Enterbrain President Talks Next Generation of Hardware
03.01.05 - 11:29 PM

At the Asia Game Online Conference 2005, one speaker received special attention despite not being a company representative. The president of Weekly Famitsu's parent company Enterbrain, Hirokazu Hamamura shared his predictions on the next generation of hardware and online games in Tokyo today.

Hamamura started off saying that the current trend of focusing on remakes and adaptions of manga and anime instead of original titles, was not a healthy one for the game industry. He also reiterated a view he had already expressed in various interviews last year, saying the (Japanese) game market was only shrinking because market studies did not include online games. According to Hamamura, if sales of online games were included in those studies, they would show the market was in fact growing.

While he echoed the common opinion among analysts as far as the launch dates of Microsoft's Xbox successor Xenon (late 2005) and Sony Computer Entertainment's next generation PlayStation (spring 2006) were cocerned, he noted, it would take until 2008 before online games will spread significantly. After highlighting the wireless LAN functions of the PlayStation Portable and Nintendo DS, he also emphasized the importance of another sub-market: Content for cellphones. Not only have many game companies shown a proactive stance when it comes to developing games for cellphones, but the time when those gadgets will be able to display visuals of DS-like quality was not that far away. Similar to Square Enix president Youichi Wada in yesterday's keynote speech, Hamamatsu also stressed the disappearance of borderlines between different platforms, as players will be able to access the same content via various devices.

Commenting on the capabilities of next generation consoles, he stated that the specs were incredibly high. As an example, he cited Hironobu Sakaguchi's Xenon RPGs, saying one would realize that those were games running on a next generation hardware at first glance. Creating such realistic visuals with the current hardware was impossible.

However he acknowledged, the downside of this visuals splendor were rising development costs. Hence, it would be mainly the industry's major players that could afford to develop games for these consoles. Small and medium-sized companies would focus their resources on PC-based online games and titles for cellphones. Hamamura mentioned, that even three to five developers could complete a PC-based online title or a cellphone game, which is comparable to the size of development teams in the Famicom era. The small and medium-sized companies working on such games actually closely resemble companies like Square and Konami after they had entered the game industry.

Packaged software was the dominant force on the Japanese market, but a culture of playing online games has yet to take root in Japan. In South Korea and China, the situation was exactly the opposite. Looking at the US market, Hamamura described games as a tool for friends to get together and play with or against each other.

For the world market to keep grow, it was necessary for South Korean and Chinese distributors to join forces with Japanese and American developers. If Japanese and American developers were to release more online games, their variety will slowly but surely reach the level of standard packaged software. And if distributors were operating worldwide, the differences between the various national markets could be bridged.

Chris Winkler