Opinion Piece: What Will The Future Of Gaming Look Like?
This is a question that has been thrown around the internet and social media in recent years. As a kid growing up in the 80’s/90’s the very thought worries me a lot.
My first foray into console gaming was my trusty Nintendo NES and I’ve owned every Nintendo console since. See, back in the early years of console gaming, things were far simpler. You had none of the trivial concerns you get today.
“Will it have a physical release?”
The question that gets thrown at every publisher looking to bring a game to the Nintendo Switch. Because back then you could ONLY buy physical and with proper manuals in the box might I add.
“Do I need the internet/subscription to play it?”
Well no. Basic dial-up internet was barely a thing then. But this is more of a double-edged sword. Whilst it meant that developers had to actually release a finished product (and not patch the rest in later), this also meant that if the game was a broken mess, then it would have probably stayed like that.
With the later generations of consoles beginning to rely more and more on the internet, we are already starting to get a rough idea of the direction video games as a source of entertainment are taking.
Much like PC gaming did, years earlier, following the inception of Steam, all current consoles now have digital storefronts. While this form of digital distribution predominantly benefits publishers and platform holders alike, as there are far fewer overheads, I can’t help but feel sorry for the high street game shops (that’s my childhood after all).
Whether it’s GameStop reporting loses year on year or GAME, who have also had glances with liquidation.
Not only is this digital media a concern for games retailers, but also for consumers. Unlike buying physical games that you’ll always own, with digital downloads you are completely dependant on servers. If the servers go down then so does your online gaming. Also, the various platform holders have complete control over their storefront and can remove stuff at will (anyone remembers Scott Pilgrim or P.T.?)
There’s a certain place in my heart for these shops and physical media in general. In fact, whenever there is an option to buy physical then I always will. Nothing quite beats the feeling of peeling off that crisp cellophane and popping in a brand new cartridge/disc in your machine – cartridge licking notwithstanding.
The writing was already thoroughly on the wall for physical media, as the console storefronts slowly took over to constantly jostle and vie for your wallet.
Even the portable division of gaming hasn’t been spared from near extinction. Whilst the later generations of Nintendo home consoles may have waned, in terms of popularity and sales, their handhelds have always dominated this market. Beating out stiff competition from Sega and even Sony.
This was mainly due to the progress in mobile phone technology. As the humble mobile phone became more advanced, having internet, apps, etc, they too could run games. Starting out with basic Snake and Tetris style games on the older Nokia and Ericson phones, to idle tapper and match three games, but moving on to whole console game releases.
People no longer “needed” a dedicated console when they always have their phone on them. Portable gaming as a whole became a lot more convenient for the consumer.
So where does that leave the humble home console you ask? Well, the future isn’t certain as of yet. However, over the last five or six years of the current generation of consoles, platform holders have been gradually introducing cloud gaming.
The cloud isn’t as new or revolutionary as people may expect. It’s been around for years now, though it has taken the form of much smaller applications. Whether that be for Email storage, phone backups and save game data for our current consoles.
Enter Google Stadia. That’s right, Google has officially entered the gaming space, introducing their fully streaming service from the cloud. Again, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard the buzz term “cloud gaming.” It’s no secret that Microsoft has been working on their own cloud service, codenamed Project XCloud. Leveraging their own powerful data centre called Azure.
With the capability of streaming any game to any device, cloud gaming looks to replace physical media and console hardware as a whole. Whilst some may rejoice in the knowledge of not having to shell out hundreds of pounds or dollars on new consoles every 5-6 years, I’m not in that demographic.
I enjoy seeing what these technology giants can come up with next. How unique the consoles look, how much power they have, what kind of graphic potential they’re capable of. With the cloud, however, all that is snatched away. No more will you have any tangible products to get your hands on.
Whilst it’s clear that cloud technology isn’t quite there yet, there will be a time when it does become feasible. It won’t be next generation as we move into the next PlayStation or Xbox consoles but it’s coming. I just hope that it’s handled with care and consideration for all the gamers out there.
These are just my thoughts though. What are yours? If you liked this opinion piece why not check out some more?
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