Speaking to Develop, Square Enix president Yoichi Wada expressed his view that network-driven and social gaming may eventually make the notion of dedicated gaming hardware obsolete.
"Let's say in ten years time what we traditionally call 'console games' simply won't exist," he suggested. "In the past the platform was hardware, but that switched to the network. So a time will come when the hardware isn't even needed any more."
"The exact timing at which it will go away is hard to determine, but somewhere around 2005 the console manufacturers' strategy shifted," Wada added, referring to the increased focus on Microsoft's Xbox LIVE and Sony's Playstation Network. Wada also braised Games for Windows Live as an example of the kind of centralized network-driven system that may point the way to the future.
That said, Wada believes that purely internet-based social and browser games have the most potential to reach previously unknown audience sizes.
"Browser games mean all the data can be kept in the server," he said. "With that, any kind of terminal becomes a potential platform in which games can be played. That's exponential growth in the potential growth of gaming. The potential size of the market is enormous."