The Next Big Thing

posted by on 21st February 2013, at 12:21am

Perhaps it is only natural for humans to live in the here and now, not dwelling in the past nor necessarily contemplating the future. And seeing as gamers are also humans, this statement rings true for them in a much more specific way. They play in the moment, with whatever games are available to them now. Typically, they keep up on the newest games that come out with a minority of gamers still clinging to games way past their shelf life. Of the old games, only the best survive. Eventually, the future becomes the now and the newest game out the thing gamers want the most.

What is the future of gaming? I am not asking what the newest releases will be next month or even this year, but what gaming will look like possibly five years or ten years down the road. We all take for granted that gaming for the most part has remained a somewhat static thing.  For the most part, it has remained the same for a long time. It was only a couple decades ago that people were playing N64s, Dreamcasts, Game Boys, and the like. As time passed, we saw the introduction of newer consoles like the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, Wii, PS3, Xbox 360 and so on. We saw games evolve from simple beginnings like Wolfenstein 3D and Sim City 2000 to Call of Duty MW3 and Half Life 2. But things are reaching a point where something new is needed, at least in my opinion. The gaming industry needs to look at new innovations they can bring to platforms, controllers, gaming genres, titles, and more.

First off, let’s look at platforms. The dominant platforms currently are the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and the Nintendo Wii. All three have sold at least 70 million units individually. The Xbox came out roughly a year before the other two, but they all fall in the category of seventh generation gaming consoles. This generation has been particularly long. It’s been six years since the Xbox 360’s release and five since the Wii’s and PS3’s releases. Previous generations on average have only lasted roughly seven or eight years. The sixth generation, including systems like the Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox, lasted for roughly fifteen years prior to the current one, but it was quite an exceptional generation and needing an upgrade. Of course, I think the current consoles like the previous generation have a while to go yet before they need replacing. If they aren’t broke or old, don’t fix them. But now that the current generation is about half to three-quarters of the way to being over, console designers need to look to the next thing. Will newer consoles have 3D? Will they find a better controller configuration for gamers to appreciate? Will consoles be entirely digital content based or will they keep using CDs?

Second, many game genres and titles are being overdone. For example, there’s no reason a new Call of Duty game needs to come out annually. There is nothing wrong with the previous games and not much that changes from game to game. Graphics are as good as they’ll seemingly be for a while. Multiplayer, except for some minor changes, has virtually been the same since the original Modern Warfare released in 2007. This is just one example, but the entire FPS genre is a bit over revamped at the moment. Less focus needs to be given to the popular genres such as FPS and RPG with more attention going to lesser known genres that are just as fun.

Lastly, prices are still too high for consoles and games. I remember when the first Halo came out, it was worth $50. Nowadays, new top title games, including Halo 4, go for $60 minimum if not more, especially for special editions. Add on top of that subscription fees for services like Xbox Live at $15/month and paying for add-on content. Gamers are shelling out a lot of money just to enjoy one or two games. Publishers are making a killing on high priced titles and even more on extra content packages and season passes. Companies could probably cut the prices for content and consoles by 10-20% and still see great profits. Reducing prices will keep gamers happy and grab more money from people who can pay the lower prices.

Granted, there is nothing wrong with the current generation of consoles as they are still quite up to date. There are plenty of games for people to choose from and enjoy. And prices are pretty reasonable for most games and consoles though they could be cheaper. But the question remains: What’s the next big thing? What will Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo present for the next generation of console gaming? What gaming publishers and developers will come out with the next gaming series and titles? Will the gaming industry find a way to reduce the cost of platforms and games making it even more affordable to game? All these answers remain to be found out over the next few years.

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