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Former Square Enix president explains how moving games into the cloud will change everything

"This is a rare opportunity to invent a completely new genre," Yoichi Wada said.

Yoichi Wada, speaking at the NYU Game Center, on the future of cloud computing. (Photo by Brady Dale)

Yoichi Wada is now heading a subsidiary of Square Enix that has just moved to New York City, Shinra Technologies. The new company will be working on the technology that will make it possible to move all the platform work for videogames into the cloud, so that any device can play any game, anywhere it has access to the Internet.

Fans of Square Enix games may recognize Wada’s name as the former president of the company. He oversaw many of its best games, including various instances of the company’s megahit, Final Fantasy.

Fans of Final Fantasy may recognize “Shinra” as the name of a villain in the seventh entry in the series. During a talk at the NYU Game Center on Thursday, Wada explained that what you have to understand about Shinra is this: he was on the side of power. That’s what Shinra Technologies is about: building the tech that will give gamers much more power to play with.

“This is a rare opportunity to invent a completely new genre,” Wada said, to a room full videogame industry aspirants and veterans, describing a future where cloud computing could put players in worlds that are active, living environments that change and evolve in the way the real world does. There could be truly open, effectively endless worlds.

Wada illustrated how it might change the experience of gaming. With a cloud-based system, there can be various levels on which people can experience a game. So, for example, two great players could be playing a fighting game and other players could log in to watch, or they could log in to watch and listen to the play-by-plays of the fight by two other expert gamers. In other words, it could be a system where something like Twitch TV was baked right into the very platform. Note that Twitch just sold for $970 million.

You could also imagine other sorts of multi-level games. Such as, imagine an Avengers: Age of Ultron game where some players are characters like Captain America, fighting on the front lines, while others are S.H.I.E.L.D. agents up in the helicarrier feeding the supeheroes intel they’re seeing from their eyes in the sky.

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Here are a few points Wada made about the future he envisions, though some of them may be speculative. A few of these points arose during the Q&A, led by Game Center Director Frank Lantz:

  • Cloud-powered gaming should economically benefit players by allowing them to play from devices they already have, rather than being gouged periodically to update consoles. Games themselves may be less pricey, too. He said, “If we recoup funds based on how much users use the service, it will be very economical for players.”
  • Shinra is primarily a technology effort, not a game publisher. Wada believes technology has been a bit stalled in gaming as more play moved off consoles.
  • Game development should take place in familiar platforms like C++ and Unity. It may be that the cloud will make game making even easier, opening it up to more developers. Wada also believes the cloud will allow player mods of games to move to a whole other level, by allowing mods to be as big as a player’s imagination, rather than forcing them to break it down into bits to be downloaded. Wada sees player mods as an important facet of the game community.

NYU Game Center faculty and chair of IndieCade East, Matt Parker, wanted to see more of what they’ve built. He had more concern about networks being able to deliver on Wada’s vision than he did about the computational power of the computer.

“The idea of rendering on the server, I’m not sure anyone has tried that before,” Parker said, describing how it’s hard to see how all that data could be transmitted quickly enough over the Internet. “If they’ve solved that it’s a game changer.” Wada spoke to this in his talk, saying that his company believes networks will get better. The Internet here is not impressive.

The Shinra team, which he said is around 30 people now, has been quietly working on the new technology for some time. The company has only been open about it for about a month. Now the team is eager to start getting tools into the hands of game developers they trust.

Shinra is also going to be hiring.

Wada also encouraged interested students who wanted to intern for the company to contact Jacob Navok, senior vice president for business.

See the full talk on Twitch:

Watch live video from NYUGameCenter on www.twitch.tv

Companies: NYU Game Center
Series: Brooklyn

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