Influential Game Designer Talks About Next-Generation Video Games, Game Consoles

One of the Next-Generation Game Consoles Will Be Without Optical Media – John Carmack

by Anton Shilov
08/11/2009 | 03:12 PM

John Carmack, technical director of id Software, said in an interview about his thoughts about next-generation video games and video game consoles. According to Mr. Carmack, one of the next-gen consoles will be released well ahead of the competition, one will lack optical disc drive and in general next-gen consoles will feature 2GB of memory. Moreover, the generation of game systems after next may rely on cloud computing technologies.

Next-Gen Game Console May Be Out Sooner, Rather than Later


One of the main reasons behind the success of Microsoft Xbox 360 is its release one year ahead of Sony PlayStation 3 as well as considerably lower pricing. Mr. Carmack believes that Sony might want to release its PlayStation 4 ahead of its arch-rival. Moreover, despite of the fact that both Microsoft and Sony claim that their Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 will have a decade long lifecycle, the game developer suspects that one of the companies may release the next-generation systems much sooner than expected.

“The whole jockeying for who is going to release the first next gen console is very interesting and pretty divorced from the technical side of things. Whether Sony wants to jump the gun to prevent the same sort of 360 lag from happening to them again seems likely. As developers, we would really like to see this generation stretch as long as possible. We'd like to see it be quite a few more years before the next gen console comes out, but I suspect one will end up shipping something earlier rather than later,” said John Carmack in an interview with Polish CD-Action magazine (excepts from the interview were published at DigitalFoundry blog).

Digital Delivery Model Is the Future, Optical Disc Drives Set to Disappear

Mr. Carmack seems to be a big believer in digital delivery model. Even though he said that the next-generation id Software’s title called Rage will be distributed on numerous DVDs or on one Blu-ray disc because of its storage requirements, he is sure that one of the next-generation video game systems will come without optical disc drive at all.

“I think that Xbox Live, the advent of that and the App Store with the iPhone are wonderful signs of the future of digital distribution. I think there's a decent chance that one of the next gen consoles will be without optical media. The uptake rates of people who have broadband connects surprised everyone this generation. It is higher than what the core publishers and even the first party people expected,” said Mr. Carmack.

Perhaps, the successor of Nintendo Wii, which will be aimed at casual gamers and not optimized for titles by id Software, may end up without optical drive. It is doubtful that the successors of PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 will not feature removable media since storage requirements of next-gen video games may grow faster compared to capabilities of broadband networks.

During the interview, Mr. Carmack also speculated that next-generation video game consoles will have at least 2GB of random access memory, which seems to be quite logical. Moreover, it is rather likely that even more memory will be available inside next-generation systems due to increased system requirements.

Cloud Computing May Take Off

But what will happen after the next-generation game consoles? The technical director of id Software believes that cloud computing may become a viable alternative to endless boosting of internal performance of video game systems. One issue that has to be resolved before cloud computing takes off in the computer game world is latency, which may be too high to play comfortably via the Internet.

“We talk about these absurd things like how many teraflops of processing and memory that are going into our game machines. It's great and there's going to be at least another generation like that, although interestingly we are coasting towards some fundamental physical limits on things. We've already hit the megahertz wall and eventually there's going to be a power density wall from which you won't get more processing out there. There'll be questions of whether we shift to a cloud computing infrastructure... Loads of interesting questions about whether you have the computing power in your living room versus somewhere else,” said Mr. Carmack.