I have previously waxed historical about the different generations of gaming consoles we’ve seen in the last 40 years or so. As with any piece of hardware, when a new iteration of a console hits the market, it’s packed full of innovations and improvements. At least, that’s the idea. Sometimes, the “next big thing” ends up being the last big thing with a new coat of paint and a noisemaker taped onto the side.
But every few years, something truly exciting comes over the horizon and we get that good old gotta-have-it itch. It doesn’t matter if you had bought a Playstation three weeks before; when the PS2 was announced, you looked into the corner and scorned that piece of junk like it had just soiled your carpet. New! Shiny! Now, please!
Well, the big-name home consoles have been around since 2005 (Xbox 360) and 2006 (PS3 and Wii). They’re all still going strong. But resting on your laurels is a good way to get left behind; you know that Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have probably been tinkering with new prototypes for years. Is this being done by tiny pixies in a mystical realm somewhere? Don’t be ridiculous. We all know the video game industry prefers gnomes.
So when do we get new toys to play with? It might be sooner than you think. You could say that Nintendo’s 3DS and the Playstation Vita are handheld harbingers of a new gameplay generation. Nintendo might be releasing a home console next year, while Microsoft and Sony are predicting a roll-out in 2014. This is all based on rumour and hints from these companies; so far, nothing has been officially announced. Keep an eye on exhibitions over the next year or so.
When the Xbox 720, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Yippii come out, there are a few things I’m hoping to see:
Backward compatibility, on steroids
Ever since the Big Three started giving us backward compatibility (PS2 can play PS1 games, Wii can play GameCube games), it’s been a great opportunity for loyal gamers to extend their relationship with the brand of their choosing. Assuming you took good care of your discs, you could upgrade your console and still get a decade of play out of your timeless favourites. Now that online software updates are becoming more impressive, I would love to see this idea given a digital boost. If Nintendo can find a way to port their entire history of games into their new console, it could serve as a playable museum of video game history.
Physical media—what next?
The music industry has taken the hint. Blockbuster stores are shutting down across North America. The modern consumer has tasted the rainbow, and everything’s coming up digital. Online game marketplaces are, like I said, seeing more and more traffic. Indie developers save a ton of money by putting their stuff online, and customers save some dough in the process. I wouldn’t be surprised to see bigger studios moving past the disc-in-a-box method as well. Bad news for stores like Gamestop and EB Games, but I also have a vision for them, too. Picture walls full of USB slots. You buy a thumb drive, plug it into the game you want, and swipe a credit card to buy it. Now that I think about it, I bet someone’s going to eventually get their actual thumb replaced with a thumb drive. It makes sense, in a terrifying cyborg way.
Home entertainment goes all-in-one
You can already see Sony’s interest in the overall home-entertainment world; how many people bought a PS3 as opposed to a dedicated Blu-Ray player? I don’t see any reason for this trend to go anywhere but up. If you throw an Xbox, Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify into a blender, what do you get? Only the quintessential home theatre system, of course! Throw a flat-screen and some speakers up around that bad boy, and you’re all set. The only thing missing is a USB-enabled popcorn maker. Just kidding; the internet has you covered there, too.
Augment my reality, capture my motion
Look, we’re well into the science-fiction era. Nobody’s delivered on the flying cars yet, but we have robots that clean our carpets. Is it really too much to ask for some augmented reality and motion sensors in our gaming experiences? This tech is still in its early years, but I hope we get some killer payoff soon. Let’s give put motion sensors around our living room and project a 3D image of ourselves into an adventure game. Let’s map our own home into a GTA title and save our games in our actual bedroom. And if Tupac can get the hologram treatment, maybe we’ll be fighting three-dimensional baddies in our living rooms soon enough.
Some of these things seem like obvious next steps. That’s because I’m really smart and have great insights. Thank you for noticing. Some of these things seem unrealistic. That’s because I’m so far ahead of my time, so prophetic, that some of my claims seem just too good to be true. Again, thank you for noticing.
Either way, dear gamers, we’re going to see something new and exciting in a couple of years. For an idea of how impressive these changes can be, compare the graphics of GTA: San Andreas to Gears of War. They were released a year apart from each other. But they were released on different consoles.
By the way, when Nintendo calls their new console “Yippii”, I’ll be making pretty great money on the royalties. That’s just one of the perks of being a prophet, folks.