Microsoft dismisses 'cloud gaming', analyst predicts Apple console

OnLive and other 'cloud gaming' streaming services have garnered lots of PR coverage in 2009 - but Microsoft remains unimpressed. For now.

As part of this year's annual London Games Festival, this week saw the games industry's inaugural London Games Conference, with the great and the good of the British industry gathering at BAFTA to discuss the future of gaming.

The overall theme of the conference was nothing less than the ol' chestnut of "Digital Distribution and the Future of the European Games Market" with many leading games developers, publishers, retailers, distributors and hardware manufacturers speaking about and debating the issue of DLC versus 'traditional' boxed games in high street retail stores.

Elsewhere at LGF 09, Microsoft dismissed the recent hype about 'cloud gaming' with Xbox Live EMEA boss Jerry Johnson telling the BAFTA audience that streaming machines will simply NOT be mass-market "for the foreseeable future."

Talking about streaming services such as OnLive and Dave Perry's Gaikai - that have received considerable PR coverage throughout the last year – the Microsoft man stressed his belief that "streaming technology is something that the industry is betting on longer term... right now I don't believe that technology can scale out against the experience we can offer on a local machine."

Johnson added that: "The technology will continue to improve. As an industry we'll have to accept that and move with it - but I don't think it's on an accelerated timeline for the foreseeable future."

The death of the disc

Next up, there was much discussion, debate and general chin-stroking around the overall theme at LGF '09, with many wanting the definitive answer on the thorny question of when digital download sales were finally going to overtake sales of 'traditional' boxed games on discs.

Renowned industry analyst Nick Parker claims that, according to his research, the tipping point ('the iTunes moment') will occur in 2014, when the games industry "might have some parity between digital distribution and retail."

In terms of predicting the 'next gen' of gaming hardware, Parker refused to be drawn on specifics, although he was keen to speculate that it would not be too surprising to see Apple launch a dedicated gaming console based around Intel's Larabee chip.

The suggestion was that a company such as Apple could well take the gaming industry by storm, with Parker expecting "one big new entrant to shake up the eco-system".