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Interviews

GC: BioWare's Ray Muzyka Pt. 2

Interview: Natal and the dark side of next-gen consoles

In the second half of our interview with Ray Muzyka, the BioWare CEO discusses Natal's potential to evolve videogames and expand the market beyond what Wii has managed, and why a new generation of consoles now could be bad for the industry. Interesting stuff...

Most devs we've spoken to see Natal as an entry-level attraction for the mainstream gamer, much like Wii. Do you agree?

Muzyka: Maybe entry-level in terms of it's a different technology, and that it attracts different kinds of consumers. Some of them are already consumers of our content and some of them aren't. That's really the exciting thing about it - that it can attract the kinds of consumers who aren't willing to invest in the graphic user interface barrier that the normal controller represents.

So it targets the Wii market...

Muzyka: Something like that, but it isn't necessarily the Wii market exactly, it might be an audience that even the Wii market hasn't reached. Maybe there's a market for the kinds of games that are more associated with 360 that the Wii market hasn't appealed to yet.

Maybe the kinds of games that the Wii market has enabled would occur on 360 if there was a similar kind of interface. It's hard to say, but Natal does represent the potential to attract a new kind of consumer to the platform and I think that represents an exciting opportunity.

And it also represents a reduction in the barriers for your existing customers too. That's also an opportunity because any time we can create a more credible and immersive experience, I think we have the opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of our fans more, whether they're new or existing fans.

Once you've done that you are arguably building a more compelling experience for them that keeps your consumers in the longer term. So it's an idea of reaching new gamers and retaining your current consumers in the long term. Natal can do both, and that's why it's so powerful as an idea. Until developers see it deployed everything represents a risk, but I think it's an exciting idea.

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In a typical console cycle, the next-gen Xbox, and possibly Nintendo console, would have been revealed this year. Do we need new consoles already?

Muzyka: I liken it to the movie industry. If we take a hammer and smash the camera every three to five years that's kind of what we as an industry do to ourselves, and that's really hard.

So I think the opportunity of having a stable platform provides continuity for a development team to make content on, and that really helps them accelerate and make the content delivery more efficient.

I do think there's a point of diminishing returns for [increasing graphical] fidelity - we're not quite there yet but we will be soon if we continue the evolution of consoles or PCs. Eventually you reach a point where your eyes can't possibly perceive any more pixels. It looks virtually like real life. And that's the same for audio fidelity and animation and so on.

So once you reach that point, it's more of a content issue. What do you do with that content? How do you convey emotion? Just like, once you have a stable camera it's more about who's the director and who's the film editor, who are all the key players in that movie. Games are different, they're interactive, but there are some parallels too.

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