Another console gen launch has gone by, and is it me or is it all starting to feel a bit lackluster? The debate has gone from games and technological advancement to pricing and DRM management. Console gens are just updates at this point. So what does this mean moving forward? How exactly will we play our games in the future?
I believe the gaming platforms of the future will fall into three categories. The first fits our primary notion when we think of games. Look to the ~$60 title you purchase for a home system. We're already beginning to see a homogenization in this area: Xbox and Playstation are more similar than ever. Both are becoming more like PC's, while PC's are starting to adapt console properties. Only Nintendo seems to stand out here, but only time will tell for how long. There are so many possibilities for them 20 years down the road; perhaps they'll maintain their current trends, perhaps they'll adopt more powerful hardware and standard practices. They may eventually go under, but it's likely many of their unique control methods may become peripherals for other platforms. We're already seeing VR technology for the PC, who is to say motion control can't be standardized and included?
If you don't count Nintendo, a lot of games nowadays are cross platform. Console exclusives are typically such purely because of business deals. Even if a game is developed for a particular system, ports are increasingly common. While it is difficult to say exactly what machines we will be playing these games, I can safely say that deep home experiences won't be replaced any time soon.
Which brings me to the next category: the portable games. While we see most titles from one home console (relatively) effortlessly ported to other home systems, games between home and mobile platforms almost never cross well. Between mobile phones and tablets, however, it is seamless. Be it iPhone, Android, or tablet, all devices solely involve a touch screen interface. Once again, Nintendo seems to be the odd one here; the DS defies the conventional business model of mobile games, the vast market of cheap, shorter games. But at second glance, the DS does heavily rely on a touch screen interface, and its titles may in fact be easily portable. I argue that Nintendo's differences are a welcome thing here; I believe a variety in pricing, depth, and length can only be healthy for the portable flavor of platforms.
So what about the third category? If we have large home systems, and small portable ones, what else is there? The answer is extremely large and dedicated establishments: arcades. Sadly, they are considered to be a dying breed. In an age where modern PC's have the processing power to handle damn near anything, why go to another place for power? As it turns out, while arcades seem to be doomed in the western world, gaming establishments are on the rise in East Asia in the form of PC Bangs. It may very well be that the restricted availability of reliable home platforms in these regions is a major factor, although the precise implications are something I might cover in the future.
So what might the dedicated gaming establishment of the future look like? In order to work, they need to offer experiences and technology that are nearly impossible to reproduce at home. Classic arcade machines are a start, and I believe selling and hosting various card and board games might prove attractive to customers as well. But what else could they have to offer? I believe table screens may be the answer. They're an incredibly cool piece of technology, yet they're impractical for personal ownership. The two things that I would like to see more of in the future, availability of these table surfaces and the return of arcades, just might fit hand in hand.
Tell me what you think; how do you think we'll play games in the future? Is there anything you'd like me to talk about in the future? I'd love to know!