It's time for this week's...battle of the video game executives!
Ubisoft had everyone talking last week when CEO Yves Guillemot said his company expected the next wave of hardware to arrive into the market by 2011 and 2012 (which he said in January, too) Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello, however, strongly disagreed with Guillemot's prediction during a conference call to investors and analysts this afternoon.
Riccitiello wouldn't name Ubisoft, but made it clear whom he was talking about. "I presume you're talking about some comments from one of our French competitors very recently," he said. "I think there's always going to be new aspects -- new handhelds and new peripherals and new things that are coming out that involve investment from companies like ours. ... I mean, I would look at, frankly, the iPhone as a new platform in the handheld industry. So, if you're [as a publisher] looking for…good, solid reasons for investing in R&D against new platforms, the market is providing this stuff."
Since the rebirth of the industry in the 1980s, we've seen hardware refreshed every few years. This cycle has continued until the launch of Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, where costs to produce both hardware and software have soared to risky heights, and the launch of the Wii, which used older hardware as a base. These two changes have fundamentally altered how the industry works, argued Riccitiello.
"I think that arms race, while I can never say that it's done, the relevance of doing that faster and faster, as it has been traditionally done to the late 80s and the 90s, seems to have subsided," he said. "We're projecting, relative to the core tech we've developed for, for that to be a very extended cycle."
The leader of EA attempted to lend an olive branch to Ubisoft, suggesting the two companies could ultimately be "saying the same thing," but Ubisoft's wording seemed pretty clear to me. Ubisoft's predicting new, revolutionary hardware in the next few years, something EA doesn't think will happen. Either someone's going to be caught off guard or the other's spending too much on technology research.
...or we're all going to be wrong. Who is right? We won't know for a few years yet.