Where do we go from here? The Future of Video of Games

Where do we go from here? The Future of Video of Games

Some people may have a completely unrealistic vision for the next generation of consoles and what they will deliver. The debates have been raging for quite some time now, but most people are forgetting to look at the facts and come to terms with what we should really be expecting in the coming years.

Necessity is the Mother of All Invention

It is entirely possible that gamers are becoming bored with what is available to them. Look back at the transition from last gen to the current gen. People couldn’t get enough information, hands-on time, and pre-orders before the new systems took to the shelves. Working at a GameStop during this time period, I got a first-hand glimpse at what people truly wanted and a better understand of just exactly why they wanted it.

The new generation of consoles brought something to the table that people craved: innovation. The 360 and its insanely detailed graphics, innovative HDD, and media center capabilities were poised to revolutionize the gaming world and people wanted to be first in line to experience that. The Wii, arguably the most innovative console ever to hit the market, introduced the world to the wonders and joys of motion controlled gaming. The general public was able to forgive the cutesy, mildly upgraded graphics because the point of the system was to immerse the player in the control scheme. Finally, the PS3 showed the world that Blu-Ray was in fact the way of the future and that massive amounts of data could be stored on a single disc, all while providing free online gameplay.

It never stood a chance.

It doesn’t matter what system or systems you pledge your allegiance too, you simply cannot deny the fact that each and every system has brought something incredibly beneficial to the table that will certainly influence the future the video game industry. Unfortunately, as with everything, novelty wears off.

Consumers have begun to expect a new system every five years or so, but each of the current gen consoles launched with a varied opinion of how long they would stay on the shelves before passing on the torch. Everyone assumed the Wii would simply be a tide-me-over system while Nintendo played catch up and dropped a bomb on the world with a stellar, 1080p system. Microsoft simply said that the next Xbox would come out when it was good and ready, while Sony touted their $600 powerhouse to have an unprecedented 10 year life span, twice that of the previous two generations.

Well, time has soldiered on and here we sit. New consoles are supposedly on the horizon, but are we going to get what we really need?

 Nintendo vs. The Modern Consumer

Nintendo has already seen what the modern consumer is like. Let’s face it… the 3DS has been a rude wake up call for Nintendo. After countless models and restylings of the original DS, Nintendo’s horse may have gotten a bit higher than they were capable of staying on. If you truly look at the 3DS compared to its predecessor, there really isn’t that much of a difference in terms of what it brings to the table. Aside from improved graphics, a joystick, and the glasses-free 3D, it is essentially just another redesign of the DS. And therein lies the problem with where gaming is headed.

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

On a broad scale, two of the three major consoles still have quite a bit of life left in them. In fact, the Wii had the deck stacked against it from the outset, but overcame the odds thanks largely in part to its uniqueness. Yet, that hasn’t stopped people from asking what the next generation of consoles has in store. I am just going to rain all over everyone’s parade right now and get it over with.

Or burst your bubble. Whichever you prefer.

The next generation of consoles is in no way, shape, or form going to be as dramatic a leap as we experienced with the previous generation. PS2/Xbox to PS3/Xbox360 introduced us to the world of HD gaming and is largely responsible for mainstreaming the HD movement. However, it took several years for HD to gain a firm foothold in the market because it wasn’t until just recently that retailers removed all standard definition TVs from their shelves. So, if you have purchased a new TV within the past few years, chances are it is an HD TV. Welcome to the future.

Unfortunately, no such movement is on the near horizon that the video game industry can utilize to its advantage. Yea, 3D, we’ve heard that argument, but the fact of the matter remains that 3D will not become mainstream until they figure out how to get rid of those goofy, headache-inducing glasses.

About as comfortable as these.

What about improved graphics? Aren’t there ever increasing leaps and bounds being made on that front? Well, yes. However, those leaps and bounds are more on a technical scale and although they are largely unnoticeable to the average gamer, they are rather impressive indeed. If you are one of those people who is expecting the PS4 or the next Xbox to absolutely BLOW your face out of the back of your skull with eye-melting visuals, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Here’s why.

Where HD and Vomit Meet Back on the Other Side

The advent of HD is hardly even behind us and people are already wondering what’s next. However, we cannot truly move on to something new until the majority has accepted the current standard. Our current generation of systems, save for the Wii, are capable of outputting images at a whopping 1080p. For those of you have experienced a well designed gamed, built in 1080p and played it on a TV that can handle that resolution will agree that it is quite a beautiful sight. But, again, not everyone owns an HD at this point and of those people, there are even fewer that own a TV capable of handling 1080p. You may say, “Hey! My 32 inch Insignia says it handles 1080p! What gives?” Well, it may say it does, but to truly take advantage of that resolution you need at LEAST a 50 inch TV. Yes, those smaller TVs actually display that resolution, but you would have to be less than 2 feet from the screen in order to even notice the differences. I digress…

That would about as headache inducing as interpreting this graph.

If you want truly upgraded graphics, the next step up is the recently developed Super HD. Now, before you get all bubbly and giddy over the prospect of an even clearer image, let me tell you something. This level of HD, 7680×4320, is so insanely clear that it actually makes people sick. Seeing as how there is absolutely no way to cram that many lines onto a 60 inch TV screen, Super HD has already negated itself to the current market. 60 inch TVs are expensive and buying super HD on a 60 inch TV would be like trying to enjoy 1080p on a 5 inch screen. You would need a minimum of 300 inches at a viewing distance of 10-40 feet.

That yellow square is your 32 inch HDTV.

Seeing as how most people couldn’t scrounge up the eight feet of living room space for the Kinect, it’s pretty safe to assume that next to nobody would be capable of owning a TV with these specifications. If you did posses the very specific criteria needed to run this TV, it won’t even be available until roughly 2025. That gives Sony the opportunity to release yet another system and run it for 10 more years before even entertaining the possibility of vastly improved graphics.

So in order to avoid a colossal disappointment in a few years, slowly start deflating that hope balloon now. Instead, expect to see improved lighting effects, weather systems, AI interaction, and many more polishes to the current set of hardware we are running.

So where does that leave the future of consoles, you ask? Innovation. We are going to see a major shift in the way we experience and interact with the games. I doubt any major overhaul in controllers is going to be introduced as each console’s respective user base is happy with the controller at hand. Of course, we are going to be given a shiny, more futuristic looking system, but who cares about the case? We want what’s under the hood to count and make all the difference in the world.

 It’s Not What You Play, It’s How You Play It

We have already seen a glimpse of where each company is beginning to place their priorities and what they feel the future holds for gaming. The Wii came right out of the gate accepting motion control as the new standard while the PS3 tacked it on as some sort of gimmick that rarely got used via the SixAxis. Then, last year things really heated up with the launch of the Move and the Kinect. Sony and Microsoft either saw the merit of Nintendo’s gamble and wanted a piece of the cash pie, or they understood that they needed to begin implementing a new standard for game interaction so as not to disappoint and alienate consumers when their next consoles don’t even come close to living up to expectations. Additionally, Sony is placing a lot of value on 3D and that technology seems to have embedded itself to a point where it is safe to say that it is not going anywhere any time soon.

Thus, if you have failed to take notice, each company has already given us a glimpse, if not a full on revelation of what their next system will be. We just have to be willing to accept it.

Let’s just hope they don’t cause us to break our precious TVs.

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 But I  Care What I play!

Now, if you are more of the “I play games for the games and not the hardware” mindset, then there is potentially a brighter future for you.

We have accepted the fact that so many of our beloved franchises from the PS2/Xbox era and earlier are being rehashed and given sequels simply because we want to relive those nostalgic memories in glorious HD. Countless remakes and sequels have literally flooded the market while so very few original IPs actually elbow their way to the forefront of the scene. We are still seeing continuations of series first introduced two, sometimes even three generations ago. There are plenty of cash cows that were born with the PSOne, N64, PS2, and Xbox, but the fact of the matter is that those cows are drying up and gamers need something fresh and new to sink their teeth into.

Do we really need another Call of Duty? Does Halo really need to be revived? Can we just accept the fact that Solid Snake is old and just wants to sit at home collecting his pension? Our favorite series are running stale, yet we are still force fed a new entry every year or two like a baby who hates eating peas.

Really? REALLY??

However, we blindly shell out cash for these titles because they are what we know and are familiar with. But the truth of the matter is that things cannot go on like this forever. Gamers are already crying for new IPs that challenge the way we think and play games. Our favorite titles are great to relive, but they really fail to offer up a challenge simply because gaming has evolved past what they have to offer. What was once considered hard for those games in their respective times is considered child’s play for modern gamers. We need innovative titles that change the way we look at games and how they are played.

Luckily, there is one series that is consistently on the cutting edge of what is going on and that is The Elder Scrolls. This series has always taken the currently available technology and pushed it almost to the limit, showing gamers what true innovation is. Massive, deep, immersive worlds filled with rich storylines, characters, and countless side quests to keep gamers occupied for hundreds of hours. Unfortunately, we only get a title like this once every 5 years or so. In the interim, we are given loads upon loads of titles that are simply a flash in the pan; fun to play, but easy to forget. For fear of offending anyone, I am going to apologize now if I list off a game you love, but bear with me.

Look at something like inFamous. Fantastic game, but if you were to ask me what it was really about, I would be hard pressed to recall any of the major plot points. Simply put, the game was a clone of an innovative series, Grand Theft Auto, with a few slight adjustments to the formula. What about Gears of War? Or Resistance? Did either of those titles really bring anything fresh and exciting to the table that we hadn’t seen before other than a gratuitous amount of blood and some fun new weapons? Not really… Again, I am not out to offend, simply to make a point.

What we need in the future of video games is immersion. We are inherently a very “instant gratification” society and we simply want to get a quick fix. Those types of games are still going to be around, but with the advent of mobile gaming, our quick fix is going to be administered a different way. Some titles are already trying to nudge the industry in the right direction by showing that gamers want, no… NEED an engaging story that has high cinematic quality. Look at Uncharted. That game is easily beatable in under 9 hours, yet we still paid $60 for it. That makes no sense when we can run out and get a game like Oblivion for the same price and have far more than 10x the amount of gameplay. It all comes down to what we value.

It’s a Crap Shoot

With consoles more than likely not getting a fancy new graphical upgrade, people are going to look for something else to hold their interest instead. We have seen how well motion controls and 3D have been accepted by the community, so that leaves us with only a few options. We have seen pretty much every cool trick that our current systems can throw at us, so that narrows our options even further.  Frankly put, enter the next gen with an open mind and expect the following:

  • Very mildly improved graphics
  • Motion Controls
  • 3D Standard
  • Blu-Ray
  • New IPs
  • An Intense Focus on Story
  • Innovative Story Telling Techniques
  • Improved AI

Whatever outlook you hold for the future of gaming, anything is possible. We live in a world where technology is outdated the instant it hits the shelf so that leaves hope for this very early concept of the PS9.

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Keep in mind, these are simply my opinions based on observation. What truly matters is where you think we are headed! What do you want to see? What DON’T you want to see? Sound off in the comments below and let the world know just what you think.

 

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