Excerpts from the blog "Grand Theft Auto IV"? That's the future, according to Scott Jennings, lead designer at game-software publisher NCSoft...

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Excerpts from the blog

“Grand Theft Auto IV”?

That’s the future, according to Scott Jennings, lead designer at game-software publisher NCSoft.

During an ION Game Conference panel discussion Wednesday in Seattle on what online gaming will be like in 2013, Jennings said it will be like Hollywood, with a limited number of blockbuster games that take $100 million and 1,000 people to develop.

“World of Warcraft” is the reference online blockbuster, but GTA is setting expectations for quality and richness, and “you know they’re working on” an online version, Jennings said.

“That is the future because GTA, more than WOW, is setting the benchmark for what people are going to expect in their next video game,” he said.

Because so much money is riding on blockbusters, don’t expect a lot of experimentation. Instead small “indie” games is where you’ll find more creativity, similar to art-house films versus mainstream Hollywood fare, Jennings said.

Other panelists said online gaming will go mainstream and the industry will become much more competitive, which will drive down development and operating costs for game companies.

Other predictions included migration toward free play supported by microtransactions, a growing need for online-community moderators and perhaps the emergence of some breakout games by hobbyist developers using new game-development tool kits.

Where’s the news?

I’m not sure why Bill Gates brought so many A-list journalists this week to his annual shindig for business leaders to yack about the future of technology.

Charlie Rose, Tom Friedman, Tom Brokaw, Michael Kinsley and Maria Bartiromo are all mingling with the moneybags this year.

It used to be that Gates and Microsoft alone had enough star power to lure the biggest names in business.

Twelve years on, the CEO Summit is still drawing some high-powered names, including Gates buddy Warren Buffett and former General Electric boss Jack Welch, although others may opt to get their Gates fix at Davos or The Wall Street Journal’s “D” conference in a few weeks.

Given the crowd, it’s always been a closed-door event. But Microsoft trickles out enough details to let people know that big names are coming to Redmond and dining on halibut or Copper River salmon at Bill’s place in Medina.

The usual routine is to let plebeian journalists watch a telecast of the opening speech Gates presents at the event. Sometimes they’ll bring a handful of executives out for a token panel discussion with reporters.

This year’s news dollop suggests the executives were being pitched on Microsoft’s new advertising technology, more than mobile or PC computing. Instead of getting Tablet PCs, they could play with various Surface computers, including the vertical ones Microsoft’s been showing since the start of the year.

Glass that’s opaque

I wonder if Rich Barton is going into the glazing business.

The Expedia co-founder (now Zillow CEO) and a group of fellow online-travel veterans are running a “stealth” company called Glassdoor.com in Sausalito, Calif.

Glassdoor.com is being cagey about its mission and details, like this week’s announcement listing its governing board. I wish they’d just announce their intentions; these choreographed PR efforts to build anticipation are starting to feel dated and tiresome.

Barton started the company with Robert Hohman, a former Microsoft engineer and early Expedia team member who was most recently president of Expedia’s Hotwire.com.

Joining their board are Erik Blachford, a former Expedia CEO who is currently leading TerraPass; TripAdvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer; and Rusty Rueff, a former executive at Electronic Arts, PepsiCo and SNOCAP.

So, a travel-entertainment company?

(If they plan to go international, they may bump heads with Able Structural Glazing, a British door and window company operating glassdoor.co.uk.)

This material has been edited for print publication.

Brier Dudley’s blog appears Thursdays. Reach him at 206-515-5687 or bdudley@seattletimes.com.