Epic Games exec on next-gen consoles: 'What's the point?'

President Mike Capps says that next-generation consoles like the Wii U might well be beside the point and that the industry needs to be ready to "deal with iPhone 8."

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
3 min read
Should Nintendo release the Wii U?
Should Nintendo release the Wii U? Screenshot by CNET

At least one game developer is wondering why console makers are even considering releasing next-generation hardware.

Speaking to IndustryGamers in an interview published yesterday, Epic Games President Mike Capps said that Apple's iPhone should be enough to make console makers second-guess their desire to launch follow-up devices.

"If you look at the ridiculous acceleration of iPhone hardware and technology, trying to find a sweet spot for tech to make your mobile game... I mean, what would your mobile game look like in 2015?" Capps pondered in the interview with IndustryGamers. "Who knows how fast that's going to operate, but you can bet it's going to be faster than an Xbox 360."

Capps, whose company is best known for the Gears of War franchise, said that the industry will need to "deal with iPhone 8." That device, he says, "will probably plug into your TV, or better yet, wirelessly connect to your television set to give you that big screen gaming experience with good sound.

"So really, what's the point of those next-gen consoles?" he continued.

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Nintendo might disagree with that sentiment. At the E3 gaming expo earlier this year, the company unveiled the Wii U, the next installment in its long line of consoles. The device, which is scheduled to launch next year, is expected to offer better graphics than its predecessor and come with a controller featuring a 6.2-inch touch screen that lets users interact with on-screen content and continue gameplay on it while away from the console.

Recent reports suggest Sony and Microsoft are also considering launching new consoles in the coming years. Last month, AMD's director of ISV relationship management, Neal Robinson, told Official Xbox Magazine in an interview that the next Xbox will come "pretty darn close" to offering the graphical sophistication of 2009 blockbuster movie "Avatar." Robinson didn't say when that device might launch.

Earlier this year, however, game blog Kotaku reported that Microsoft and Sony were readying their next consoles for 2014. So far, neither company has confirmed that report.

Capps isn't alone in believing that those launches might not make sense. Last year, Electronic Arts CFO Eric Brown said that there is simply no compelling reason for hardware makers to release new consoles anytime soon.

"Today we have two of the three consoles that operate in full high-definition and are running games at 60 frames per second," Brown said. "If you step back and say if it's a multibillion capital dollar investment for the next generation, the question I would ask is 'if you were to produce that then what would you display it on?' There's really nothing in terms of broadly available consumer viewing technology other than 1080p flat panel televisions. And so you could upgrade in theory, but you wouldn't get the obvious graphical benefit that we saw really drove the sharp transitions in the prior cycle."

So what will happen next? It's tough to say. But given the industry's history, the Wii U will likely be followed up by new consoles from Microsoft and Sony--whether or not some developers think it's a smart move.