Red Dead, GTA Exec: “The Closed System Walls Are Coming Down”

The video game industry lags behind TV, movies, and music in that the content you own on one platform does not always move with you to the next one, but those days might be coming to an end. The CEO of Rockstar Games parent company Take-Two Interactive said during a recent presentation that it’s just a matter of time before the video game industry more widely adopts cross-platform opportunities.

“Eventually I think we will be in a cross-platform world, for a lot of titles,” Strauss Zelnick said during the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference. “Certainly, between console and PC.”

Zelnick said Microsoft is “basically already there,” which is presumably a reference to the company’s Xbox Play Anywhere system. As part of this, buying a supported game on one platform–Xbox or PC–gets you a copy of it on the other system, with all progress and achievements moving between the two. More widely, Zelnick said he believes the “closed system walls” must come down, and the emergence of streaming will help.

“The closed system walls are coming down, and they have to,” he said. “Streaming is going to accelerate those walls coming down. We’re all here for the consumers. If you’re going to create rules that don’t benefit the consumers but somehow you think benefit your enterprise, you’re mistaken. Consumers will go elsewhere. You have to pay attention to what the consumer wants.”

Also during the presentation Zelnick spoke about his belief that game-streaming will truly take off in the next 1-3 years. Companies that operate “hyperscale” data centers around the world are the best positioned to have success because that global infrastructure will help with latency concerns. He didn’t mention any companies by name, but Microsoft has already confirmed it is working on a game-streaming service. It has datacenters around the world.

If streaming takes off, the addressable market for video games expands by a massive measure. Zelnick pointed out that there are around 120 million combined PS4 and Xbox One units in the market today compared to around 2 billion PCs.

While the total addressable market would unquestionably increase in its potential size, some people may still prefer consoles or traditional boxes, so Zelnick said he can’t say for sure what kind of an impact streaming will have on how much the video game industry stands to expand. Generally speaking, when you make a product more widely available, more people will buy it, Zelnick said. However, he cautioned that he doesn’t expect streaming to be the “sea change” that others in the video game industry are expecting it to be.

In addition to Microsoft, EA is working on a game-streaming service. Sony already operates a streaming service in the form of PlayStation Now.

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