Westwood Studios co-founder Louis Castle, now CEO of InstantAction, reckons we could be playing blockbuster console titles like Call of Duty through web browsers for free within a year.
Castle just kicked off the Develop Conference in Brighton with a keynote titled "Traditional Games Breaking into Social Networks", and believes we could even be playing upcoming first-person shooter Call of Duty: Black Ops, due out this November, through a web browser, if he can cut a deal with Activision to sign the game to his service.
He told Eurogamer in an interview published today: "It could happen this fall if we can get the deal put together with Activision, quite frankly. Are you listening Bobby?"
"When I joined InstantAction a year ago, I was expecting major upheaval within that year, and it hasn't happened yet," Castle, who left EA last year, explained.
"But the signs of it happening are getting more and more frequent and closer and closer to the bone, as it were. I don't even think it's five years out. I think it's just a few years out. In my worst-case scenario it would be five years. In my best-case scenario for the consumer, it's happening within a year, maybe two. You'll see almost everybody prefer to go play the game for free somewhere, download it incrementally and buy it in pieces or through some other microtransaction, than the few people that will actually go to the Best Buys, GameStops and Wal-Marts of the world.
"I think those will still be sold. Just like, essentially you don't really buy World of Warcraft at a store. You buy the installation disc. The game is the game. You're paying for a subscription. I think that same model we'll find prevalent around the world on all games."
Castle's prediction echoes recent comments from Activision big boss Bobby Kotick, who has made clear his desire to make the phenomenally successful Call of Duty franchise "an online subscription service".
"They all want it," Castle said. "In fairness to the publishers, our system, we just launched it with Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition. We changed everything about InstantAction. We built it upon the base we had before. I think those are some of the issues they're concerned about: can we go to scale? These are precious gems they have. I understand why nobody wants to put their brand out there unless they're absolutely certain it's going to work and it's going to be a great consumer experience. It's thrust upon us. It's incumbent upon us to prove to them that it can work."