长文:行业人士讨论游戏跨平台联机和电竞将如何相互推动发展

长文:行业人士讨论游戏跨平台联机和电竞将如何相互推动发展

原作者:Dean Takahashi 译者:Vivian Xue

跨平台联机是过去一年玩家们关注和讨论的热点话题,随着越来越多平台开放这个功能,不同平台的玩家可以在《堡垒之夜》、《火箭联盟》和《虚荣》这类游戏中对决了。我们在PAX East游戏展上举办了一个讨论会,探讨了这一趋势背后的推动力,电竞便是其中之一。

为了打造成功的电竞游戏,发行商必须积累大量玩家,并保证玩家能够在线对战。如果游戏可以跨平台对战,那么积累玩家将容易得多。

但游戏平台制造商一向不支持跨平台联机。《堡垒之夜》火了之后,Epic Games通过虚幻引擎实现了《堡垒之夜》在PC、主机和移动设备之间的联机技术,使玩家数量扩增到2.5亿。这刺激了任天堂和索尼等平台开放跨平台联机,尽管索尼似乎在拖延这件事。

我所主持的这个讨论会,成员包括《超凡战队:能量之战》的发行商nWay的首席执行官Taehoon Kim,狮门影业(Lionsgate)的高级副总裁Daniel Engelhardt,亚马逊GameOn的首席产品经理Reggie Martin和区块链游戏基金Tron Arcade的管理者Sean Keith。我在讨论期间鼓励成员们对跨平台联机进行大胆的思考和猜测,但这并不代表成员们所在的公司真正采用了所谈到的战略。

真正的跨平台游戏和游戏角色、资产的跨平台转移即将到来。希望您享受阅读我们对跨平台联机和电竞未来的想法。

Fortnite(from apple.com)

以下是采访内容的文字编辑版。

Taehoon Kim:我是nWay Games的CEO。我们专注于研发移动平台的竞技游戏、多人游戏以及跨平台游戏。我们制作了全球最优秀的《超凡战队》游戏,我们的第一部作品《超凡战队:遗产战争》两年前在iOS和安卓平台发行。几天前我们在Switch和Xbox上发行了《超凡战队:能量之战》,接下来会推出PS4版。

Daniel Engelhardt:我负责监管狮门影业的游戏业务,我们与nWay这样的开发商以及发行商合作制作我们旗下IP的相关游戏。此外我们还对一些游戏开发商和电竞组织进行投资。

Reggie Martin:我是亚马逊GameOn的产品经理。GameOn服务帮助开发者实现跨平台多人竞技,除了iOS和安卓平台外,它允许开发者在PC、主机、AR和VR等所有平台上举办比赛,为优胜者颁发奖品。它还支持Twitch用户在直播中创建比赛并邀请观众参与。

Sean Keith:我是Tron Arcade的管理者。Tron(波场)是世界上最大的区块链之一。它的一个协议层能够使开发者以全新有趣的方式对游戏设计、游戏经济进行创新。此外区块链为玩家参与电竞比赛提供了便利。希望今天我们有机会谈到这一点。

GamesBeat:这是一个有趣的话题。在我那个年代,根本没有人想要跨平台联机或者跨平台游戏,你无法在Intellivision游戏机上玩你的Atari卡带。但如今玩家们的期待大不相同了。我们当下谈论的跨平台联机有一定的历史来源,《堡垒之夜》为此做出了很大贡献,但这也使我们意识到真正的跨平台联机历史是多么短暂。

跨平台很早就被实现了,它意味着一款游戏既能在iOS上运行也能在安卓上运行,但在《堡垒之夜》大热之前,这两个平台是不互通的。此外人们越来越看重和朋友一起打游戏。让我们先就当下的跨平台联机进行讨论,TK,你能聊聊它目前的发展状况吗,特别是就你们的游戏而言?

Taehoon Kim:2017年初,我们发行了《超凡战队:遗产战争》,它是第一款iOS和安卓平台互通的格斗游戏,为了达成这个目标,我们付出了很多。如今《堡垒之夜》实现了游戏在移动端、主机和PC端的互通,使任何持有游戏设备的人都能参与竞技。他们还提供了大量奖金,这提高了竞技游戏的观赏性,职业玩家可以靠打游戏谋生。这就是我们目前的发展状况。

就总体趋势来看,我认为未来每个人都能接触到这些游戏。随着单个游戏的玩家数量不断增长,开发者将提供更丰厚的奖励。有了区块链,无论人们身处哪里、使用什么设备,都能顺利拿到奖金。游戏每天都会举办多个大大小小的奖励活动。不仅职业选手能赚大钱,很多普通玩家也能通过打游戏获得不错的收入。

Daniel Engelhardt:正如TK所说,随着PC和移动设备差距的缩小和跨平台联机的实现,电竞的门槛会逐步降低。但同时,一些专业的大型电竞组织正在形成,比如《守望先锋》联赛,电竞赛事的专业性和规模将超乎我们的想象,但与此同时,越来越多游戏的玩家自发组织电竞比赛,形成更加活跃、忠诚的社区,这将为发行商和玩家带来收入。随着跨平台联机的普及,这种现象会进一步扩大。

Taehoon Kim:电竞和传统体育项目有许多相似之处。事实上,“电竞”这个词的诞生已经是一个巨大的进步,因为在我小时候,它叫做‘与你的好友打游戏’。如今这个概念扩大了,电竞成为了一种体育项目,具有高度的竞技性,对选手的水平要求很高,现在越来越多地方举办电竞比赛,连中学和高校都参与进来了,高校甚至还设立了电竞奖学金。

随着时间的推移,它将演变成一种前所未有的文化现象。看看相关的数据吧,去年电竞行业的收入接近10亿美元,而传统体育业收入约为5000亿至1.3万亿美元。电竞才刚刚起步。如今游戏行业正处于一个令人激动的时刻,作为玩家的我们将见证电竞发展壮大、收入不断攀升。

M:同意。我也想谈谈电竞和传统体育,足球是世界第一大运动,因为它是如此容易学习和玩耍。你需要的只是一个球。如今我们已经有了这些独立的社区,跨平台联机将打破社区间的界限,扩大社区的规模,这将是一个巨大进步。

GamesBeat:让我们试想一下,某款游戏的玩家中存在一名最厉害的PC玩家,以及一名最厉害的Switch玩家。他们俩究竟谁更厉害?要想知道这个答案,必须让他们俩一决高下。现在很多游戏都面临这个情况。TK,如今有哪些真正的跨平台联机游戏?

Taehoon Kim:不多。因为最大的平台之一索尼还没有完全开放这个功能,他们只为个别游戏破例,比如《堡垒之夜》和《火箭联盟》,但他们表示过会考虑全面开放。这件事让他们倍感压力。

GamesBeat:这种压力来自游戏玩家,他们希望索尼马上开放这个功能。有趣的是,我们讨论会的成员之一Kristian Segerstrale今天因故未能出席。他的公司Super Evil Megacorp刚刚发行了PC版《虚荣》。在此之前,《虚荣》是第一款MOBA手游,现在游戏的PC玩家可以和移动端玩家一起对战了。我们很好奇游戏现在移动端间的战斗数量是多少,涉及PC端玩家的战斗数量又是多少。但是你能感受到玩家真的很盼望跨平台联机功能。

Taehoon Kim:人们想和朋友一起打游戏,但他们的朋友可能使用不同的平台。跨平台联机将有效解决这个问题。此外,很多家庭成员也会一起玩《堡垒之夜》和《虚荣》这类游戏,但你家不可能有4台PS4。爸爸用iPad,两个孩子分别用PS4和iPhone,这只有通过跨平台联机才能实现。

Reggie Martin:能够和家人一起玩游戏是一个很重要的方面。此外你们想想如今直播观众的数量,相当大吧?人们很想和自己喜爱的主播一起打游戏,但往往会受到设备的限制。有了跨平台联机功能,人人都有机会和游戏主播打游戏。全世界范围内使用不同设备的用户能在一起比赛,简直令人惊叹。

Sean Keith:此外在很多东亚国家,人们没有个人电脑,到目前为止他们只能玩手游。如果他们想玩《堡垒之夜》这类游戏,只能去网吧之类的地方。

随着跨平台联机的发展,电竞会从某种功能程度上走向大众化。突然间人们能在手机上参加比赛,这将造就一群草根电竞明星,如果他们足够优秀,可能会被某个团队挖走,转到PC或别的平台打游戏。电竞将前所未有的包容开放。

GamesBeat:《虚荣》在优化上做得不错,PC版和手游的操作体验没有太大的区别。在移动端上,玩家使用点触操作,这一操作能够自然地转化成鼠标点击,在这方面两个平台的玩家都没有特别大的优势,但如果你要在手机屏幕上进行移动操作,可能很难打败使用鼠标和键盘的玩家。这种操作差异将极大地影响一款游戏能否真正实现跨平台对战。TK,你说你们可以检测到玩家使用的设备,并为他们匹配相同设备的玩家?

Taehoon Kim:是的,现在市面上存在为移动设备设计的手柄。如果想保证完全公平,你必须根据玩家使用的外部设备对他们进行匹配。如果玩家在手机上使用外接手柄,他匹配到的将是主机玩家。从公平的角度来看,这种匹配方式自然更好。

Sean Keith:我想谈谈区块链将如何帮助玩家以更合理的方式参加电竞比赛。如今,电竞选手来自世界各地,信用卡支付相对便捷。如果你想参加电竞比赛,你可以在网上报名并用信用卡支付报名费。但在世界上的很多地方,人们没有银行账户——这在东南亚某些地区和非洲大部分地区很常见——或者他们只是无法以美元支付,这令一些想要参加电竞比赛的玩家感到很痛苦。

而区块链,更准确地说是加密货币打破了货币的限制。如果你在比赛中获得了奖金,但你没有银行账户,或者你的银行不支持货币兑换,你就无法得到它。而有了区块链,未来这些流程将无缝衔接。无论你身在何处,你都能通过这一系统报名比赛、参加比赛并把赢得的奖金拿回家。区块链将提高这一切的效率,解决传统支付面临的难题。

GamesBeat:尽管区块链为建立跨平台世界创造了条件,但现在使用特定加密货币的人不多,为了实现这个目标我们得先普及加密货币,这是个挑战。

Sean Keith:区块链技术的大规模应用还早。2017年是区块链的爆发年,距今才过去一年半而已。在未来几年里,我们将看到更多的发展——更优质的软件、去中心化应用将会诞生,用户数量将进一步提升。

你说得对,区块链和加密货币没有得到广泛使用,开发者就不会制作相关游戏,没有好游戏,就没法吸引消费者。不过我了解到一些开发者正在钻研如何运用区块链技术增加他们与玩家间的互动。今年我们将看到他们的成果。

问题:不同的国家对区块链的态度不同,中国和俄罗斯等国都限制了区块链的使用,你们怎么看待这个问题?

Keith:监管是个问题。不同国家和市场的规定不同。中国禁止使用加密货币,我们对此无能为力。但这只是暂时的,因为这一技术是如此新颖,许多国家政府还不确定该如何使用它。我相信随着技术的成熟,区块链人会促使政府重新思考它的安全性、接纳它。这关系到行业的向前发展。

GamesBeat:支持区块链的人们提出的一个观点是,世界在发生变化。比如现在的委内瑞拉,他们的政府发行的货币正在严重贬值。如果你是委内瑞拉人,你们国家的货币崩了,你该如何支付网络游戏费用?人们正在引入一种叫做“Stablecoin”的加密货币,试图解决这个问题。这一货币的币值是稳定的,因此可用于交易,比如在游戏中消费。区块链可以解决币值波动引发的一些问题。

Reggie Martin:我一向支持让人们进行交易。如果你有一些商品,你可以在游戏中买卖它,你可以建立一个市场和相关的社区。很多游戏长盛不衰的原因就是交易社区的存在。比如《万智牌》这类游戏,人们花了很多钱投资卡牌,并在游戏中大量交易卡牌,这也是为什么该游戏的社区永远那么活跃。如果我们帮助玩家建立这样的社区,各大游戏开发商和平台制造商就会愿意接纳区块链技术。

GamesBeat:还有另一个领域值得我们关注,或许我们可以称之为理论上的跨平台联机。上周,苹果推出了“Apple Arcade”,这项服务可以让你可以在任何苹果设备上玩你保存的游戏,无论是iPhone、iPad、Apple TV还是Mac。目前,iOS和Mac OS是两个不互通的操作系统,因此我不知道苹果要如何实现它——在技术方面绝对不容易,这也是为什么他们从没做过——但他们承诺今年秋季就能推出Apple Arcade订阅服务。苹果设备间的联机功能即将实现。

当然,苹果设备和非苹果设备互通是绝无可能的。但你们认为Apple Arcade会带来什么呢?过去的一周里,谷歌也公布了他们的云游戏平台Stadia。

Taehoon Kim:我认为苹果正在试图改进他们的商业模式。因为目前手游是他们的主力业务,而大多数的F2P手游的盈利策略都不利于行业的长远发展,也许他们所应对的是这个。

GamesBeat:所以相比F2P或付费下载,订阅模式可能是个更健康的模式?

Taehoon Kim:我是这么认为的。很多游戏的盈利策略从长远来看是行不通的。玩家对它们的态度非常消极。这种订阅服务将促使游戏开发商把重点放在体验设计而不是盈利设计上,它将对整个移动游戏市场产生积极影响。

不过相比之下,我认为谷歌的Stadia才是真正的跨平台联机,它通过云端向你输送内容,平台什么的都成了浮云。只要你有一台电脑,能上网,你就能玩到其它任何设备上的游戏。

Reggie Martin:这一新兴技术令人兴奋的地方在于它使人们能够聚集在一起。我们都喜欢联机和竞争,这也是为什么那么多游戏加入了竞技模式。他们发现竞技能提高人们对IP的兴趣、玩家的沉浸度和留存率。

这些新技术,无论是流媒体服务还是跨平台之类的功能,都将使更多的玩家一起玩游戏。在一款玩家数量很小的多人游戏中,你往往需要等待很久才能匹配成功,或者最终匹配到一个比你的等级高得多的对手,这样游戏就没意思了。跨平台联机本质上更有趣,这也是为什么我们在大力推广它。

Sean Keith:不只是竞争,还有社交。人类是社交型动物。在游戏中社交不仅是玩游戏,和游戏内容互动,还包括和朋友互动。有些游戏的核心就是与好友互动。实现不同设备的跨平台联机将增进人们的交往,无论他们在家中的电脑上还是在外使用平板或手机,都能彼此交流。

有意思的是,跨平台联机将推动游戏的社交化。它使开发者能够创造更多社交性体验,也许《堡垒之夜》“Marshmello电音节”这类内容将变得更加普遍。或许有一天我登陆游戏,并不是为了玩游戏本身,而是看场音乐会之类的。

GamesBeat:厂商们似乎围绕跨平台联机展开了商业博弈。玩家们可能会好奇他们为何要这样做。比如这周苹果公司表示,Apple Arcade将包含众多独占游戏,苹果为什么要这么做?

有些事情还不太清楚,但苹果的业务在某方面受到了威胁。为什么苹果做起了电视和游戏订阅服务? 为什么他们决定投入资金自己做这些?因为一些威胁正在夺走他们对这类事情的控制权。迪士尼决定把电影从Netflix上撤下,开设他们自己的流媒体服务。

Google Stadia的出现也很有趣,它是一个云游戏平台,所有的游戏都储存在一个数据中心。你可以在任何地方进行游戏,PC、主机等,甚至在苹果设备上。但如果你订阅了Google Stadia,一个月交10美元左右给谷歌,你就不会付钱给苹果了。这使苹果立刻警醒,他们绝不希望这种事情发生,因此他们必须以不同的方式吸引玩家。我认为这就是Apple Arcade出现的原因。

在云游戏等技术的出现和影响下,跨平台联机的发展越来越有趣了。

问题:跨平台游戏很早就出现了。曾经的《暗影狂奔》(Shadowrun)、《梦幻之星在线》和《最终幻想11》都让PC和Xbox玩家共同游戏。甚至连Uno都实现了Xbox 360和PC联机。跨平台联机发展到如今,有什么特别之处吗?它在Xbox 360时代就出现了,一直没什么起色。

GamesBeat:还有一件事我们没谈到,那就是自游戏主机采用X86架构和Intel/AMD处理器后,PC和游戏主机其实十分类似了。在技术方面,让游戏在不同平台上运行没有从前那么难。这些平台的兼容性将不断提高。跨平台联机面临的挑战是玩家设备性能的差异,让两个设备性能差异巨大的玩家对抗是行不通的。不过随着技术进步,移动设备的性能越来越强大,这个问题会慢慢改善。

Taehoon Kim:此外,将跨平台联机与近年来的“游戏即服务”概念结合起来将发挥强大的效果。当你把游戏当做一种服务运营时,你希望人们在任何平台上都能体验它。《堡垒之夜》就是最好的例子,玩家可以在移动设备、Switch、PC和主机上玩这款游戏,这一点是非常重要的。

问题:主机、PC和移动设备之间存在很大的技能差距。我觉得这和设备的分辨率、画面刷新率有很大关系。这会对跨平台联机产生怎样的影响?我们如何通过技术为玩家创造一个公平的竞争环境?

Taehoon Kim:我们在制作《超凡战队:能量之战》时考虑到了这一点。我们必须确保游戏在所有平台上的刷新率稳定在60帧/秒。我们费了很大的劲才在Switch上实现这一点,因为这个设备没有那么强大。这意味着开发者必须善于优化,通过减少多边形和特效的使用,同时确保视觉效果不至于偏差太大。

我们还考虑到了玩家使用的外部设备。通过玩家的操作方式进行匹配。如果玩家使用手柄操作,他们将匹配到同样使用手柄操作的玩家。

问题:我正想提这个。假设你的一个好友是主机玩家,另一个好友是PC玩家,那么在这种匹配算法下,你们是不是不能一起玩游戏了呢?

Taehoon Kim:你们可以组队游戏。对于FPS来说,键盘和鼠标通常是最佳的选择,其次是手柄,最后是触摸屏。如果你的队员操作方式不同,那么游戏将根据你们使用人数最多的操作方式进行匹配。如果你的队伍里有一名成员使用键盘和鼠标,你匹配到的队伍中也会有一个人使用键盘和鼠标。

GamesBeat:有意思的是雷蛇最近推出一套Xbox One外接键鼠。这意味着如今,主机玩家可能匹配到使用键鼠的PC玩家了。

问题:游戏跨平台联机有很多技术上要求,但我希望你们能从设计上谈谈一款游戏需要进行怎样的改变才能符合跨平台联机的要求。显然,移动设备玩家和PC或主机玩家有很大的区别,你们如何确定游戏具备跨平台联机的潜力,为此你们会如何调整游戏的设计?

Taehoon Kim:在这方面,有手游开发经验的开发者具有优势。《虚荣》就是一个很好的例子。他们的游戏在触摸屏上有着优秀的表现,把这种体验搬到PC平台上是一件很容易的事。《堡垒之夜》显然采取不同的做法,他们把手游版作为一种休闲娱乐的方式,玩家如果要认真打比赛不会用手机,但当他们在排队、闲着没事干时,可以随时来一局。

Reggie Martin:此外,如果开发者在游戏制作初期就有这个想法,那么他们未来在移植游戏时就会更有优势。你想想网页的发展史,大家一开始都在电脑上浏览网页,移动端网页刚出现的那几年,它们的设计非常糟糕。现在人们对移动端网页设计进行了研究,可以在提前计划如何在多个平台上带给用户最佳的体验。

Daniel Engelhardt:某些游戏作为移动设备上的简短娱乐方式非常成功,人们可能会在排队的几分钟里玩一玩。但并不是所有游戏都具备这样的能力。不过就像你说的,一些开发者在思考创造附属于PC和主机游戏体验的手游,这是个很好的想法。未来会有越来越多《堡垒之夜》这样的游戏,它们的PC版和手游有各自的价值(游戏邦注如《堡垒之夜》PC版定位为竞技,手游版定位为休闲)。但是对于了解移动平台和PC版定位不同的玩家来说——这(不同定位的设计)拓宽了他们的体验,即便他们在移动端上获得的体验不太相同。

GamesBeat:上周Valve提到《反恐精英》需要30-60毫秒的响应时间,这种游戏不太适合跨平台联机,尤其是在响应速度更慢的移动设备上。但是《坦克世界》(World of Tanks)或者《海战世界》(World of Warships)这类游戏完全可以进行跨平台联机,同时保证公平。照这样看,游戏所需的响应时间是决定它能否实现跨平台联机的一个影响因素。

Sean Keith:还有一点很重要,许多开发者希望创造一款能同时在移动端、PC和主机上玩的游戏,但最重要的是专注于做好一个平台。游戏必须先打入一个平台,建立良好的基础,才能实现跨平台运行。

我曾经在中国的游戏公司工作。他们试图同时制作PC版和手游,结果玩家们不喜欢这些体验,因为他们的目标太泛了。正如TK所言,一款游戏想要成功实现跨平台联机,最好从移动平台做起,因为把手游体验完整移植到PC上更容易。而《堡垒之夜》的做法——他们想要提高游戏的粘性,并为玩家提供在移动设备上玩游戏的方式。就我的个人体验,我觉得《堡垒之夜》手游版体验不如PC,但又没什么能改进的。

GamesBeat:游戏类型也是影响它实现跨平台联机的一个因素。我们可以观察一个类型是否存在于多个平台上。比如即时战略游戏大多是PC游戏。我们都清楚很难用手柄玩即时战略游戏,这类游戏不适合跨平台联机。

问题:你们是否认为跨平台联机将会发展到这样一个阶段:电竞游戏将共享一个钱包,你能够轻易地将所有游戏资产转移到钱包里?还是你们认为游戏公司将保持独立,你必须充值《Apex英雄》的货币才能玩这个游戏。

Taehoon Kim:我觉得大家都会买Tron。

Sean Keith:厚颜无耻的广告!这个话题很有意思。电子钱包必然有助于把玩家留在游戏生态内。但一个重大的问题是,玩家们希望虚拟货币能在不同的平台和游戏间流通,而开发者不希望这样,因为他们只想让你花钱充值他们的货币。

今后的游戏可以考虑一下通过赋予玩家虚拟资产所有权造福玩家,这涉及到一点区块链技术。目前,当你同意游戏的服务条款时,你只是通过授权换取玩游戏的权利,游戏中的任何东西都不属于你。然而,通过区块链将所有的虚拟资产代币化,玩家就能拥有这些物品。这创造了许多有趣的可能性,比如玩家弃玩游戏后可以在市场上出售物品,或者根据人们的需要在游戏中寻获物品,然后放到市场上售卖。

至于游戏共享一个钱包,我认为实现它需要一些时间。除非说服开发者们同意他们的货币在不同游戏间流通,这将是件很困难的事。但有了区块链,这是可能实现的。

Taehoon Kim:我很喜欢这个共享钱包的想法。如果能通过这个钱包交换游戏货币,我就可以突破平台的限制,在任何平台上打游戏,赢得奖金,然后用它玩另一款游戏。

Sean Keith:有了加密货币,这一切都可能实现。如果一款游戏把它的货币进行代币化,人们就可以用它兑换其它代币。但像苹果和谷歌这样的平台,他们的交易系统是封闭的,你很难将基于区块链的代币经济应用到这些平台的游戏中。

不过,我相信未来我们将看到代币化经济的区块链游戏。接下来的几年内,我们或许将看到一些游戏开始使用代币经济,允许他们的玩家用游戏货币兑换另一种游戏货币。

GamesBeat:一些科幻小说中描写的世界很可能成为我们的未来,从Neal Stephenson的小说《雪崩》中的虚拟世界“Metaverse”,到如今人人皆知的《头号玩家》,在这些小说故事中,人们在不同的虚拟世界中穿越。肯定不止我一个人对此感兴趣。

如今开发者们希望玩家沉浸在他们的游戏世界里,不愿意让它们混合在一起。但总有一天,人们会希望在不同的游戏世界里穿梭,一个“Metaverse”,Epic Games的Tim Sweeney在我们的采访中数次提到这个概念,并谈到跨平台联机和区块链这类事物是创造这样一个世界必不可少的基础。

要想创造这样一个世界,必须打破游戏间的界限,而区块链就是一种打破界限的方式。当你在虚拟世界里购买或创建了一个角色,你可以通过区块链验证角色的所有权,你可以把角色带到另一个游戏世界,这样你就已经半只脚踏入了“Metaverse”世界。

Sean Keith:这在一些小型区块链游戏中已经被实现了。一些游戏开发商进行了合作——如果你有CryptoKitties(一款基于以太坊平台运行的区块链游戏,以养成、买卖电子猫为主,游戏邦注),你可以在别的游戏里使用它们。但是要想看到《Apex英雄》和《堡垒之夜》这类游戏之间进行角色转移,我们仍需要等待很长一段时间。

Reggie Martin:另一方面,区块链作为验证玩家虚拟资产的方式,还能遏制游戏作弊现象。

Sean Keith:我们可以查看物品的交易记录。通过将物品与区块链捆绑,开发商可以决定哪些物品属于哪些玩家。你会看到你最爱的电竞选手通过使用某件物品赢得了比赛。

GameBeat:这件物品从某种意义成了一个纪念品。人们会花多少钱购买它呢?

Sean Keith:如果你在eBay上搜亲笔签名的棒球,你会发现它们有的售价高达数千美元。未来区块链上的某件道具也可能具有这么高的价值。

问题:你们是否认为跨平台联机终有一天会对顶级电竞比赛造成影响?比如说,未来可能会诞生一个《堡垒之夜》移动联盟、一个《堡垒之夜》Xbox联盟和一个《堡垒之夜》PC联盟?,

Daniel Engelhardt:未来移动电竞肯定会迅猛发展。让移动玩家和PC玩家进行专业比赛是一件很困难的事,因为你必须让游戏达到完美的平衡。对我来说,跨平台联机有趣的地方在于它刺激了越来越多的游戏玩家参与竞技、朋友之间开黑。随着时间的推移,玩家的竞争欲将愈发高涨。

Reggie Martin:同意。可以这么说,未来电竞比赛可能会像传统体育一样对比赛进行“重量级划分”,不同平台将组织各自的赛事。但是普通玩家可能就是大乱斗。人们可能混着打,也可能按照平台匹配,取决于不同游戏。

GamesBeat:有时让不同平台的玩家分开比赛是合理的,就好比你不能带着你的三脚猫球队去踢职业比赛。这是个标准的问题。

Sean Keith:这还取决于具体的游戏。《守望先锋》和《堡垒之夜》这类游戏不同平台版本的体验差异很大。但《炉石传说》甚至是Taehoon Kim公司的格斗游戏完全可以实现不同平台间的公平对战。

问题:关于电竞选手的培养问题,电竞领域的薪酬的确很丰富,但需要投入的时间也不少。随着电竞行业的发展,你们认为父母会同意孩子从小开始打游戏、朝电竞方向发展吗?

Taehoon Kim:《堡垒之夜》已经在铺设道路了。现在有Fortnite careers。

问题:没错,但大多数父母并不认为这是一条可靠的职业道路。你们觉得电竞团队招募年轻的孩子并把他们培养成顶级选手什么时候会成为一门生意?

Reggie Martin:就像TK说的,已经有人这么做了。一些电竞公司和高中合作举办电竞比赛,电竞团队会到学校进行早期宣讲。从文化上看,我的父母仍然念叨着“远离那些电子游戏”,但与此同时,有孩子凭借电竞特长拿到了大学奖学金,因此电竞文化的种子已经播下,正等着生根发芽。我不知道父母放学后带着孩子参加电竞培训成为一种常态是多少年后,明年、5年后还是15年后,但它一定会到来。

GamesBeat:如今做父母是越来越难了,周遭的建议是如此之多。我希望我的孩子努力读书还是练习打游戏、有朝一日成为电竞明星?

整个社会发生了一些非常有趣的变化。五年前谁能想到有人会靠直播谋生?游戏主播Ninja去年的收入超过了1000万美元。这类机会将源源不断地出现,最后不仅网络红人能靠打游戏赚钱,许多普通人也能从中获得一定的收入(在这个休闲经济时代下)。

很多人认为人工智能(AI)将改变社会,预测它将夺走当今市场上三分之一的工作,包括计算机科学类工作。你可能会说,“嘿,孩子,现在学编程不错”,但这个工作最终也将被AI取代。那么,这一代的孩子长大后,还有哪些工作可供他们选择呢?我敢肯定,电竞会是一份不错的工作。我们把父母搞得很焦虑不安,因为我们也不确定那一刻什么时候会到来,但我们相信它会到来。

问题:随着跨平台联机普遍化,你们认为未来的电竞玩家会发展成什么样?《神之浩劫》(Smite)刚刚宣布支持跨平台联机,不过在排位赛中仍按平台匹配。但随着跨平台联机日益普遍,你们觉得电竞观念是否会发生改变——手柄成为更主流的电竞设备,电竞队伍里可能包含一个使用键鼠的玩家和一个使用手柄的玩家,这有可能吗?还是你们认为无论怎样发展,各个平台间始终会是相互隔离的。

Taehoon Kim:我认为跨平台联机将扩大电竞玩家的数量。南美足球队水平如此之高正是因为踢足球的人特别多。有了跨平台联机,越来越多人参与竞技,这意味着更多优秀的玩家将会诞生,电竞的薪酬也会提高。这最终会使整个生态受益。

Reggie Martin:我认为我们应该区分清楚不同专业水平的电竞,一类是《守望先锋》联赛这种高水平的职业比赛,还有一类是围绕这些竞技游戏形成的电竞社区,但他们没办法像专业比赛一样确保设备的平衡、消除所有优势因素。跨平台联机使电竞变得更加大众化,但真正专业的赛事对平衡性有更高要求。

Sean Keith:你提出的这个游戏进化观点很有意思。如果开发商将开发真正的跨平台游戏,即游戏在各个平台上体验相同,玩家的竞技观念也会随之发生改变。如今有了Xbox One专用的键鼠,每个希望提高竞争力的玩家都会去买这类外设产品。如果我能用主机和PC玩家对抗,我当然会去买这些设备。

问题:几个月前我组织了一个《火箭联盟》比赛群,每个月都会举行比赛。我们有近200名成员,因此我们遇到了某些平台玩家存在优势的问题,特别是有的玩家想要通过换平台获得这种优势。面对玩家想在多个平台玩同一款游戏的诉求,电竞行业是否应该考虑采用一种不同的授权模式?他们应该强制营造一个公平的竞争环境吗?

Sean Keith:我觉得这个问题取决于平台。玩家购买游戏后可以在多个平台上运行,这一点游戏开发商肯定愿意,因为他们已经赚到了钱。但游戏平台制造商大概不希望这样,这牵涉到游戏平台制造商之间的利益问题,如果PlayStation和Xbox实现了联机,那么他们将丧失潜在的用户和订阅费用。因此虽然在理想情况下,用户跨平台购买可能意味着各个平台通用,但从经济学角度、从商业角度来看,大概没有平台方会同意这么做。

GamesBeat:但是当玩家们开始向索尼施压,称如果他们不开放跨平台联机就抛弃PlayStation,情况就完全不同了。如今索尼正在评估他们是否会真的因为封锁跨平台联机功能而失去玩家。

Daniel Engelhardt:关于跨平台联机是否会影响游戏设计,一个值得我们关注的点是F2P模式。显然,F2P游戏在跨平台环境下具有优势。随着跨平台的呼声越来越高,我们的游戏设计方式会受其影响。

问题:随着游戏主机开始采用X86架构,游戏平台的内部机制结构变得越来越相似,因此平台必须寻找更多方式吸引玩家。跨平台联机是否可能导致一些主机和设备的淘汰,因为玩家会倾向于选择一小部分平台?或者恰恰相反,跨平台联机解放了游戏开发者的束缚,为更多的平台带来了可能性?展望未来,你们认为跨平台联机将导致平台、特别是主机的数量缩小还是催生更多的平台?

GamesBeat:我认为未来会诞生更多的游戏、更多的平台。一些能在所有平台上运行的游戏将成为最成功的游戏。《愤怒的小鸟》已经在40亿台设备上运行,可以想象未来更多的人会接触到它。无论是什么力量推动着这一趋势,游戏更加大众化的趋势必然会发生,并且它是件好事情。如果你能通过一台设备与全世界关联,我们就只需要一台设备。

本文由游戏邦编译,转载请注明来源,或咨询微信zhengjintiao

Crossplay has become a hot topic among gamers in the past year, and onceTaehoon Kimsiloed platforms have begun to open up their platforms so that players in games such as Fortnite, Rocket League, and Vainglory can play against each other in the same game, even though the players are on different platforms. We held a panel at PAX East to discuss what is driving this trend, and one of them is esports.

For esports to succeed, game publishers have to amass huge audiences, and those players have to be able to play against each other in online tournaments. It’s much easier to amass that large audience if the game can be played competitively across multiple platforms.

But historically, game platform makers haven’t supported crossplay. When Fortnite became hugely popular, Epic Games’ used its Unreal Engine to enable crossplay across the PC, the consoles, and mobile devices, helping Epic grow the game’s reach to more than 250 million players. That motivated platform owners such as Nintendo and Sony to allow crossplay, though Sony appeared to drag its feet.

I moderated a panel included Taehoon Kim, CEO of nWay, publisher of Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid; Daniel Daniel Engelhardt, senior vice president of Lionsgate; Reggie Reggie Martin, principal product manager at Amazon GameOn; and Sean Sean Keith, head game lead at Tron Arcade. I encouraged speculation during the session, and I engaged in the wildest thinking on crossplay’s implications, but that should not imply that the strategies discussed are actually being used by the companies on the panel.

True crossTaehoon Kimplatform games and crossTaehoon Kimplatform game characters and assets are on the horizon. We hope you’ll enjoy reading our thoughts on what the future of crossplay and esports could be.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview. Disclosure: The organizers of the session paid my way to Boston. Our coverage remains objective.

Taehoon Kim: I’m the CEO of nWay Games. We specialize in competitive games, multiplayer games, on mobile, and also crossplay. We make the world’s best Power Rangers game. Our first game was Power Rangers Legacy Wars, which launched two years ago on iOS and Android. A couple of days ago we launched Power Rangers: Battle for the Grid on Nintendo Switch and Xbox. We have PS4 coming next.

Daniel Daniel Engelhardt: I help oversee the games business at Lionsgate, the movie studio, as we partner with developers and publishers like nWay to make games based on our properties. We’ve also made some investments in game developers and launched an esports franchise.

Reggie Reggie Martin: I’m a product manager for Amazon Game On. That’s a service that allows game developers to bring players together through competition. We enable developers on all platforms, so not only iOS and Android, but across PC, console, AR/VR, everywhere you can play a game and host a competition. You can give away prizes with Game On, and allow Twitch streamers to host games via Twitch and have players go in and join the competition.

Sean Sean Keith: I’m the head game lead at Tron Arcade. Tron is one of the world’s largest blockchains. It has a protocol layer that allows developers to innovate on games and game design and game economies in new and exciting ways. Some of those involve making it easier for players to interact with esports. We’ll hopefully talk about that later today.

GamesBeat: It’s an interesting topic. I grew up in the day where there was no expectation of crossplay or crossTaehoon Kimplatform games at all. You couldn’t play your Atari cartridge on an Intellivision. But the expectation today is very different. There’s a bit of history developing for here and now crossplay. We can credit Fortnite for a lot of that. That tells you just how young actual crossplay really is.

We’ve gone from crossTaehoon Kimplatform, meaning you can make a game that runs on iOS and also runs on Android, but you couldn’t play between those platforms until Fortnite became so popular. The idea of playing with your friends became even more important. We’ll get started with crossplay here and now. Taehoon Kim, can you tackle where it is now, especially within your own games?

Taehoon Kim: When we first launched Legacy Wars, it was the first fighting game to do crossplay between iOS and Android. That was two years ago, early 2017. We had to do a lot of innovation to make that happen. Now Fortnite has paved the way to where you have one build running on mobile, console, and PC all together. What that enables is, anybody who has access to a game device can get involved in competitive gaming. They’ve also made sure there’s a lot of prize money involved, so competitive gaming is fun to watch and people can make a living as pro gamers. That’s where we are now.

The general trend, I think, the direction we’re going toward, is that everyone will have access to these games. Because the pool of people participating in a single game is getting bigger, game developers will be able to deliver bigger prizing. With things like blockchain, you’ll be able to get paid no matter where you are and what device you’re on. We’ll see games with multiple events within the game every day, smaller payout games, bigger payout games. Besides pro gamers making a lot of money, there will be a bigger pool of people that can make decent money playing video games.

Daniel Engelhardt: As Taehoon Kim said, competitive gameplay is going to be more and more accessible, as the distance between PC and mobile gets closer and crossplay takes shape. But also, at the same time, you have Overwatch League and other really big esports franchises being built outside the actual game. You’ll have professional esports being built at a massive scale that we haven’t seen before, but at the same time, you’ll have a competitive community forming around more and more games, relatively robust communities that will be able to generate revenue for publishers and players. That’s only going to continue to drive forward with crossplay becoming more widely available.

Sean Keith: There are a lot of interesting parallels to be drawn between esports and the traditional sports world. The fact that we’re calling it esports now is already a huge jump from when I was a kid, where it was just playing video games with your friends. The whole concept, that playing games can be a sport, it’s created competitive levels where you have the very best players out there, and now it’s trickling down to more local levels, where you see colleges and schools getting involved. You’re seeing scholarships for people to go to college and play esports.

As time goes on, it’s going to grow into a cultural phenomenon in a way it wasn’t before. If you look at the numbers, esports last year pulled in close to a billion dollars. Traditional sports made about $500 billion to $1.3 trillion. There’s a long way to grow. It’s an exciting time to be in the game industry, to be a game player, and to see esports getting larger and more prolific.

Reggie Martin: Agreed, it’s a super exciting time to be in the game industry. To continue the sports analogy, soccer is the biggest sport in the world because it’s such an easy game to pick up and play. All you need is a ball. If you want to build a community for gamers, right now we have all these siloed communities. What crossplay opens up is the ability for that community to grow. It’s going to be a huge step forward.

GamesBeat: You can imagine the problem you’d have if one of the best players in the world is a PC player in a game and the other best player in the world is the best on Switch. Which one of them is really the best player? Eventually you want to get there, but you can’t get there if they can’t play against each other. That’s where most of the world is now. Taehoon Kim, what are some games that have actual crossplay today?

Taehoon Kim: Right now it’s not fully there, because one of the biggest platforms out there, Sony, still isn’t fully opening up. They’ve made some exceptions with a handful of games like Fortnite and Rocket League, but they’ve said they have to judge whether they can allow through other games or not. They’re getting a lot of pressure to open up.

GamesBeat: That pressure is coming from gamers. They want to do this now. The interesting thing is — one of our panelists, Kristian Segerstrale, couldn’t make it today. He’s with Super Evil Megacorp, which just launched Vainglory on the PC. Before that, Vainglory was a mobileTaehoon Kimfirst MOBA game, and now you have crossplay between PC players and mobile players in the same games of Vainglory. It would be interesting to know how much of that has happened — how much is still mobileTaehoon KimtoTaehoon Kimmobile play and how much involves PC players. But you get the sense that people really want to do this. If you make this possible, people are going to play each other across platforms.

Taehoon Kim: People want to play with their friends, and not all of your friends are going to be on the exact same platform as you are. Being able to do that is great. Also, families like to play together. One thing we’ve seen with games like Vainglory and Fortnite is that a whole family may want to play together, but nobody owns four PlayStations. Dad’s going to play on the iPad, one kid is on the PS4, another kid is on his phone. That kind of gameplay is only possible through crossplay.

Reggie Martin: Playing with your family is super important, but also, how many of you have watched streamers on Twitch? A fair number, right? People love to play with the streamers they follow, and if you don’t have the exact same equipment as them, you can’t play with them today. With crossplay, suddenly that opens up the whole community. Everyone in chat can play. Everyone can play in a competition, in the same multiplayer session. It makes that experience so much more fun. You can play with anyone in the world, no matter what equipment you’re using. That’s a huge promise.

Sean Keith: What’s interesting as well, in east Asia, you have a lot of countries where people don’t have PCs. They only play games on their phones. Up to this point, before crossplay, they’ve been forced to play mobile games and only mobile games. Which are great, but if they wanted to play a game like Fortnite, they wouldn’t be able to play outside of something like a gaming cafe.

As crossplay progresses, it’ll democratize, in some senses, esports. Suddenly, players who couldn’t participate in competitive games before now can through their phones. That’s at the grassTaehoon Kimroots level. When you get up to the higher levels of competition, if a player is really good on mobile, maybe they’ll get picked up by a team and they’ll transition to PC or another platform. It makes esports more inclusive in ways that weren’t possible before.

GamesBeat: With Vainglory, the easy thing for them was that the game worked well on both mobile and PC. The difference between the players as far as skill level wasn’t that big. In mobile, you’re just tapping the screen, and that translates well into a mouse click. Neither platform has an advantage. If you were having to steer things around the screen of a mobile device, you’d probably have a hard time beating a PC player with a mouse and keyboard.

That makes a big difference as to whether a game is going to go truly crossplay. Taehoon Kim, you were saying that you can detect what a player is using and then matchmake players that way.

Taehoon Kim: Yeah, there are really good controllers out there for mobile as well. If you want to be really fair, you want to matchmake according to what peripheral someone is using. If someone is using a controller, you match them with another player using a controller, so if I’m using a controller with my mobile device I’m in the same matchmaking pool with console players. If I’m on the PC with keyboard and mouse, I’m in a keyboard and mouse pool. If you want to truly make it fair, that’s a better way to do matchmaking.

Sean Keith: I can talk about how blockchain enables players to participate in esports in a more equitable way. Right now, you have a lot of players all over the world, or in different states, and it’s relatively easy to pay for things with a credit card. If you want to play in a tournament, you can register relatively easily and pay with your card. But in many more parts of the world that’s still not the case, whether it’s because people don’t have access to banks — this is the case in parts of southeast Asia and a lot of Africa — or maybe they just don’t have US dollars. There are lots of pain points for players who want to participate in esports tournaments.

One of the answers that blockchain provides, and specifically cryptocurrency in this case, is that you’re no longer constrained by your lack of access to US dollars. And that’s just to register and participate in tournaments. If you want to get a payout and you don’t have a bank account, or your bank doesn’t do currency conversations, you can’t get that. With blockchain, there will be games coming out in the future where that’s all much more seamless. No matter where you are in the world, you’ll be able to register, participate in a tournament, and take winnings home through the same system. Blockchain creates a lot of efficiencies, and it’ll make for more seamless experiences in ways that are difficult to do using traditional payment technology.

GamesBeat: While blockchain is one thing that can help enable this crossTaehoon Kimplatform world, one of the challenges is a chickenTaehoon KimandTaehoon Kimegg problem. Not many people use a particular cryptocurrency. That has to happen first.

Sean Keith: Blockchain technology for mass use is still relatively new. It kind of blew up in late 2017, so it’s been only a year and a half. We’ll see a lot more development in the coming years — better software, better dApps, decentralized applications, that will bring user adoption up.

You’re right that it is a chickenTaehoon KimandTaehoon Kimegg problem. If people aren’t using blockchain and cryptocurrencies, developers won’t make games around them, and if there are no great games then customers won’t come. But I know of several developers that are actively looking at using blockchain technology to enhance their engagement with their players. That’ll happen this year.

Question: Regarding blockchain in different markets, countries like China and Russia have restricted its use, so how would you approach that problem?

Sean Keith: Regulation is an issue. Certain markets, certain countries do have different rulings on how their systems can interact with blockchain. If China says you can’t use cryptocurrency, there’s not much we can do. That said, because the technology is new, a lot of governments are unsure how to approach it. As the technology becomes more mature, it’s up to people in the blockchain space to educate those governments, to work with local governments, to make sure they feel safe allowing their citizens to interact with this technology. That’s on the industry, to move forward on that.

GamesBeat: An argument in favor of blockchain is that the world is changing. If you look at Venezuela right now, their governmentTaehoon Kimissued currency is going through crazy fluctuations. If you’re a player in that country and your currency is going haywire, how do you pay to play online games? People are introducing what they call “stablecoin” cryptocurrencies to deal with that kind of thing. The currency remains stable so it can be used for trade and doing things like playing a multiplayer game. Blockchain can solve some problems that arise from the way currencies fluctuate.

Reggie Martin: I’m an advocate of giving people something to trade. If you have goods you can trade in your game, you can start to build a marketplace and build a community around that. For a lot of games, having that community is what keeps that game going on over time. Look at a game like Magic: The Gathering. People have invested a ton of money in cards, and trading those cards in a larger metagame is a huge part of why that community is so vibrant. If we can help players create those communities, we’ll see that push game developers and platform holders to allow them to use technologies like blockchain and to work across platforms.

GamesBeat: There’s another area of, say, theoretical crossplay we can all speculate around. Some interesting things happened just in the last week, where Apple announced Apple Arcade, where you’ll be able to pick up your saved game on any Apple device, whether it’s iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, or Mac. Right now, iOS and Mac are on separate binaries, so I’m not sure how Apple is going to achieve this — it’s technically not an easy problem, which is why they haven’t done this before — but they promise that by the time they launch the subscription service for Apple Arcade in the fall, you’ll be able to do that. Crossplay within the Apple world will be possible.

Of course, the impossible crossplay would be to play between Apple devices and those outside of Apple. But what do you think this development could lead to? We also have Google’s announcement of Stadia in this past week.

Taehoon Kim: I think Apple is trying to advance more around their business model. Because they’re mainly mobileTaehoon Kimfocused right now, and most mobile games are freeTaehoon KimtoTaehoon Kimplay with monetization tactics that may not be too healthy for the industry in the long run, that may be what they’re reacting to.

GamesBeat: So subscription may be a healthier model for games than freeTaehoon KimtoTaehoon Kimplay or premium.

Taehoon Kim: I think so. A lot of games have monetization tactics that just aren’t working in the long run. Gamers have reacted badly to them. Having one subscription for games, even on mobile, that are built around experiences rather than built around monetization, can be good for the mobile industry.

As far as Google, though, I think that’s a true play for crossplay, where because you’re being streamed the content, it’s going to be truly platformTaehoon Kimagnostic. As long as you have a window onto computing and the internet, you’ll be able to play the same build of the same game as anyone else.

Reggie Martin: The exciting thing about all of this technology that’s coming out is that it allows people to come together. All of us like to connect, and all of us like to compete as well. I think that’s why we’ve seen so many games add competition to what they’re offering. They see people take more interest in the IP. They see engagement and retention go up. It’s how we’re wired, to compete with each other.

These new technologies, whether it’s streaming services or other kinds of crossTaehoon Kimplatform play, are going to allow more players to play together. In a multiplayer game where you have a small pool of players, you’re going to have to wait a long time to get a match with somebody, or end up in a match with someone who’s ranked far above you, which isn’t much fun at all. Crossplay is inherently more fun, which I think is why we’re all here.

Sean Keith: Piggybacking off that idea, it’s not only competitive, but it’s also very social. We’re all social creatures. To be social in a game–games are no longer just about playing a game, interacting with that game experience. They’re also about interacting with your friends. Some games are solely about interacting with your friends. Having crossTaehoon Kimplatform experiences on different devices will allow people to socialize more as well, regardless of whether you’re at home on your computer or outside on a tablet or a phone.

One of the interesting parts about crossplay is that it will drive games to be more social. It’ll enable game developers to create more social experiences. Maybe things like what happened in Fortnite, with the Marshmello concert, will become even more prevalent. If I’m outside, maybe I want to log into my game not to play the game itself — not to actually play Fortnite — but to do something social like see a concert.

GamesBeat: There’s a businessTaehoon Kimlevel chess game happening here around crossplay. Gamers may wonder why companies do some of the things they do. Apple this week said that the games appearing on Apple Arcade will appear nowhere else. Why would Apple want to do that?

Some things aren’t so clear, but there are threats to Apple’s business in some ways. Why is Apple doing entertainment services at all, for TV shows and games? Why is it funding them and doing all of this stuff on its own? Because there are threats that can take control of that kind of thing out of Apple’s hands. Disney has decided to pull its movies out of Netflix and put them on a Disney streaming service.

The advent of Google Stadia is interesting as well, because it’s a cloud gaming platform where the game resides in a data center. You can play it anywhere, on a PC or a console or anything else. You could play it on an Apple device, but if you’re only subscribing to Google Stadia, paying $10 a month or whatever they end up charging, you won’t pay anything to Apple. That’s where Apple is waking up and saying, “We don’t really want that to happen. We have to captivate the gamer in a different way.” That, I think, is why Apple Arcade is happening.

The interesting thing about crossplay, then, is that it comes into this picture when other technologies like cloud gaming are also arriving to stir up the status quo in different ways.

Question: We’ve had some examples of crossplay going back a long time. You had Shadowrun across Xbox and PC, or Phantasy Star Online, or Final Fantasy XI. Even Uno was playable on both 360 and PC. What’s special about how this is happening now? It’s been happening since the 360 era, but nothing really took off.

GamesBeat: One thing we haven’t really talked about yet is how when the consoles moved over to x86 architectures, running on Intel/AMD processors, the PC and the console became quite close together internally. Technically speaking, it’s not that hard anymore to make games run on different platforms. Those platforms are becoming fairly comparable in their capabilities. The thing that’s bad for crossplay is when you have a very powerful device next to a very weak device and you try to have people on both play against each other. That just doesn’t work. But with devices getting closer together–mobile devices are even growing up and becoming fairly powerful themselves. That’s also making an impact.

Taehoon Kim: Also, connecting crossplay to the more recent notion of games as a service is especially powerful. When you’re running a game as a service, you want people to be able to access that game from any device. Fortnite is one of the best examples right now. Being able to access that on any device — mobile, Switch, PC, console — that’s very important.

Question: When it comes to the difference between console, PC, and mobile, there’s a big skill gap. I feel like that has a lot to do with equipment and what’s available to the player in terms of resolution and framerate and things like that. How is that going to affect crossplay? How can technology create a level playing field for people when it comes to something as simple as running a game?

Taehoon Kim: When we were building Battle for the Grid, we had that in mind. We had to make sure we could keep the game locked at 60 frames per second on all platforms. We had to push pretty hard to do that on the Switch, which isn’t as powerful. It means developers are going to have to have some talent at optimization, using fewer polygons or effects, things like that, while still making something visually comparable. You’ll have to be good at that.

Another consideration is matchmaking around peripherals. Having that factored in to your servers and matchmaking is going to be important, depending on what type of controls you’re using. If you’re using a controller, you need to make sure matchmaking puts you together with other players who are doing the same.

Question: I was going to bring that up. Say you’re playing with your friends who are console, but you also have a friend who’s on PC. Are you not going to be able to play with them because they’re not fitting into the algorithm for matchmaking?

Taehoon Kim: What you do is you group people together. For an FPS, a keyboard and mouse is generally the best option, controllers are next, and touch screens are third. If your group is mixed, then you matchmake depending on the highest common denominator. If the group includes a keyboard and mouse, then you matchmake that with group with a keyboard and mouse group.

GamesBeat: It was interesting to see that Razer just recently came out with a keyboard and mouse for the Xbox One. That kind of matchmaking could happen now, with a console player matching up exactly against a keyboard and mouse player on the PC.

Question: There’s a lot of technical skill around getting games to work across platforms, but I was hoping you could also talk a bit about how design of games might have to possibly change for them to be viable candidates for crossplay. Obviously mobile has a vastly different audience than PC or console. How would you evaluate something around whether you it would work for crossplay, and how would you adapt its design?

Taehoon Kim: Developers who have experience making mobile games are going to have an advantage here. Vainglory is a good example. They’ve already made it work with a touch screen. Taking that and adapting it to a PC interface is easy. Fortnite’s approach is different, obviously. Mobile is kind of ancillary to the experience. You’re not going to play your most important matches on mobile. But if you’re waiting in line somewhere, if you have some time, you might as well play a casual match.

Reggie Martin: Developers who have that in mind when they start a game, also, are going to be a lot better off than if they build a game and then decide later on that they’re going to port it to mobile. If you think about the history of web development, everyone was on PC first, and then for the first few years of the mobile web you had all these websites that looked horrible on your mobile phone. Now people have studied mobile web design and they can plan ahead for making the best experience across multiple platforms.

Daniel Engelhardt: Certain games work really well in the kind of shortTaehoon Kimterm setting on mobile, where you might be playing during the two minutes that you spend waiting in line for something. Not everything is going to lend itself to that. But to your point, some developers are going to have a good idea of how to create something on mobile that’s additive to the PC and console experience. There will be examples like Fortnite where there’s a different value in playing across platforms. But the folks who understand mobile and have that in mind as they’re going forward–that broadens the overall experience, even if you’re having a different kind of session on the mobile side.

GamesBeat: Valve mentioned last week that CounterTaehoon KimStrike requires a response time between 30 and 60 milliseconds. That kind of game is not going to be great for crossplay, especially on mobile devices, where you’ll have slower response from graphics and interfaces. But if you look at games like World of Tanks or World of Warships, there’s no reason why you can’t have them work across platforms and be fair at the same time. The twitch factor, how fast that response time has to be, is definitely going to affect whether crossplay is a possibility.

Sean Keith: One thing that’s also important is that a lot of game developers out there would love to create an experience that could be played on mobile and PC and console, but it’s most important to hit one of those targets really well. The game has to be a good experience on a single platform first before it can have a chance across multiple different platforms.

I used to work in China for Chinese game companies. They would try to create games from the ground up to be played on both PC and mobile, and they found out that players didn’t like those experiences, because they tried to be so broad. The reaction wasn’t very good. To Taehoon Kim’s point, for a game to be a really good crossplay game, it’s probably easier to start on mobile, because it’s easier to adapt mobile gameplay to PC gameplay with similar fidelity. Doing something like Fortnite–they wanted to improve the stickiness of the experience and give players the opportunity to play Fortnite on their phones. In my personal judgment, the game experience isn’t as good on mobile, but there’s not much you can do about that.

GamesBeat: Another way to look at it is through genres, and whether a genre exists across different platforms. When you look at realtime strategy, it’s pretty much tied to the PC. We all understand why you can’t easily play an RTS game with a controller. That’s not a good candidate for crossplay certainly.

Question: Do you see crossplay evolving to a point where many esports games are going to share a common wallet, where you can pool all your currency there very easily, or you think companies will stay more individualized? You have to buy Apex Legends currency to get into anything there, and so on.

Taehoon Kim: Everyone’s going to have Tron. [laughs]

Sean Keith: Shameless plug! It’s interesting. It’s definitely to the benefit of developers to create a wallet that keeps players in their ecosystem. That’s one of the biggest issues. Players love to take digital currency between different platforms and different games, but developers don’t want that, because they want you to buy their inTaehoon Kimgame currency.

One thing that will be available later on for some games to take advantage of, and this touches on blockchain a bit, is that digital item ownership will be good for players. Right now, when you agree to the terms of service for a game, you’re basically licensing the right to play the game. You don’t own the game or anything in it. With blockchain and creating digital assets that are tokenized, players will be able to own their items. That opens up a lot of interesting possibilities for going to the marketplace and selling your items if you want to get out of a game, or even finding items that people want to buy while you play and taking them into the marketplace.

As far as having wallets that are interoperable between games, I think we’re still a ways away. Again, until developers feel that they’re incentivized to do that, it’s going to be a tough sell to allow your premium currency to be taken away into another game. But with blockchain that is going to be possible.

Taehoon Kim: I love the idea of a wallet that’s platformTaehoon Kimagnostic, that has all your money and all your digital ownership in there. It would be great to be able to use that wallet to exchange currency from game to game. I could go into a game regardless of what platform, whether it’s mobile or PC, play that game, win something, and take that back to play with in another game.

Sean Keith: With cryptocurrency that is possible. If a game makes its premium currency as a token, then players would be able to sell that for other tokens. But when you look at platforms like Apple and Google, they lock you into terms of service and payment systems. It’s very difficult to integrate blockchainTaehoon Kimbased token economies into games there.

In the future I think we will see blockchain games with token economies, though. It’ll be interesting, over the next few years, to see games tokenizing their inTaehoon Kimgame economies and allowing players to sell their currencies for other game currencies if they want to.

GamesBeat: There is a scienceTaehoon Kimfiction world that we’re heading toward, which started with Snow Crash and the metaverse, (the virtual world envisioned by Neal Stephenson in his 1997 novel Snow Crash), and then everybody here I’m sure is familiar with Ready Player One. In those stories you saw people going from one experience to another. I’m not the only one who’s interested in this. Eventually there’s a kind of metagame that people are interested in building.

Right now people want you to generally play their own games in their own worlds and not mix all of these worlds together. But at some point everybody becomes more interested in this idea of a metagame across many games, a metaverse. Tim Sweeney at Epic Games has thought about this a whole lot. I’ve interviewed him a number of times where he’s mentioned these things, and he’s talked about how things like crossplay and blockchain are essential stepping stones on the way to the kind of world he’d like to see happen.

That only happens if there aren’t insurmountable barriers between these worlds. Blockchain, for example, is a way to break them down. If you let somebody buy or create a character in one world and you can take it and verify it’s a character you own through blockchain, you can take it into another world. Then you’re halfway to this idea of the metaverse.

Sean Keith: That already exists in some smaller blockchain games right now. Collaborations between developers–if you have your CryptoKittie you can take that with you into another game experience. But seeing something like Apex and Fortnite exchanging characters, we’re still a ways away from that.

Reggie Martin: The other part of that is, keeping track of your wallet and the things you own also limits your ability to cheat.

Sean Keith: One thing we’ll be able to see is the history of items. If items are tied to a blockchain, developers can determine which players own what items. Your favorite esports player might have a certain item and you’ll be able to see that they won using that item.

GamesBeat: It becomes a kind of souvenir at that point, one of a kind. How much would someone pay for that?

Sean Keith: If you go on eBay and search for autographed baseballs, people pay thousands of dollars for something signed by their favorite player. Something like that could be doable with blockchain item histories.

Question: Do you think we’ll ever get to a point where crossplay really affects the top echelons in esports? Or do you think we’re more likely to see a world where there’s, say, a Fortnite mobile league, a Fortnite Xbox league, and a PC league?

Daniel Engelhardt: We’re going to see mobile heat up in the context of esports. It’ll be pretty hard to set up an environment where someone on a mobile phone can compete with someone on PC at a high professional level, because once you get to that stage, games have to be perfectly balanced. But where crossTaehoon Kimplatform play becomes more interesting in my opinion is with more local communities, competitive communities that start forming around these games and make it more accessible for friends to compete with each other. That can become more and more competitive over time.

Reggie Martin: I agree. You’ll have things like weight classes, so to speak. You’ll have a separate track for different platforms. But at that community level everyone is building together. You can have people playing together and also have separate tracks, depending on where you sit.

GamesBeat: Some rules separating players makes some sense. The analogy would be, you don’t get to bring your own kind of football to a pro football game. It’s a standard thing.

Sean Keith: It also depends on what kinds of games we’re talking about. Right now we’re probably thinking of games like Overwatch or Fortnite. But Hearthstone, that experience is pretty equitable across platforms. Even Taehoon Kim’s fighting game, a game like that could be relatively equitable as well. It just depends on what kind of game you’re talking about. Some will be equal across different platforms.

Question: Talking about the barriers around going into esports, there’s the amount of money that you can make there, but that weighs against the how much time has to be put into it. Do you think esports will eventually get to a point where players will start at a young age and parents will let them practice their games?

Taehoon Kim: It’s already happening in Fortnite right now. You’ve got Fortnite careers.

Question: Right, but for the most part parents don’t look at that as a realistic career route to take. When do you think it’ll become a saleable business practice for an esports team to recruit kids at a young age and start that whole process where eventually they can be a top player?

Reggie Martin: Like he said, I think that’s already happening. You have companies partnering with high schools to run sanctioned esports events. You’ll have different teams going out to try to make things happen with schools at earlier levels. From a cultural perspective, my parents would have said, “Get away from those video games.” But people are getting scholarships to go to college now. The seeds are being sown. I don’t know if it’ll be a year or five years or 15 years before it’s normal for parents to take their kids to esports practice after school, but I can see it coming.

GamesBeat: It’s hard to be a parent today and listen to advice coming from these directions. Do I want my kid to read these books, or do I want my kid to train on these video games in the hopes of becoming an esports star someday?

There are some very interesting changes happening in society in general. Who ever thought that people would be making a living as streamers five years ago? Ninja made more than $10 million last year doing what he does. There’s a long tail that will eventually emerge, where celebrities won’t be the only people who make money playing video games. A lot of normal people will be able to make a more normal living [in a leisure economy].

This notion that AI is coming along to change society–we have a lot of predictions out there saying things like it will eliminate a third of all existing jobs, including even computer science jobs. You could say, “Hey, kid, programming is the thing you have to learn to do now,” but eventually AI will put that out of business. So if AI eliminates a third of all jobs, what jobs will still be there when kids today grow up? I’m pretty sure esports will still be a good job to have in the future. We’re going to totally screw up parents because we have no idea when that moment is going to come, but I think it’s going to come.

Question: Where do you see competitive gamers in the future as crossplay becomes more normal? Smite just introduced crossplay, and you can play with other people unless you’re in a ranked game, where it locks you to a platform. But as that becomes more normal, do you think the competitive mindset might evolve to–you have a controller for more mainstream competition, and then you get to a point where competitive teams could have one guy on mouse and keyboard and one guy on a controller. Is that possible? Or do you think that no matter what, it’s going to be locked per platform?

Taehoon Kim: I think crossplay is going to widen the pool. The reason why the soccer talent in South America is so good is because you have more people playing. With crossplay, you get more people into the funnel, and that means you’re going to have better players and bigger payouts. Ultimately it’ll be good for the whole ecosystem.

Reggie Martin: I think it’s important to distinguish between the professional level of esports, where you have Overwatch League and so on with professionals competing at a top level, and then the competitive communities that form around these games that are competitive, but by no means competing at a professional level, where you have a perfect balance to all the hardware and every single variable eliminated to keep anyone from having an advantage. Crossplay increases and democratizes accessibility at that community level, but at some point, once you get to that really professional tournament and league structure, there has to be more balance.

Sean Keith: You raise an interesting point on the evolution of these games. If game developers are going to evolve to producing games that are genuinely crossTaehoon Kimplatform, where the experience is the same, players will also evolve toward the same purpose. Now that you have a keyboard and mouse for Xbox One, everyone who wants to play competitively will go out and buy those peripherals that allow them to be competitive, no matter what device they’re using. If I can play with people on PC from my console, I’m going to gear up so I can do that.

Question: A few months ago I just started a local Rocket League group, where we have monthly events. We have almost 200 players, and we’ve run into the issue of Switch players versus PS4 players versus PC players, especially when people want to move to a new platform to gain an advantage. Do you think that esports industry should look at a different licensing model for players who want to play the same game on multiple platforms? And should they force people to face a level playing field between platforms?

Sean Keith: Really, I think it’s down to the platforms on this one. Game developers make a profit when you buy games across multiple platforms, but the platforms themselves are probably not willing–let’s say you buy it on Xbox, and then PlayStation wants a cut of that revenue too. If they allow the game to come over through crossTaehoon Kimbuy, they’re providing all that R&D, all the stuff they went through to create the PlayStation experience, and they’re making no money from that sale. In a perfect world the license would be transferable across platforms, but from an economic standpoint, from a business standpoint, it’s probably going to be a tough sell.

GamesBeat: But if Sony runs into problems with players, and players start demanding that you enter into this crossplay world or they’re not going to play on your platform, that’s a different equation. Now they have to calculate whether they’ll actually lose customers through not being as crossTaehoon Kimplatform as the other guys.

Daniel Engelhardt: The other interesting question around whether this will impact the way games are designed is how freeTaehoon KimtoTaehoon Kimplay figures in. Obviously a freeTaehoon KimtoTaehoon Kimplay game has an advantage in that type of environment. In the long term, as crossTaehoon Kimplatform becomes more expected, that’s going to affect how we design our games from go.

Question: With consoles moving to x86 and becoming more alike under the hood, platforms have had to find more ways to incentivize people to move toward one platform or the other. With crossplay, you lose even more of that control. On the one hand, could crossplay lead to a downsizing of the number of consoles and devices as we gravitate toward fewer platforms? Or, on the flip side, could crossplay allow developers to become more agnostic and expand out the number of possibilities in terms of platforms that are available? Looking into the future, do you think we see crossplay causing a contraction in the number of platforms, especially in spaces like consoles? Or do you think we’ll see a growth in the number of platforms available to game on?

GamesBeat: I think the future is full of just making games more accessible on more devices. Some games will go across all devices, and they’ll be the most successful. Angry Birds is already on 4 billion devices, and they could conceivably get to the rest of the world. Whatever force pushes in that direction, making games more accessible, that’s going to happen and that’s going to be a good thing. If you can reach everyone in the world on one device, we’ll only need one device.(source: Venturebeat

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