting CEOs and developers at that show. Then a long, dull summer comes next.
But this year, the news hasn’t slowed down, and I traveled to ChinaJoy in Shanghai, where I was able to meet with even more CEOs, including some visitors from the U.S. The result has been a lot of interesting exchanges with some of the top minds in the gaming business. This column focuses on some of the most interesting quotes from those interviews, some of which have already been published and some that are still waiting in the wings. Here’s some condensed versions of those interviews below.
Tim Sweeney gave a very interesting talk at ChinaJoy about gaming technology, including augmented reality. He observed that if augmented reality glasses are perfected in the next decade, we won’t need TVs, computer monitors, or even smartphone displays anymore. He also made me very curious about the technology at augmented reality firm Magic Leap, a Florida startup that has raised $500 million from Google. I talked to him at the show about his prediction.
Tim Sweeney: “If you think about it, it’s going to be a real boon. Everyone will have an awesome television that’s 40 feet wide, and you can display it anywhere in your house. The amount of material needed to manufacture AR will be much smaller than TVs or computers or any of these other devices. It’ll be very economical.”
We’re definitely on track to that. There have been a lot of studies on exactly what is the resolution of the human visual system. It’s fairly clear that it’s less than 8000 pixels by 8000 pixels. That’s the maximum quality of graphics we can appreciate. You could go to a display like that right now if you were sufficiently motivated.
Chipmaking has been driven by Moore’s Law. They’re building billion-transistor chips. But there hasn’t been as much drive behind displays until recent times, until the Retina display revolution. As that technology is pushed harder, we’re just a couple of generations away from displays that are 8K by 8K per eye times two eyes. There you have a display that’s indistinguishable from reality.
The real interesting things with VR and AR start to happen when you have custom-manufactured display devices aimed just at those applications. Right now everybody’s devices are reusing mobile phone displays, augmenting them with lenses and other systems to purpose them for VR. Once you have custom display systems, the level of realism is going to go up very quickly.
Mark Rein and I visited MagicLeap a few months ago. I had no idea that some of the things they were doing were even possible. I can’t talk about some things because of the NDA, but it was like stepping into a Harry Potter movie, seeing all these magical inventions that we hadn’t seen before. There will be a lot of very rapid progress there in all areas. Their light field cameras and light field displays, some of the long term solutions for displaying a 3D image with proper depth of field, new display devices, new input devices, cameras that can capture scenes in full 3D — they’ve put together all the different components you need.
I asked Robert Xiao, chief executive of Chinese game publisher Perfect World, about the Chinese government’s suggestion that the country’s game publishers take their content to the global stage.
Robert Xiao: The government is doing a lot of surveys on the industry and encouraging the industry to move globally. We’re leading the pack, I have to say. For us, it’s not only about Chinese intellectual property. It’s about using a blended culture. If I could use a maybe not-so-appropriate comparison, it’s like the Hollywood way. Mulan was a traditional Chinese story and a traditional Chinese character fit into an animation product that could appeal to a global audience. Things like Chinese kung fu and the Chinese symbol of the panda became Hollywood products that were accepted on a global basis.
That’s the right way to do it. It doesn’t matter exactly where the thing comes from, whatever cultural element you’re using. The way you use that cultural element, plus a modern process of production, plus a value expression that fits with the majority of consumers’ needs globally — that’s what I call a globalized view. We will use a lot of Chinese elements, as well as a lot of American elements, in different projects with different teams.
We want to do global development. Say I have a Chinese cultural element. I’ll use a Japanese artist who understands this element to form it into characters. I’ll use American designers to build the storyline and design the interaction with the game. I’ll use technologists in China to create the servers and the engine. I’ll use the Chengdu team to mass-produce graphical assets. That all combines to form a true global project.
Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga, gave me an interview yesterday, talking about his second-quarter earnings. But he also talked about his long-term vision.
Mark Pincus: I believe in our founding fundamental vision of social gaming. More so now than when I pulled you aside in that Starbucks at whatever game conference, when I was trying to pitch you that poker could be a social game. I’m still pitching you on it.
I believe in the opportunities for social gaming. It’s overlapping with mobile gaming and lots of video gaming, but it’s still different. It’s all getting more blurry as hardcore games and console games talk about being social. We’re not there yet, but I think social gaming wants to be a whole medium, in the same way that social networking and social media are mediums. Over the next 10 years, people are going to do social networking and social media in and around their game-playing. We’re seeing early signs of this, but I don’t think we’re there yet. I see a lot of room for us to invest and innovate and differentiate there.
The second pillar is getting the company back to intensely focusing on being player-centric and data-driven. Investing deeply to arm our teams with the world’s best data and analytics and metrics capabilities. Then seeing that get operationalized into the way that we invest our engineering days and our game design cycles.
I want to deliver on the promise that 80 percent of our engineering days are delivering clear value for our players. That’s a very ambitious goal. I want to deliver on the promise that we’re testing more ideas in a week than anyone else in the world. We’re learning faster about what our players want and delivering it faster as well.
The third pillar is getting back to our founding values of being empowered entrepreneurs. We have amazing people inside our company. Half our battle is just to unlock their creativity and energy, to point to the right hill and get out of their way. That’s what we built the company on. That’s what I’m working every day to get back to.
It’s less about my confidence in my ability to get us there and more about the team. If the leadership team and I create the conditions for success for our teams — empower them, arm them, focus them on the right hills — then they’re going to do the rest.