The gaming world has changed massively in the last fifteen years. Our little geek’s club has become a multibillion dollar industry with fans around the world – yes, even girls. More people are playing games than are watching America’s Got Talent, more consoles have been sold in this last generation than people tuning it to watch the Super Bowl – this is a mainstream hobby now, and the industry couldn’t be in a better state.
With higher costs of development and an increasingly casual user base, core gamers feel they’re being left behind. Evolution might be inevitable, but at what cost are video games moving forward?
The PlayStation 2
The year 2000 saw the release of the PlayStation 2, arguably one of the best consoles of all time. After the awkward early years of 3d gaming, things finally started to look a little more natural. The console that would give us Snake Eater and San Andreas proved what we all knew: that gaming had the potential to rival film. Games like ICO mixed fantastic graphics, puzzle solving and gentle music to create artistic “experiences,” no longer limited by the warped polygon bodies of the PS1 age.
Between the release of the PS2 and the release of the PS3, a number of things happened. Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft all began experimenting with a real online presence not unlike the one SEGA had pioneered with the Dreamcast years before. Games became more widespread, selling in their millions, but also to a different age group. Those kids that had bought the SNES two decades before were now adults, and they wanted games that suited their age. Games got grown up, but so did the people playing.
Microsoft’s Xbox 360 released around an online network promising to bring players from around the world together as if they were sat together in a room. It had been done before and was nothing new to some – especially on PC – but for many console buyers this was something they’d never tried. This added a whole new level to many games. A single player game on the PS2 probably averaged 8-12 hours in length, but with an online mode that could rise to hundreds, even thousands of hours. DLC let players pick and choose new features without having to invest in a sequel. The graphics leap between last gen and this gen was huge, but it was the social and network features that was most important.
As the industry became bigger and bigger, so did the risks. Ideas that would have been made for the PS2 ended up being dropped and tight genre games became the norm. Call of Duty sells millions of units each year, although gamers are split on whether it’s worth it.
It’s relatively simple to guess what we’ll see next-gen. Graphics and social features will both see vast improvements, while the idea of the console as the “centre of the living room” will become much more important. Games will grow with an audience no longer impressed by space marines, blood and guts, but variety is likely to drop even further as console makers tighten security to combat piracy and charge more to start-ups for the honour of appearing on home console.
The games that do get through will continue a tradition of entertaining the masses that goes back four decades. Although there may be new ways of doing it, new genres and peripherals that fool the senses, entertainment is the most important part of our industry and it always will be.
- License: Image author owned
About the author
Mat Growcott is a freelance writer, but he is also a gamer who spends far too much time playing games, but at least that lets him write game reviews for his clients that are accurate and based on his gaming experience.