|Original Nintendo. Image|
from TOFURIOUS blog,
originally from Jen May blog.
Gaming consoles have come a long way since my childhood as have all technology. My wife owns a Sega Genesis, a Play Station, a Play Station 2, an XBox, and an XBox360. I did end up buying a Wii for myself, the first game system that actually appealed to me enough to buy. There has been many advances since the original Nintendo and earlier systems.
Cartridges have become disks.
|Playing Kinect on XBox360.|
Image from Indyposted.
The games with no ability to save gave way to memory cards, where you could save a game to continue it later, or even play it at a friend's house. Memory cards lead to internal hard drives like a computer.
The original stand alone consoles added networking so more people could play than one console could support. Networking led to online gaming, allowing you to play with people around the world and download content and even games.
Newer consoles can play DVD or Blu-Ray movies and disks, and online gaming has led to streaming video on consoles, as well as social networking like Facebook. Video game consoles are continuously evolving as technology, innovation, ideas, and demand allow. The modern video game console is approaching being the combination of a video game console, a computer, and a multimedia centre. Anything that can be displayed may one day be on gaming consoles.
In LiveJournal, the following question was asked:
Do you think video games will still be popular in 15 years? How do you think they'll change?I see no chance of them losing popularity unless there is a crash of capitalism. Like many other things involved in technology, part of the draw is escapism, like I talked about in an earlier post. Video games will change, but as long as there's a market for them, they will still exist and still be popular.
But how will they change in the next fifteen years? I can't see that far ahead. Innovations in technology have been consistently accelerating for the last hundred years or so (actually, since the dawn of time, but it's only been recently that it's reached a speed to notice the acceleration) and that trend will probably continue in the next fifteen years. Will VR (Virtual Reality) finally become the norm? Will holographic projections for true 3D gaming be the trend? Something else no one has imagined? I don't know. But I do know much will changed in that time.
The next few years are easier to predict. I see video gaming moving in a specific direction which I'll describe below. Nothing earth shattering here. Many other people probably see the same trends, the same direction. But here's my take on the near future of video gaming.
The first direction I see video gaming going is toward downloads and subscription-based games. Americans tend to want want the want now, not to wait for it. Sure I can drive across town and look to see if a store has a game I want to play and rent it or buy it if they do, and order it, either from the store or somewhere online like Amazon if they don't. But most people would rather not have to wait. Already, you can download online content like songs or outfits on Guitar Hero or Rock Band, outfits and items for your XBox avatar, arcade games like Worms or Raskulls, or console games from old systems like Super Mario Brothers 1, 2, and 3. Some games allow you to download a second game or expansion if you pre-ordered them. Many games have downloadable demos where you can play part of the game without having to pay for it, to see if you like it.
I think the industry will lean toward all games being available for download or streaming. You see this trend in books with the advent of eReaders like Kindle and Nook, and with book readers on tablets, computers, and even cell phones. Already, Borders has had to shut down a number of stores across the country because of the loss of revenue because of these devices. There was fear that Amazon would put all the local bookstores out of business because people would order all their books online. This didn't happen. It goes back to the "I want it now!" attitude I mentioned above. If I want to read a book and I have a choice of going across town and buying it for more, or ordering it online for less but having to wait a few days to a week to get it, I'm probably going to buy it locally. The Kindle and Nook have done what straight Amazon could not. When you want the book, you buy it and you have it in a minute, where you are. No drive across town, no waiting for shipping. You also see this with music, with the growth of online retailers like Apple's iTunes, and the decline of physical media. People can buy just the song they want or the entire album without going to a store or waiting for shipping. They can listen to a preview (like the game demos) to see if they like it before they purchase it. And they don't need to rip it to their computer to load it on iPods and Zunes and other players.
At least for a while, I think games will still be available on disk. Some people, like my wife and my friend John, like having something physical. This also the reason printed books won't go away anytime soon. But I think the industry will lean toward downloadable games, and that the market will grow for them. The small games like arcade games and games from older systems have already been a hit. People like being able to browse through a list of games and choose one to play, without having to leave their couch or chair. You also see this trend with other programs, on computers. Many programs are available for download only now. Even big programs that many stores carry like Microsoft Office and the Adobe Suite are available for download. You can go to their site and download the full product. You have a trial period to try it out, then you have to register it, basically paying for it, but it's discounted because there's no packaging, no media, no printed material, no third party, no shipping.
The no packaging is another thing I think will drive downloadable items, whether books, games, programs, music, or movies. One of the growing trends in America today is being "green", environment conscious living. Electronic media downloaded off the Internet uses less nature resources and creates less waste than packaged products. I think this point will be one the industries will begin to push, playing off the guilt that the environmental organizations and the environmental industry has worked so hard to build.
Of course, the real reason they will push it is money. Electronic downloadable products cost less. You create it once and set it up for people to download. No continuous manufacturing and shipping costs. A data center full of servers is cheaper to run than a manufacturing plant that always needs raw materials. One customer costs the same thing to provide for as six million, presuming your infrastructure will support it. Every copy is almost pure profit after the initial investment, while with physical products, each copy has a cost associated with it.
The other money related reason is spontaneity. If I have to wait until I have time, drive across town, look for the product, take it up and check out, and pay for it, I have lots of time to think about the purchase and maybe decide not to make it. Also, physically doing so makes the purchase more tangible, more real. Some people prefer this tangibility because the purchase seems more real like you're getting more for you money. You bring something tangible home that is yours, while something electronic is more abstract, the same reason some people turn away from religion. But for other people, that tangibility is the thing that makes them less likely to spend the money, also because it's more real. But online, it's just a click of a button, much more chance of a snap decision.
The other side of the download trend is streaming. Basically, the game would exist on the server, but would run on the console. It wouldn't take up any disk space like the current downloadable games do, and it would be available wherever you log in, not just on your personal console. With traditional games, if you go to a friend's house and want to play a game you own but they don't, you have to bring your disk with you. This works fine. But this isn't possible with downloaded games the way they work currently. You pay for it and download it to your specific console. Anyone on your console can play it, but you have no way to take it to someone else's house. This is by design with downloadable games. If you could download it to any console from your account and it worked for anyone on that console, you could buy it and download it, then go to a friend's house and download it there. Then you go home and you can play it on your system and they can play it on their system at the same time, even though they didn't buy it. The alternative paradigm is streaming games.
We've seen streaming in many other settings. Internet radio has been doing streaming for years. You connect to a website and either use a program or a plugin to play the streaming radio station on your computer or cell phone. Video is also being done this way. YouTube is a good example that's been around for a while. A video can be embedded in a website and anyone can watch it on their computer. More recently, Netflix introduced streaming, first on computers, and then on consoles. You can connect to Netflix on your computer, Wii, XBox360, or Play Station 3 and watch movies or television shows. Streaming already exists with video games on computers. There are many online games that you don't download. One example is Evony, a medieval strategy war game I play. I believe streamed games are coming to the console very soon.
With a steaming game, the game you bought would be tied to your online account, not to your console. The disadvantage of this is that you would have to be connected to the Internet and logged on as that account to play the game. With a physical media or download game, you don't have to be online to play, and any account can play the game. The other disadvantage is if your ISP (Internet Service Provider) puts a bandwidth limit on you, playing the game uses bandwidth. With a downloaded game, you use the bandwidth one time, then can disconnect unless you're playing against people online. The advantage is that you can play the game anywhere. While you can do this with a physical disk, downloaded games don't give you this luxury.
Another direction I see video games going is subscription-based games. We already see this in the computer world. Products like Microsoft Office allow you a subscription to the software. You pay a per use, per day, per month, per year, or whatever, fee to use the software. Depending on the terms, there are obvious advantages. If you only need the software for a one time project, it's much better to spend a small amount of money to use it one time or for a short period than to spend hundreds of dollars to buy software you'll never use again. For long term use, one advantage is new releases. With a subscription, when a new version comes out, you don't have to pay for it, that's part of the subscription.