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Square Enix: Microsoft's ten-year Xbox plan is "the biggest mistake they've ever made"

Online models erase the need for "complex hardware"

Square Enix would really like to see some next generation consoles on the market now please. Pretty, pretty please. Worldwide technology director Julien Merceron feels that hardware that keeps pushing visual boundaries years post-release is no longer necessary, as online features help distinguish graphically similar games. Thus, Microsoft's decision to stick with Xbox 360 for ten years and up is "the biggest mistake they've ever made".

"There are two aspects to complex hardware," Merceron told GamesIndustry. "When hardware is too complex to target, it leads to a smaller number of titles available for launch, and then with fewer titles you end up not being able to sell your platform really well, so you actually start with a big disadvantage.

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"PS3 and 360 haven't found a way to be as successful as PS2 was. On the other hand, if you have complex hardware, although you have problems at the beginning, you do have potentially better longevity for your platform because every year quality is going to increase as developers find out all the optimizations they can use.

"But with a simple architecture you do give more chances to everybody, which I believe is very important based on the critical business situation we're in," he continued. "Games will be more costly. If you start to make the entry bar really high, more studios will die, more publishers will die, there'll be less titles on platforms, etc.

"If you make it accessible, you give more chances to people, you'll have a better portfolio at launch, but now you also have a problem with your longevity. Studios could be 80 percent perfect one year after the console has shipped, so games for years afterwards will look the same.

"Now, I would say that this is not a problem anymore. It was a problem in the generation of offline platforms. Now you don't need to manage longevity by complexity of programming, because your longevity is ensured by your online model. And I would suggest that maybe we don't want long generations. We have Sony and Microsoft talking about this generation lasting seven, eight, nine or even ten years and it's the biggest mistake they've ever made."

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Merceron argues that developers who would have made games for next gen consoles have grown tired of waiting, and are currently thriving on browser and mobile. "This generation has been way too long, and I say this because you have a lot of developers that work on a new platform, and perhaps will not succeed, so they will wait for the next generation, and will jump on that platform.

"You could not do that with this generation though. So these developers went elsewhere to see if the grass was greener. They found web browsers, they found iOS, they found other things and a lot of them won't come back to the hardware platforms. So you could look at it that thanks to Microsoft and Sony and the length of this generation, it helped the emergence of other platforms and helped them get strong before the next hardware comes out."

Bit of context for all this: Square Enix aired its swanky new Luminous engine at E3 this year, an engine which crunches assets of such magnitude that one Blu-ray disc may not be enough. On the online side, the company is doing a brisk trade (or so it seems) in Final Fantasy XIII-2 DLC, in what could be associated with that industry-wide push towards transforming products into online services.

Your thoughts, ladies and gents?

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