Eurogamer: Given your personal in-depth understanding of the architectures of the competing console platforms - the 360 and the PS3 - do you think one will have a significant technical advantage over the other in the years to come?
John Carmack: You know right now they're both really good, and that's why any time that people make comments one way or the other about the consoles it's easy to leave aside of the fact that it's the best that it's ever been in any generation in terms of support capabilities and all that, but what you can say really quite clearly and not get into too much argument about it is that the 360 is much easier to develop for, it's easier to get the performance out of it that it can deliver, and the rasterizer, the GPU side is generally faster than what the PS3 has.
If you were doing a whole lot of simulation, you can in theory get more performance out of the Cell processor than out of the two other dual-thread processors on the 360, but that's a big 'in theory'. You could design a game where the PS3 would be the superior platform, but you'd have to go out of your way to do it. If you're doing a game like people just want to do games now, the 360's the better platform.
But, the fact that Blu-ray won the format wars on there is a huge feather in Sony's cap, and then we wind up with cases like what we're seeing right now where having all the extra space on the Blu-ray may be a useful thing for us above the fact that the hardware's not quite as good in terms of what it can do with the processing but being able to just have more data available there.
Eurogamer: Given that PSN and Xbox Live are competing for the same dollars as iTunes, could this generation's killer apps be Netflix and DRM-free licensed video rather than Halo or Gran Turismo?
John Carmack: I think that it's doing surprisingly well and most people are very happy with how Xbox Live is rolling out on there, and I think that there is every chance that the next console generation will just be kind of a network broadband device maybe with optional optical media or something on there.
I'm probably not the most clued-in media prognosticator about all that kind of stuff, about what the consumers are going to be adopting as far as changing in viewing habits and different media and things like that - but in the larger scheme of things it's a great efficiency for any producer of content to have a direct distribution method and to not have the whole boxed-goods distribution chain between us and the consumers, so it's a positive-looking thing on there.
Right now though when you're developing multi-DVD titles and everything it's still...Even there, I guess there's a lot of people that are downloading enough movies that would be the equivalent of downloading that much content on there, but we don't yet have the existence proof of somebody investing 30 million dollars on a title that's going to be distributed electronically on there. We are doing one of our lower-key bets with Quake Live to see if we can take a different distribution method on there, but we're not at a point where we're willing to have the mainstream development on something that's non-traditional.
Eurogamer: Nintendo's out in front, but gamers regard Wii as the "second system" behind a PS3 or a 360. How do you think Nintendo overcomes that? Do they even have to or care to?
John Carmack: Yeah! Do they have to? They're selling more, making more money selling more units. Good problem to have! I would chalk that up to not a problem. We're checking our bugs off - not a bug!
Eurogamer: What's your philosophy on DLC? Do you see it as a good business opportunity, or do you feel as Valve does that if you've bought the game you should get all the add-ons free?
John Carmack: Yeah, I'm dubious about [DLC]. That's been certainly a hope for a long time that incremental content - stuff like that - would be a win. We see things like in the Korean markets - all the things that they have with the micro-transactions and all the things that are a huge success over there - but we know some people that have worked on some of the little episodic content, some stuff through Steam, and it's all been not successful so far, and I can understand some of the feeling behind that.
You know, people are happy to buy Call of Duty or Guitar Hero or whatever every year if you have to stage development patterns and everything on there, to bring out massive wonderful things, but keep following it up like that. That seems to be doing pretty damn well as a big plan, with new content every year, because it certainly is true that it'd be great if we weren't four years between our titles or more, our mainstream stuff at id. That's a problem and that makes you want to do these smaller things, but the market seems to be responding best to not smaller things but more, bigger things. It's a big play, and that does favour the big publishers and developers that kind of make those monstrous investments.