Video games have evolved a lot in the half-century since their inception, from games like Spacewar and Pong in the 1960′s to Bioshock, Mirror’s Edge and Mass Effect to name but a few shining examples of modern games.
“Roads? Where we’re going we don’t need roads.“
The future of video games is a topic often discussed, especially at places such as gaming conferences. 2008 saw Ray Kurzweil present a keynote speech to the Game Developer’s conference in which he presented about just that very topic, with a presentation called “The Next Twenty Years in Gaming”. As a futurist – a scientist specialising in predicting trends and technological advancement of the future – his views were predominantly focused upon how the change in technology would be the cornerstone to how games change in the future. One of the key changes he mentioned was to do with processing power, and based on Moore’s Law how given every two years processors double in power, creating exponential growth.
With processing power growing rapidly each year, he predicted it would only be a matter of years now before processing power met the same speeds as that of the human brain, allowing the possibility for AI to become almost indistinguishable from actual intelligence. Not only did he state that these components will be getting more powerful, but as time progresses they will be getting smaller too. With the decrease of size it is likely we will see many components for future games melded into our clothes or accessories such as belt buckles or glasses, and it was even suggested that this technology would be implanted in the body itself.
The leaps forward in technology aren’t just limited to processing power and size; new advancements are being completed to let players interact with the virtual environments in new ways. We already have many devices to stimulate two of our senses – sight and sound – but it is in other senses that this is bound to change as new technologies are being pioneered to enable the user to interact with all of their senses. The other side of the future of gaming is instead of looking at the output, taking a look at the input instead. The current method of communicating with your computer is through mouse and keyboard, or similar variations of the two, but this is set to change as more emphasis on channeling thought into commands understandable by the computer. In recent years it has been proven how much input-related devices can affect the market, looking at Rock Band, Guitar Hero and hardware such as the Wii or the DS the affect is hard to deny. Items such as the DS or PSP are prime examples of another way in which the future of gaming is currently being shaped.
With more interactivity being applied to handheld devices, from the dual screens with a touch interface of the DS to the touch screen and tilt mechanics of the iPhone, it seems inevitable a surge of popularity in mobile gaming will be occurring in the very near future. The rise of casual games as a recent market trend is also bound to stimulate mobile games too, as games reach new untapped markets.
With all these improvements in the tools for creation, the lines of ‘The creator’ will become blurred. This idea is already seen today, from LittleBigPlanet to Second Life, people are creating their own landscapes, their own avatars, almost having the ability to create their own worlds, the future will only see this taken further as we see the “democratizing the tools of creativity,” and user-created content dominating the landscape. You can see this is where futurists may believe gaming to be going, but what about the speakers from the industry themselves? In a recent conference, Reggie Fils-Aime of Nintendo stated that the most visited websites of five years ago were all search engines, however, today’s top web sites are based upon user-generated content, adding that “as entertainment changes, we will keep pace.” The President and Chief Operating Officer of Nintendo of America topped this off by listing several games based upon the notions of user generated content as a selling point. So, too, was Microsoft’s John Schappert praising the efforts of democratising the tools of creativity in his speech at 2008′s Games Developers Conference titled “A Future Wide Open: Unleashing the Creative Community.” It is clear that it is not only theorists heralding the future of gaming on the backs of user-generated content.
Instead of looking at the long-term changes such as computer chips in our retinas, we should also be looking at what are the smaller changes and what trends are we likely to see as we march onwards through 2009. Payments for goods online are becoming more commonplace, especially for video games, as in 2008 alone the market for online purchases of video games grew by 60%. With people more willing to spend money online, there has been a rise in popularity of services such as Xbox Live Arcade, as such it is highly likely 2009 will continue to see a large amount of development from the indie community ending up on XBLA hoping to mirror the critical acclaim of Jonathan Blow’s ‘Braid’. Whilst it may not be classed as a main point in the future of gaming, the near future will see a lot of people using their consoles for multiple purposes other than purely games, with popular services such as the American movie rental system Netflix or the U.K. based streaming TV site iPlayer finding their way into people’s consoles.
Another aspect of gaming that is likely to be rising in the near future, is the franchise that is built up off a release of a new game. Looking at game releases going a few years back, the only additional material you got with a game was the standard adverts, unless a TV show or film was released after the game became successful, however, that trend has changed in that new releases of games will be looking to push across all mediums to get the game known. Recent releases that follow this franchise ideal are games such as Dead Space which had a cartoon and a comic created alongside its release, as well as Mirror’s Edge and Legendary which both had comics released alongside the game.
Adopting other cultures game styles may be the future for western games. Nvidia VP Roy Taylor states on his blog how he believes the free to play model dominant in eastern markets is a template westerners should follow, and with releases like EA’s Battlefield Heroes it looks like he may well be being proved right. However, until the game has been released it is hard to say that this method of pricing will become commonplace in a western market, or whether it will be doomed to failure outside of eastern climates.
Whether the future is orange, or filled with murderous robots lusting after the destruction of mankind, it is certainly looming close. And the closer it looms, how will gaming fare? Unless, of course, the robot part is true, then I assume we won’t have much time for games.
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