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May 14, 2008 4:32 PM

ION Game Conference: Grand Theft Auto IV "is the future"

Posted by Brier Dudley

That's according to Scott Jennings, lead designer at NCSoft.

During an ION Game Conference panel discussion on what online games will be like in 2013, Jennings said it will be like Hollywood with a limited number of blockbuster games that take $100 million and 1,000 people to develop.

"World of Warcraft" is the reference online blockbuster, but GTA is now setting expectations for quality and richness and "you know they're working on" an online version, he said.

"That is the future because GTA, more than WOW, is setting the benchmark for what people are going to expect in their next video game,'' he said.

Because so much money is riding on blockbusters, don't expect a lot of experimentation. Instead small "indie" games is where you'll find more creativity, similar to art house films vs. mainstream Hollywood fare, he said.

Other panelists said online gaming is going to go mainstream and the industry will become much more competitive, which will drive down development and operating costs for game companies. Other predictions included migration toward free play supported by microtransactions, a growing need for online community moderators and perhaps the emergence of some breakout games by hobbyist developers using new game development toolkits.

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Gadgets and games | Fun stuff I've written about lately includes Apple's iPhone, Hewlett-Packard's HDX laptop and Microsoft's Halo3. Also on the radar are new digital video boxes such as the Tivo HD and the Vudu.