Yuji Naka: Consoles May Not Exist In Ten Years

The father of Sonic the Hedgehog gives his take on where the industry is going, and the secret to making games appeal to audiences worldwide.

Remember back in the day, when Nintendo and Sega were duking it out in the Console Wars? Seemed like Sega was dissing the Big N every chance they got; saying how their consoles were the superior. Ah, those were the days.

Sega’s been out of the console-making business for a few years now, instead opting to be a software developer bringing their games out to other consoles on the market (face it: you went crazy the first time you saw Sonic on the Nintendo GameCube).

Speaking of that blue, speeding fuzzball, his papa, legendary game designer Yuji Naka, had a chat with Siliconera to get his perspective on the changing landscape of the industry.

“I don’t think the market has changed that dramatically,” says Naka. “Sure, games have much better graphics and there are touches and polish designers put into the game that they didn’t have to worry about before. I remember ten years ago when we first put online in a game, there was discussion that ten years later all games are going to be online. Here we are ten years later and that’s not the case. There are plenty of games that don’t have online modes. Other than that, you can see from the Tokyo Game Show floor that GREE has a very large booth, Knowing that they specialize in mobile phone games perhaps that is a way the industry is changing.”

When asked what will change in the industry in 10 years, Naka believes that the days of console gaming may be over by then. “Instead of buying specific hardware perhaps everything will migrate to software based systems like PC, iOS, and Android.”

Speaking of changes, the gaming tastes of players in the West continues to differ from those in the East, and many developers are trying to make games that cater to each audience separately instead of making one game that has universal appeal. Naka’s secret to making a game that appeals to both Eastern and Western audiences is… well, not what I expected. “I think these days there are many games with a lot of violence. It’s almost to the point where people think games without violence are automatically boring,” he says. “Keeping as much violence as possible is really important to having a game appeal to a wide audience.”

Surely that can’t be the only thing? Naka adds, “Also, it’s the core basics of fun gameplay – being able to play the game, find out what works and what doesn’t work as a player. Learning from your mistakes and getting better at the game.”

Alright… let’s pick this apart.

Games online: I’m alright with games not having an online mode in order to play… then again, some companies are putting DRM in place requiring you to have constant internet access in order to play the game at all, so in a crazy way, those games have an online mode whether they were meant to have one or not… brain hurts just thinking about that.

Anyhoo, not everyone has access to broadband connections (some folks are still on dial-up… I kid you not), so they wouldn’t be able to play the games they want if every game was online. Plus, what happens when your ISP has a hiccup of some sort, or their servers go down for an undetermined amount of time? Then you wouldn’t be able to play at all! So again: yay for not having every single game be online!

The fate of consoles: I really hope that Naka-san’s wrong with this one. Top of the line PC hardware changes faster than you change your socks. It’s hard to keep up to date on these matters (not to mention it giving your bank account a hernia). There’s something comforting about knowing I have to buy a console once (God willing… please don’t Red Ring on me, 360…) and not have to worry about gutting it to upgrade its graphics processor every two months.

Hmmmm… the more I think about it… maybe instead of having 3 different consoles, we’ll have that one universal console that folks keep saying should/will/probably happen. People won’t have to worry about getting different consoles in order to play exclusives (and perhaps that will silence console fanboy flame wars on forums).

As for games on the iOS and Andriod… we previously discussed how dedicated handheld gaming devices are gonna have a rough go of it in a iPhone/Android world (check it out here!).

Universal appeal of games: Gee, didn’t expect him to say “keeping as much violence as possible.” I expected him to say something like, “memorable, loveable characters” or “challenging gameplay without the need of excessive violence”. Maybe the industry changed way more than originally thought, eh?

Anyhoo, check out the rest of Siliconera’s interview with Yuji Naka here.


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What do you think of Naka-san’s comments? Do you think he’s right about the future of console games? How about the secret to making games universally appealing? Do you agree with him? Sound off in the Comments Section!