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Squint

in down is the new up

And let’s be realistic. Consoles used to be 80% of the industry as recently as 2000. Consoles today are 40% of the game industry, so what do we really have?

We have a new hardware platform and we’re putting out software every 90 days. Our fastest growing platform is the iPad right now and that didn’t exist 18 months ago.

Somehow I find that statistic to be amongst the 56% of all statistics that are made up on the spot. Have mobile devices and iPads and Angry Birds seriously crowded out the entire console ecosystem to that degree? Seems highly unlikely.

Riccitiello continued by noting the diminishing returns that increased horsepower has for many consumers. The CEO likes raw power and graphics as much as the next guy (and EA’s retail products continue to push on that front), but after a certain point, the power upgrades become inconsequential.

“I think there’s going to be an interesting debate when you get to processing power beyond what you can push up with a 1080p or a 720p [system]. Most people squint between 1080p and 720p, because what’s the difference, seriously?”

The difference, sir, is 360 horizontal lines of additional resolution. It takes no such squinting to see the difference, it’s bloody obvious on first glance.

This is not a brainer, unless you’re an executive at a leading games firm, apparently.

I would argue that there’s more to be provided in terms of value for the consumer in micro-transactions and social experiences and driving those better in cross-platform gameplay between a console and a PC and a handheld device and a social network than there is supercharging graphics,“ Riccitiello remarked.

And then there are people who play games to enjoy them; not to get an experience equivalent to inviting a pennyless bum into your house, and sitting in front of it for several hours while it incessantly hits you up for spare change.

But of course this guy would spout nonsense like this, he’s getting paid to. It’s far cheaper to build, and far more lucrative to deploy, games that deliver sugary hits of hollow fun, hits that play on the same psychological strings that implored us older folk to continue jamming quarters into arcade machines until our pockets are empty.

It’s not about better value for ‘the consumer.’ It’s about better value for EA. Better value for the consumer would be releasing Battlefield 3 on Steam instead of trying to build their own Steam. (But maybe that’s a brilliant idea, since their experiments in digital delivery worked so seamlessly in the past, and they’re not years behind Valve on it…or anything…)

The idea that we’re going to see the need for step function growth in graphic performance as the pace setting aspect of the sector is no longer the most important thing. But I think it’s important. You’ve seen the Battlefield demos. Look how much better they have to look. Look at Need for Speed. There was a point in time where we were talking about the uncanny valley – we’re on the other side of realism now. And after a certain point it’s like – I do not need to see my LA news announcer’s oversized pores when I‘m watching the news. There‘s a point where it just gets to be [too much]. I always liked the power, but I don’t know if it’s the story anymore.

Trust us, it’s the story. Good gameplay helps too, y’know, stuff that actually promotes a high skill ceiling instead of watering down everything to the point where skill doesn’t matter a lick (see also: “BF2” and “random cone of fire”). But clearly the mob has spoken, and all they want is hats rendered in 720p; way to hit the nail on the head!

PS: ‘step function growth in graphic performance as the pace setting aspect of the sector’ … Achievement Unlocked: MBA Gibberish!