Gamasutra has an article up concerning the top 5 major industry trends they see as we round out 2010. You could probably list most of them yourself: Facebook gaming, 3D, cloud gaming, digital distribution, and motion controls. I thought I would give my own thoughts on each below; feel free to add your own.
Next-Gen Motion Controls
We've certainly been hearing a lot about Kinect lately. Check out this video showing hand recognition Minority-Report style. It seems like this technology could revolutionize console gaming in particular, since one of the big impediments there has been the limited nature of gamepads. We saw a lot of innovation earlier, of course, with Wii's motion controllers, but I'm finally starting to warm up to the idea of Kinect. I'm not so much excited about what Microsoft does with it as what hackers and indies come up with; it wouldn't surprise me at all to see something really amazing come out for Kinect totally out of left field. Of course, this type of gaming matters little to PC gamers, but if it gets big enough it might bring more of them to the console side.
Nothing new here. Steam and others have, well, been picking up steam, even though the price of retail vs. download is often the same. It's nasty for the used game business, and probably a boon to pirates, since they no longer have to worry about any sort of physical copy protection (i.e., special discs). I also like how it opens the door for small projects and episodic content. I just hope it never gets to the point where there is no games at retail, because I love the collector's editions and really nice boxes.
Bill has been talking about the OnLive here a lot lately, and for good reason. Why invest in all that expensive and complicated gaming machinery when you can just pay someone to put it on the cloud and stream it to you? There are problems (as Bill points out), but I can appreciate the model. We buy energy from the power plant even though we could (in theory, at least) all have our own generators in the backyard. Similarly, why do all of us need our own gaming rigs when we could just buy those cycles from a nest of supercomputers somewhere? Somehow, though, I see this as something more interesting to casual gamers than the hardcore, who would most certainly want the latest from NVIDIA or ATI regardless of cost. It's also in some ways a throwback to the old days of time share systems. Part of the PC revolution was precisely that it was personal and you could do things with it at home that "they" didn't expect or warrant. I'm not sure what we can really expect from cloud gaming on that front.
3D Stereoscopic Gaming
Just a gimmick, nothing more. In ten years it will seem as ridiculous as talking about FMV today.
I agree that as the market for network marketing games continues, we will see the competition heating up. I don't think people are as attached to Farmville as they are to World of Warcraft, where the community ties and such are so strong that attrition is relatively low despite more advanced competitors. I think Gamasutra is wrong that big game companies will take over here, because this market is precisely the market that doesn't give a shit about Ubisoft or EA and never will. Whoever will flourish in this market will fully understand the platform, which is a social network, not a PC or a console. The key is finding ways to leverage that platform more effectively and efficiently, and hopefully not with more pyramid schemes.
Those are my thoughts. Sound off with yours below!
Only going to comment on two (facebook? sorry never!)
3D: I dont see it being as gimmicky as you, well should I say any more gimmikcy thant Wimmote, kinct or Move.. its just a version of it.. there are ways to control and ways to view. back..94ish? I bought a TNT2 video card From Asus with 3D glasses. You had to have a monitor that could do 120Hertz (the games run half and Half). Which on an old CRT was 60, to much flicker, but 120 was max back in those days. At the time it was going to be big (it never was...in fact i doubt anybody remebers it). There where only a few games that it worked on (well), it had a generic driver that would try to #d any game. It did work on QUAKE and it worked well (I thought). The problem was you couldnt take that screen flicker for long. I did try several other games (Everquest is all I remeber) that where not designed for it, and made them pop out.. not a huge impact but interesting. My thoughts then: Kinda coool if I could use it for more tahn 10 minutes MAX! I quickly forgot about it. New 3D (my 57" is 3D and I have a set of 3D glasses for it) is MUCH MUCH better. Movies (i must admit Monsters VS aliens is the only one i have) is very cool. I have tested some of the SONY 3d stuff and while Its not a game changer, its interesting and so far I'm enjoying it. I dont get the headaches I did with the old stuff and so far it works well (to me). We have been trying to make 3D wokr for years.. and its died each time.. but the interest in it must be there or they wouldnt keep trying it. I Think if games can do it ( right now they are already pushing frame rate limits with consoles.. adding an extra frame for every frame is just not going to work at the current level of hardware, at least in action games. that is the limitation i see now. it was the stress it put on peoples eyes, now its the stress on the hardware (and yes still some people). So i think its going mainstream, no.. its not ready yet. SO impact in next year.. none.. but I think it will impact at some point. The talk about he 3D DS is HUGE so 3D will be big i think. When, Im not sure..
Digital distro: This really only has an Upside as far as I can see. We have eliminated so many cash drains on the production costs of games with this. We have even built in somewhat simple DRM. I dont notice it myslef. The only real problem I see is STEAM.. and its not that I think STEAM is a problem, its just the MS of OS's, STEAM is 500 pound gorilla in a room of 5 pound toys.. the 500 pound gorilla is going to destory those toys one by one, they will hang on only as long as the Gorillia isnt focusing on them. I really believe several services will merge,or be swollowed up by STEAM.. GOG may be the lone exception.. it focus's on older titles and NO DRM, those are areas STEAM may have no interest (DRM especially). EA, one o the BIG players is even giving up the fight really.. they had a (and have) a Digital Service, but almost all the game are on STEAM too. There was an interview with somebody from EA that said the STEAM products sold almost 10 to 1 to the EA digital.
I just received an e-mail that my OnLive console will be shipping soon. It will surely arrive before I get my powerline networking solution around Christmas, but I can still play the service on my laptop (I get a free game of my choice, plus access to the $9.99/month subscription service for free until January 15). I certainly don't consider it a replacement for hardcore PC gaming (I have a system that does that quite well--at least for the time being), but it will allow me to play the hardest of hardcore PC games indefinitely and they're guaranteed to work. To me, it's another platform, like 360, PS3, Wii, iPhone, PC, etc. I truly think it's a game changer, no pun intended, but as I've said before, no matter how magical the technology, I think it will remain niche because it's a product/service that's not necessarily something people are asking for and we're already saturated in platform options.
One interesting thing about OnLive is that in a way it's the idea of the ultimate console, where only the content matters, not the technology. In theory, with this service (and optional console), you can have the same system you have today (be it your PC or the OnLive console) in ten years and still be playing the absolute latest and greatest games. That's something that's never been practical before and that's only possible because all the heavy lifting is done remotely. While in theory it's a step back going to the dumb terminal model of accessing the shared server from the 60's and 70's, it's also arguable to say that it's actually a completely logical way to have things work, since the only x factor is the connection speed/quality, not the local technology. In that way, it can be seen as a logical next step in technology, not a step backwards. In theory, you lose out on nothing, and gain everything, with no crashes to worry about, no lost saves, no misplaced items, etc., since all that is handled behind the scenes with backups and redundancies. It's the ultimate user experience and truly plug and play computing, a truly functional hybrid of PC and console, and on top of that because it's all in the cloud, completely portable.
Of course, going to this model you lose some freedoms and some tangible ownership, but let's face it, while WE may require freedom and physical ownership, our grandparents, children, the casual user, etc., probably don't if we look at it honestly. As for me, with my schedule, etc., I don't mind things being made easier for me. There are times when I simply don't want to fuss around with things. When I do, I have that option. This is simply an alternative to that, and one on top of that that allows me to leave the computer behind if I so choose, which can be an appealing proposition after 8 hour workdays on the computer, which is another reason why I'm such a big console fan/couch fan--I still get to enjoy the activity without doing it on the same type of thing I already spent 8+ hours of my day on.
3D in its current form (with glasses) is a technological dead end, this much is true. Once 3D is freed from glasses, like with the 3DS and, hopefully within 5 years or so with our TV's, it WILL become an integral part of not only our media consumption, but also our game play. It's inevitable, though it may take another 10 years to fully happen. In fact, it's safe to say that 3D will eventually impact gaming moreso than the switch from SD to HD and low resolution to high resolution screens, as in actually truly affecting gameplay.
Now, with the above in mind, the toe dipping with current glasses-based 3D technology is a necessary first step, albeit one most of us will not be actively participating in despite it being at acceptable functional levels. It's good that movie, TV and game makers are able to experiment now because they'll need that expertise when the above glasses-free technological evolution fully hits. There has to be a 1.0 for everything, and 3D right now is finally at that 1.0 stage. All the 3D that came before this point - as good as some of it was - was still sub-1.0 stuff.
Just as an FYI, I find it funny all this talk of "Minority Report" type controls, when that's already what the default Kinect interface is like on the 360. Sure, we're not talking individual finger detection (it only knows hands, not specific fingers) and it's not a 1:1 match (no 3D for one), but the FEELING is there. I know when I do the menus in "Dance Central" - which has among the best designed menu system of the Kinect launch titles - part of the fun comes from selecting things things on the menu! It's an amazing feeling moving my right arm down to highlight a menu item, then doing a broad swipe to the left (like I'm slapping someone across the face) with my hand to select it. It's a dramatic experience with technology and I think it's that kind of truly hands free experience that people respond to. Naturally if I didn't work particularly well, the magic/illusion would be broken, but since it works, the appeal remains completely intact. While there is still much to do in the present, the future for this type of technology looks very bright indeed.
Perhaps the ultimate future of interface design will be "anything goes". Meaning if I want to multi-touch the screen I can. If I want to voice control, I can. If I want to motion in the air, I can. If I want to use a physical controller (keyboard, mouse, gamepad, etc.), I can. There is no good technological reason why future devices couldn't reconfigure themselves on the fly and adapt to OUR needs at any one moment rather than the reverse situation that is the present day reality.
Here's a more thorough explanation of what I was trying to describe in Dance Central's motion based interface: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/11/the-kinect-effect-how-harmoni...
and another Ars piece on menu design: http://arstechnica.com/gaming/news/2010/12/the-failure-of-gran-turismo-5...
HTML 5 (as a game platform) should rate somewhere near the top 10 at least. The battle lines have been drawn between support for Flash and HTML 5. The iPhone and iPad may have enough momentum to push HTML 5 forward, and HTML 5 could become the 'available everywhere' option. The current state of Canvas support and lack of any real infrastructure are big roadblocks for the adoption of HTML 5, for developers.
Toshiba's 3D Display:
Very neat. I can think of lots of great applications for this.