Video games have been around for decades, and they have continuously evolved as technology has advanced. This has led many to ask the question “what is the future of gaming?” We cannot answer this without a crystal ball, but if we look back at how gaming has changed over the years we can make some fairly accurate guesses.
In the earlier years of gaming changes were primarily focused on the power of the gaming systems and their graphics. These factors are still big selling points for games, but consumers have started to focus more on how we play those games.
This isn’t necessarily a new development, and can be traced back to the beginning of gaming. The NES, for instance, was originally released with R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy) which was an accessory that lit up and moved depending on the actions you took in the games it supported, which there were only two throughout its short lifespan.
Nintendo continued trying new peripherals for their system, with some, like the NES Zapper, being well received, and others, like their U-Force controller, considered completely useless.
Nintendo didn’t stop this practice even after the NES. They continued to try out new devices with every system they have released, and other companies have followed suit.
Most of these earlier accessories were not included with the base console, and were unnecessary for most games. However, Nintendo took a big risk back in 2006 when it launched the Wii.
The Wii was a big step away from the normal formula of just pushing the newest systems to be faster with better graphics. Rather than marketing it towards the hard-core gaming crowd, they focused on the whole family being able to enjoy it. One of the primary differences of traditional consoles were the controllers, or wii-motes, which were motion controlled.
There were many skeptics as to how this would be received, as not everyone was enthusiastic about needing to move around to play a video game. Yet the system went on to be the best selling Nintendo console of all time.
This success showed the industry that players were not only willing to adapt to non-traditional gaming, they actually craved it.
Soon after the Wii started seeing impressive sales figures both Sony and Microsoft started working on a way to capitalize on this shift in gaming.
In 2010 Sony released the PS Move motion controllers, and Microsoft released the Kinect. Both of these were received well, and lead to other new innovations for the industry.
The most significant advancement since the Wii is arguably Virtual Reality (VR). Although VR has been around for many years, the technology was too far behind to be practical for home use until the 21st century. Over the last few years VR headsets have been released for desktop computers, gaming consoles and even phones. Sony released their Playstation VR headset in 2016 and Microsoft has confirmed there will be one for the XBox soon, yet Nintendo is noticeably missing one of their own.
Nintendo went a different route back in 2016 when they teamed up with the software development company Niantic to make the smartphone augmented reality (AR) game Pokemon Go. Augmented reality, to put it simply, is using technology to add simulations into your environment. For Pokemon go, this meant having pokemon show up at different locations around you that you could catch, or making certain buildings or other special locations gyms where you could battle other players.
After the huge success of Pokemon Go, Nintendo switched their focus back to console gaming, and last year they released their new system, the Switch. Much like its predecessors, the Wii and Wii U, Nintendo made another risky move with it.
The Switch is significantly less powerful than the other current-gen consoles, but what it lacks in power it makes up for in playability. You are no longer limited to playing big games like “Zelda: Breath of the Wild,” or “Super Mario Odyssey” at home. The Switch can be either placed in a dock to play on a TV, or you can take it out of the dock and play it anywhere.
Many critics thought this was going to be another gimmick like the Wii U gamepad, so they predicted it would only sell to a small group of gamers who wanted to play on the go. Yet the numbers don’t lie. The Switch is now the fastest selling video game console in U.S. history, and, if the sales continue, it could pass Sony’s Playstation 2 as the best selling console of all time in a few short years.
According to a study in 2015 there are more than 155 million Americans who regularly play video games. This is almost half of the U.S. population. This number has been steadily climbing, and will continue to rise.
It has also become common for gamers to have multiple systems, both console and PC, which shows that we are willing to pay more money to ensure we have variety in our gaming.
It appears that the future will be a place will gamers will have almost as many options of how they play games, as what games they play. Sounds like a future I can look forward to.