Seven to Five
7. Doug Lowenstein To Step Down As Head Of ESA
This news story is still breaking as we write this but it seems clear that this will be one of the big news events of 2006. Doug Lowenstein, who has been with the Entertainment Software Association as its president since its founding in 1994, will according to reports announced he will be stepping down from the position sometime in early 2007.
Lowenstein founded the video-PC game trade group in Washington DC after the industry got attacked by lawmakers over violent content in games like Mortal Kombat and other titles. The ESA’s main purpose is to be a sounding board for the industry to federal officials. Lowenstein has watched the game industry grow by leaps and bounds in his 12 year watch. He helped to establish the ESRB rating system that nearly every video and PC game in the US uses. He has successfully led court fights against laws in US states and cities that have tried to impose sales restrictions on games. He also helped to form E3, the single most important trade show in the video game industry until just recently.
His departure comes at an interesting crossroads for the industry. Lowenstein will exit the ESA with the industry at its high point in terms of sales yet still under attack by some lawmakers for its content and its ratings system. Whomever replaces Lowenstein will have a big job to take on in 2007.
6. AGEIA PhysX Hardware Card Launches
Game graphics have gotten most of the attention from PC hardware but physics effects have slowly become more important in the past few years. This year marked the first time that a company released a PC hardware product that accelerated not graphical features but physics features. AGEIA launched their PhysX card through third party makers like BFG and ASUS and Dell and Alienware, among others, offered PhysX cards in their systems.
At the moment the effect of the PhysX card on the game industry is still something that can be debated as only a few PC games have been released that take atvantage of the PhysX card (these include City of Villians, Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter and the free demo CellFactor). Havok, which has supplied a software physics solution for game developers for some time, sent out notes to the press that attempted to downplay AGEIA’s hardware solution. In March, the company demonstrated Havok FX which used NVIDIA’s GPU to accelerate PC game physics effects. In early June, Havok announced a plan to team up with graphics chip maker ATI on a way to use ATI’s Crossfire solution to offer hardware accelerated PC game physics. So far there has been no news on the progress of either plan.
Having more interactivity and more physics effects in games has becoming more important in game development and the addition of hardware acceleration could be a huge leap in 2007 when more AGEIA based games are released and when ATI’s hardware solution combined with Havok is scheduled to begin.
5. Windows Vista Delayed To January 2007
It hit the PC game industry with a huge bolt in March 2006 with the announcement by Microsoft that their Windows Vista operating system would not launch for consumers by the fall of this year but in January 2007. All those plans for people to buy new PCs for Christmas with Vista inside got put off as a result.
PC gaming pretty much is tied into Microsoft’s operating systems so any delay of Vista would affect the game industry. Microsoft had announced plans to beef up its promotion of PC gaming with the launch of Vista with its new Games for Windows program so the fact that it would miss the all important holiday shopping season had to be a major blow in that effort. While it may have been just a coincidence, many PC games that were planned for release in 2006 were pushed back into 2007 (Crysis, Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, World of Warcraft: Burning Crusade, etc). This makes the upcoming year as the prime entry point for a ton of major PC only titles.