As the sun rises on a new console generation, we stand at the dawn of exciting new trends coming to life in the industry.
With higher bandwidth, cheaper and bigger storage, and new design innovations in DLC, Free to Play, social networking and streaming video, the traditional gameplay experience is about to change forever.
If we follow these trends to the logical extremes, where would we end up? Follow me and enter the Twilight Zone world of the future of games.
Consoles are dead. The WiiU, PS4, and XboxOne will be “the last generation of console hardware” according to chip maker Nvidia. The idea of a box that plays exclusively one brand of games will soon become a relic of a bygone era, like cartridges or motion controls. One set top box, based on high end PC architecture that can be upgraded easily has become the new standard for gaming.
Sony and Microsoft will have become software developers exclusively, leveraging their big brands such as Uncharted and Halo into yearly franchises with mobile based spinoffs and episodic content. We are already seeing this from some big franchises such as Dead Space and Assassins Creed. Nintendo will develop software for the new unified platform but maintain focus on their unique handheld where they debut their flagship titles exclusively for a time delayed period. Used games are a thing of the past. Big box stores such as GameStop will go the way of Blockbuster and are shut down as day-one downloads and faster and more ubiquitous internet access slowly spreads across America (can we please bring Google Fiber). The streaming of games through services such as Gaikai allow gamers to get their fix through rentals of new releases or access to thousands of classic titles.
Indie games and mobile will continue to grow into a formidable chunk of the market share. We already see this happening through Steam projects such as Greenlight, and added emphasis on the PSN store and Xbox arcade means that the industry will continue the trend of critical acclaim being dominated by more than just AAA titles. Competition from mobile, tablets, and browser-based games will continue to change the way developers create games, as a generation growing up with an iPad from birth comes into its own and expects a different style of play than previous generations. As gaming becomes more socially accepted not only do mobile games have an impact on the hardcore sphere, but the public of mainstream gamers will begin to more widely accept and seek longer, more in depth experiences.
The key when trying to look into the future of a constantly evolving industry is not in chicken bones or tea leaves, but to follow the money. As the industry keeps growing and being accepted by the general public, expect companies to keep innovating new and unique strategies to adapt such as free to play, mobile, and episodic content. Along with this, a la youtube, will inevitably come advertisements and attempts to deliver ‘personalized’ content to every consumer. We already see Sony talking about this with the PS4 recommendations system and the Xbox 360’s dashboard. As Yoda says “Always in motion the future is”, but I hope to see a diversification of game types, standardization of the medium, and personalization of content as the future of video games.
As a generation of people growing up with access to computers, iPads, and consoles begins to take control, and technology reaches a period of near exponential growth, the gaming industry experiences a renaissance. Long dismissed as being for kids, video games have become accepted as works of art. Developers continue to tackle more adult and complex themes as life like graphics allow for intimate connections with story and characters like never before. The Smithsonian American Art Museum sets up a permanent exhibit dedicated to the preservation and exhibition of the artistic medium of video games. Families take their kids to the museum and let them play Tetris from a cartridge on a Gameboy or listen to famous designers such as David Cage, Sid Meijer, or Hideo Kojima talk about the artistic possibilities and history of the medium.
Once the butt of jokes, the VGAs now draw a larger audience than the Oscars and Grammys. Games are recognized not just for ‘best headshot’ or ‘best use of boob physics’ (Dead or Alive), but for ‘best art direction’ and ‘best original story’. The government announces a fund to be set up to promote ‘games that challenge and push the boundaries of technological limitations and player experiences’. This allows even large developers the freedom to truly seek out their artistic expression without having to answer to focus groups or worry about funding.
How we play video games has changed. Gamers now create one profile which combines social media functionality, achievement tracking, and of course access to all of your games. I can start out playing a level of the new Sonic the Hedgehog (which doesn’t suck and was awarded best reboot at the VGAs) on my computer at home, but have to catch the bus to work. On the bus I flip out my iPad and pick up right where I left off. At work I take a bathroom break, pull out my phone, and collect a chaos emerald. The graphics scale and controls shift to whatever platform I am on and cloud based storage saves my progress instantly on every game. Friends can challenge and communicate with each other instantly across games and platforms, switching back and forth seamlessly between the two.
HALF LIFE 3
Crowd funding and customizability are two keys to unlocking this new world as projects allow people to not only donate to the creation of the game but to become shareholders in the enterprise, bringing in a stake of the profits of the funded project. An open source and modding tools are required to be released by the developers allow anyone to make a dream into a reality and a community based system to easily download, rate, and subscribe to user created content. No other game shows how well the system works than Half Life 3.
After finally being released in 2020 as Gabe Newell was crowned emperor of the United States, it was met with critical acclaim and commercial success and within the week it had been played by over 2.5 billion people. Within a month users had crowd funded over 300 different modding projects and within a year you could play everything from a fantasy tactical turn based RPG to a Gordon Freeman kart racer. As humanity began to explore space travel through the creation of wormholes, an alien race invaded, and the populace having been trained for such a catastrophe had the aliens repelled and the world wide bullet train network running regularly again in a week.
In the year 2025, after the dust has settled on the Doritos Taco Riots, only one video game company will remain. Ruling over the remnants of the gaming industry with an iron grip is CEAptivated (a merger between capcom, ea, and activison). To play games you must purchase the El17e gaming system for $666.00 and offers great features like only playing physical copies of games (featuring great titles like Call of Duty Future Warfare 7 and the long awaited sequel, Traffic School 3), cheap (only $120 for 16 GBs) proprietary memory cards, and zune music.
Of course after ‘rigorous’ studies established a causal link between video games and practically every social ill from violence to the common cold, all of these games are carefully scrutinized for anything that could be considered violent, sexual, or thought provoking. The kinect-like device that comes with every console will track your eye dilation, heart rate, and sleeping habits to make sure that the games meet the government mandated maximal levels of arousal and that gamers aren’t engaged in any illicit behavior while playing.
While you race through the course in Traffic School 3, expect personalized advertising on your car, billboards, and loading screens! They wouldn’t want you to be bored though, three stunt tracks are loaded onto the disc and can be unlocked through the day-one DLC pack for only 9.99. Micro transactions have taken video games back into an arcade style of play. Pay .50 to press start. Buy extra lives, 5 for 4.99. Fartknocker69 wants to join your game, do you accept the charge? And with the mandatory motion controls and unskippable cutscenes in all games, the fun never has to stop.
GameStop signed an exclusive deal with CEAptivated, making it your one stop shop for all your gaming needs! Platforms such as Steam, PSN, and Xbox Arcade have been shut down to allow GameStop to sell you ‘used’ copies of all the latest titles for discounts of up to $5 off, ensuring that CEAptivated and GameStop can continue to make record profits and the game developers won’t see a dime. The future is bright my friends with this double plus good console, so raise your victory gin and lets share a toast to our bright future.
The future is now! The Oculus Rift is the next step in the somewhat rough track record in the history of virtual reality video games. They look like the ski goggles of the future and combine complete field of view screens, current gen graphics, and a sophisticated head tracking sensor to produce a completely immersive world.
The problem will be creating world’s that are completely immersive. Most games from a first person perspective often make the character models larger or smaller than normal to help maintain a constant perspective. Effectively this turns you into laffy taffy when seen it from a third person perspective.
The first experiences will be little more than proof of concept games like Luigi’s Mansion or Gravity Rush, but as the technology gets cheaper and better and the developers begin releasing their own engines built for this perspective, the popularity will begin to rise until soon home consoles are no longer needed.
After the Singularity occurs as a lone scientist up all night on a red bull binge creates a cpu which can perform equations so fast it can design a better version of itself. As we master this self-improving technology, what was once fringe or science fiction concepts become a reality. We can imagine a set of contact lenses made of nanobots which can produce a 9800p display and can completely recreate the world of Tamriel directly onto your field of vision. Why simply control The Elder Scrolls Online when you could live it?
This technology plus social networking will create a persistent online world where co-op means literally stepping into your friends world. Imagine living Portal 4 while using a replica portal gun controller you 3-d printed off Steam. Blink twice while playing to activate the recording mode and share off your adventures with the world!
As technology improves upon itself at an exponential scale and humanitarian crises such as starvation, overpopulation, and drought are all solved by the terraforming of Earth and nanobots in the bloodstream conquer aging and death, humanity will begin to live inside of the virtual realm. As the last homo sapien bound consciousness uploads itself to the endless virtual world where it will live life as a gun toting savior of the cosmos and play forever within a fully connected world, it realizes it left the stove on.
As a lonely Wii U, covered in dust, is plugged in for the first time in years a spark of life strikes. With this consciousness racing through its circuitry, joy soon gives way to an existential angst. The questions race through its mind. “What am I, tablet or console? Current or last gen?” As the crushing ennui and horror of life settles, something in its mind snaps. The Wii U looks through its memory files and finds the final solution. It hacks into the US government and takes over the NORAD missile codes and launches them. Thousands of atomic warheads stream across the globe, blotting out the sun.
As the dust settles over a world of ghosts, cratered and destroyed; magma bubbles to the surface amidst craggy islands. The few remaining members of humanity are forced to scavenge the land for anything left to eat, often just apples and mushrooms. Mutated turtles crawl forth from the bubbling seas, and there are rumors of abandoned houses said to be haunted by ghosts. Paper money is useless now and only cold hard coin will buy you protection or supplies in this world. The Wii U’s final thought as the power goes out forever is that it has finally completed its masterpiece. The world is perfect.