When people talk about the “future of gaming,” it always intrigues me to see others’ views on various aspects of the direction of gaming. I wanted to take the time to communicate my thoughts and how I am envisioning gaming evolving over the next 5-10 years. The areas I will be covering include technology, publishing and accessibility, game depth, and social integration.
As www.thegamingmonitor.com would like to point out, historically, each generation of gaming, whether it was PC or console, has always been about bigger, faster, stronger technology. That way, the developers could throw more and more polygons at the screen and the player’s hardware would be able to handle it without issue. One obvious major problem with that is cost. I don’t know about you, but back in 2006 when the PS3 launched, I didn’t have $500 laying around to spend on a console – plus the cost of games, and extra controller, etc.
So, as technology continues to become more powerful, we have begun to see people think a bit more outside of the box. Consider OnLive and Gaikai, for instance. These are simply amazing technologies that allow instant streaming of AAA quality games directly to your fingertips, without the burden of downloading or needing top of the line hardware. All the hard work and processing is done on their servers and then creates an interactive stream ready for your enjoyment. We have to keep in mind, however, that while these technologies are truly amazing, I don’t think they’re quite ready for mainstream yet.
The server technology required to process thousands of games streaming at the same time is extremely expensive, I’m sure. And while we have the ability to make it happen, we’re throttled by a pretty hefty requirement in regard to Internet speeds. I also believe that the server technology itself isn’t quite evolved enough at this point to provide its players with a seamless, polished experience when it comes to being able to handle the broad range of genres available.
So while much of the required technology exists, such as cloud saves and streaming, I think it will be about 5-10 years until we truly see consoles as we know them fade off. I would not be surprised if this newest generation is the last traditional console model development we see. Ultimately, I envision strictly a controller, an Internet connection, and possibly a small receiver that would allow for an external hard drive to store local copies for offline gameplay. We’ve already seen hints of this in products like Ouya, but again – I think this is bigger than that and over the course of the next decade, we’re going to see some amazing evolutions in the gaming industry.
Publishing and Accessibility
We’ve seen some pretty hefty changes in the past 5 years or so in regards to how publishing is treated in the gaming industry. At one point, it was strictly: Developer A makes a game, Publisher B brings it to the market, and Consumer C buys it at GameStop for X dollars. Well, now that we’ve opened up this beautiful, glorious can of worms known as Indie development, things are kind of changing. Indie companies, typically smaller groups of developers, are actually competing with AAA titles, without the need for publishing and usually at a fraction of the cost to the consumer. Granted, these games are not usually as extensive as a AAA title would be, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
With the introduction of the mobile app market, we’ve seen the potential of a well-made 99-cent game on the app store. This, in combination with business models like Steam and the upcoming ability to stream games on demand, really has my gears turning. For those of you not familiar with Steam (shame on you), it is essentially a catalog of games that you simply purchase the license for and it permanently adds the game to the digital library of your account. So it’s as easy as logging in, installing the game from your digital library, and jumping into gameplay.
Now consider a similar business model, but without the need for hardware or a local copy of the game. Just login to your account from wherever and dive right into gameplay from where you left off. Once this is fully adopted, there is no chance this will not be the new standard of video game licensing. I believe today’s traditional Publisher will simply become more of a marketing and brand strategy vendor, rather than an actual distributor of the product itself.
To say that the depth of video games has evolved over the years is a gigantic understatement. To think we went from single sessions of Donkey Kong in an arcade to pouring thousands of hours into an MMO such as World of Warcraft – there’s obviously something to say about sustainability when it comes to gaming and what it takes to keep a player’s attention. The trick here is that it changes constantly and games aren’t exactly the easiest product to design and build.
So how deep does gameplay have to be to consider a game successful and keep players entertained? Well, I think that answer probably changes based off the amount of time the developer is investing into the game, as well as their target audience. For instance, take something like a first person shooter. In it’s most basic form, a shooter provides a means of getting together with friends and having some competition. However over time, much like every game genre, each game needed to one-up its competition. Alas, we found ourselves having structured rankings that were sustainable beyond each game session. And with that, progression introduced itself, and achievements followed shortly after.
This whole idea of progressive competition is something that has caught on like wildfire. Whether it’s someone trying to gain that server first boss kill in an MMO or rank in an MLG tournament, people by nature are competitive. There still needs to be that sense of collaborative gameplay, but without a sense of progression, sustainability is extremely difficult to maintain. So over the next generation of games, I believe you will see even more in-depth progression in games and ways to track said progression outside of the game (think Battlefield’s Battlelog).
However, on the absolute opposite side of that spectrum, I think you’re also going to see developers cater to a different audience who are looking for quick, polished games to fill their time on a more casual pace. We’re currently seeing this today with the abundance of apps on the mobile app market and we’ve seen games like Limbo, Journey, and Bastion simply dominate the arcade market. I’m especially excited about this type of game development. There are so many exceptionally talented people in this world and the introduction of eased accessibility into the Indie market is such a great thing for the gaming industry. People make games because they love games and that’s important to remember while you’re enjoying a developer’s creation.
Playing with your friends is important, but meeting new people and building friendships in-game is one of the most valuable perks of online gaming. Anyone who has played an MMO for over a couple years would agree. Granted, that’s a double-edged sword – but take the bad with the good. I think it’s important to understand that the social aspect of gaming doesn’t end when you log off. You have so many different mediums at your disposal to continue to interact outside of the game through various communities. Consider podcasters or bloggers, game or guild/clan forums, and even community events such as BlizzCon or MineCon.
As games evolve, the amount/complexity of content and features in those games is bound to advance as well. With the latest generation of games, it’s not uncommon for a AAA title to provide a web or mobile app to go alongside with the game to allow players to track progress, communicate with others, schedule events, etc. This is absolutely something that will continue to occur as games continue to grow. A great example is how the Playstation 4 will allow for players to capture video while playing and quickly share it with others. OnLive actually provides the ability to natively stream your gameplay for others to watch, without the need of a third party service like XSplit and Twitch.
Educating others in gaming is not only something that builds the community and helps it thrive, but it’s also a very satisfying experience to be able to share knowledge and experiences with others. Being able to integrate with social networks, devices, etc. provides us with an even greater immersive experience that sets a game apart from its competition. More thought and effort is put outside of the game than it was traditionally and that will ultimately create a stronger community and improve the overall sustainability of the game itself.
To Wrap It Up…
I’m stoked for the future of gaming. With better technology and social integration, we’ll finally be able to make gaming more accessible to the masses. I hope you enjoyed my rambling about the future of gaming and I’d love to hear what you all envision gaming to be in the next decade. Thanks for reading!