Contemplating the future of videogames is never an easy task. Short term trends are obvious to even the most casual observer, but who would have predicted the Wii and its immense success just a few short years ago? I distinctly remember attending the E3 at which the DS was unveiled and listening to supposed industry professionals snort with derision and predicting its inevitable failure. Still, it's sometimes cool to imagine what gaming would be like in the future. Here is one possible vision.

Digital distribution will become so all-encompassing that boxed product is reserved for retro gaming with all new products being delivered through some digital channel. All major manufacturers will continue to put their entire back catalogue up for download services. This makes the home console a repository for your entire games library and other media. Handheld gaming will plug directly into this media hub. Instead of carrying its own media your handheld device will, with the aid of pervasive, superfast wifi that makes every spot in any major city connected at all times, run its software on the home console hub. Only control input will be sent from the device to the console, where the game is run, which sends back the visuals to the device. This means the handheld device is light and cheap. It can also access all your music and video from the home console. The device itself will be small and foldable, with a digital paper screen. Its input is both tactile and motion sensitive to a socially acceptable extent.

Some company will revive "Virtual Reality" but, despite the massively improved tech, the public still resists. Peripherals that detect motion and position will replace the idea of a VR helmet and as the console is basically a media hub, gaming will stay married to a television screen for many years to come as a result.

There will be a 2nd Great Game Industry crash. With the continued availability of cheap or free tools which become easier and easier to use, every hobbyist can create and release a game. There will be a tsunami of games created by these amateurs, as well as independent developers and larger publishers trying to cash in, that the public has too much choice of too many substandard titles, which become cheaper and cheaper until it becomes a totally unviable prospect. In one day seventeen different versions of a match-three title will be released, on average. After the crash the industry will rebuild itself, keeping some of the major players and introducing the big new names of tomorrow from amongst the survivors. Luckily, due to the digital nature of game distribution, there will be no landfills to allegedly cover with cement this time round.

Somebody will release a single, open platform console which will fail utterly in the market place, leaving just the usual number of large manufacturers who keep a tight and lucrative control over their hardware. The failure eventually boils down to the console acting too much like a PC with too much open source and modifiable elements making easy control of it outside the comprehension of the largest part of its intended market.

None of today's major IPs will survive. Nintendo will be the first to find the maximum age of a recyclable IP when their latest Mario title, though critically acclaimed, fails the sell. Children of the future will have no idea who Link, Mario, Lara Croft and Niko Bellic are.

A significant proportion of the film industry will make its money from film-games. These are not films made of video game IPs, nor games made from film IPs but films and games created entirely for the tandem development of both film and video games simultaneously. Eventually, though, the video game part of this marriage will be most profitable, leaving the film industry crippled. The most successful players in this new field will actually come from the game business side, who will employ film directors to its staff.

India and China will be huge players in the global video game business, not just as "cheap outsourcers to be arrogantly scorned" but as major businesses, designers and developers in their own right, providing, at first, their own cultures, but soon enough migrating to make significant sales across the world. Some of tomorrow's major changes, in hardware and game design will come from the East, excluding Japan.

None of this will happen.


  1. All that and no flying cars? I want to slip silently over a megalopolis in my flying car, set it to autopilot, and start playing my remotely-streamed handheld device to pass the time in aerial traffic jams.

  2. idiosyncratic idiotSaturday, June 14, 2008

    Very insightful prospect. I'm not sure about the death of iconic franchises though. Zelda and Mario (and others) have been around for 20 years now and show little sign of slowing down. I believe they have power to stick around if game makers: 1) work on ideas to rejuvenate them, and 2) do not flood the marketplace with yearly installments (most unlikely, I know). Think of Metal Gear, Ninja Gaiden, or other non-saturated series.

  3. You forgot the beauty of the remake - a ready made story and characters which just require graphical updates and control changes. Final fantasy III/IV for DS already, so many titles available for the same treatment. Sometimes we look backwards to see forwards.

  4. I know you ended with "none of this will happen" but still, I had a few comments I hope will turn into discussion.

    The ability for anyone to make games will not hurt big budget games anymore than the ability for anyone to make books, music or movies has hurt those industries.

    There is still a limited amount of real talnet and at least for movies and games, there's the fact that big games like GTA4, MGS4, Halo3 and big movies like Wall-E or LOTR require big staff, something that makes it pretty much impossible for the indie to compete directly with. Youtube even makes it possible for anyone to make TV but so far I see no one stepping up to make the next Lost, or Sopranos or whatever.

    On the Wii, there is no doubt it's been a finanical success but I'd argue by other measures it hasn't been a success. How many Wii titles do you own? How many Wii titles does the average Wii owner own? My sample is limited and I don't have any facts to back me up but so far there is almost nothing I'm looking forward to on Wii. I played the Gamecube version of Zelda on my Wii, I played Mario Galaxy but it wasn't really a Wii game. I played Mario Kart Wii for exactly 2 days, less than 4 hours before I decided I'd played this game before. Wii Sports is the only truely Wii title I got any long term play out of.

    Where as there are many titles I'm looking forward to on 360 and PS3.

    That's not to say Wii couldn't have amazing innovative titles. I can certainly imagine an amazing Animal Crossing Wii that does amazing stuff with networking (though I'd bet nintendo won't do that). I can imagine lots of innovative games that use the Wii controller but so far none of the ones I've played have been memorable. So for me, while I've bought a Wii, I can't personally say it was a successful purchase. I turn it on even less than my PS3 :-p

  5. India and China will be huge players in the global video game business, not just as "cheap outsourcers to be arrogantly scorned" but as major businesses, designers and developers in their own right, providing, at first, their own cultures, but soon enough migrating to make significant sales across the world.

    China, maybe but India, no. As an Indian (living in India) I can tell you that any industry here grows only in the direction of money (thus the outsourcing), and industry leaders are notorious in believing creative products and success are mutually exclusive.

    We've had a "software" industry for a decade or so now, and we still don't have a major visible software company that releases products for the end user because its risky compared to the steady flow of money outsourcing brings in. You can't imagine how many soulless programmers the IT industry creates every year. So yeah, India will emerge (or remain) as the go-to-guy for outsourcing animation/software/special effects/game development but not as a competitor in the global market... at least not as long as there's money in outsourcing :)

  6. "None of this will happen"

    I screwed up didn't I?

  7. Arun, I cannot even start to pretend to know more about this than you, but I would have thought that maybe India would create its own industry, in the same way it has its own film industry, to cater to its own peoples' tastes. It'd be interesting to see what that would bring up (Tomb Raider with DDR sections? :) ), but honestly, you're probably right.

    Gman, my personal observations and experiences pretty much gel with yours. My Wii is the least used of my consoles (whereas the Gamecube was the most used at the time), and I have fewer games for it than other systems. And yet, and yet, it's terribly hard to argue against its massive sales successes. It's a bit of a paradox. But the bottom line states that it's a massive success, regardless of what yopu and I think of the games.

  8. Ah, but you see we didn't start films as an outsourced product... :)

  9. An addition:

    Those without home Wifi will be able to download content onto storage devices from special kiosks in the high street.

  10. The Wii is videogames for the masses, the way McDonalds et al are hamburgers for the masses, and how blockbuster films are made for the masses.

    The same way a hamburger "connoisseur" probably wouldn't accept fast food, and film lovers likely prefer some artsy or whatever film over a blockbuster, we've already developed a "sophisticated" taste for games and don't enjoy the entry-level stuff as much.

    But for those who haven't delved much into the area, perhaps a Harvey's hamburger is good enough. And lots of people enjoy the latest blockbuster movie. And so it is with the Wii.

    Stuff made for the "masses" have a lower barrier to entry (cheaper burgers, easy to understand films, or an approachable controller), while those with so-called "taste" have a minimum set of demands developed from repeated exposure.

    As for the India-software angle, while I know little of India, as far as I see it, it only takes a few examples of success (for example, in this case the making of original software) for others to jump onto the bandwagon. And the barriers to start making software on your own (if one avoids traditional retail distribution) are very low. There could be people who are working in proverbial garages right now in India making some software someone will use...who knows.

  11. Also, for the film-game angle, while the successes will be very lucrative, the risk is even higher, I believe.

    When either the film or game is developed first, there is only the initial outlay for the film or the game, and the creators get a chance to see whether or not it has appeal in the market before paying the cost for the other part. When both are developed together, both the costs must be paid before anyone has any idea whether or not it will be successful.

  12. Interesting read, one that I mostly agree with. Digital distribution over wifi seems highly likely.

    I do disagree that self made games will kill the industry though. It works in a similiar way with movies and YouTube. YouTube allows anyone to be a director and yet the film and TV industries have been mostly unaffected by it.

    I also loved your comment that portable consoles will be tilt sensative enough to be socially acceptable. Cute. ^_^

  13. The mushrooming of the companies dealing in outsourcing software development has no doubt given rise to a lot of competition but it has offered a plethora of options for the takers to choose the best deal from the lot. http://www.infysolutions.com

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