Previously, I wrote about how the next generation of consoles will not revitalize the industry, but I suppose I should have put a caveat on that: the next-gen consoles will not revitalize the industry unless they manage to include a kind of creative forward-thinking that the last several generations have lacked.
The previous few generations, we were still coming out of the leap from 2D to 3D games. However, this has now come to a point where improvements in technology can only marginally change things as far as graphics, physics and gameplay are concerned. For some time, the industry has been gradually making attempts to break the current mold in meaningful ways, but nothing has truly stuck because the core of the consumer base likes games that they can enjoy for long periods of time without feeling too gimmicky.
It is controversial to bring it up, but hardcore gamers are the lifeblood of the industry. Casual gamers are important, too, but are far too unreliable a market to be the sole customers of any group. This is part of the reason the Wii did so well early on but started falling behind before long: it appealed to casual gamers, but it was a matter of time before much of the gameplay utility the motion control had became old hat and hardcore gamers wanted to sit back down for something more dedicated.
So, motion control didn't stick the way some developers were hoping it would, but that does not mean it is dead. Far from it; the Kinect, in particular, gave a form of motion control that is promising, but didn't quite go far enough.
There is basically one technology short of full on mind control or holograms that could make the next-gen consoles truly refresh gaming, and that technology is augmented reality. We have basic augmented reality capability now, but it has so far only been applied in limited forms and mostly in mobile devices. It has not been fully integrated into consoles yet, but I believe the capability is there.
For those who don't know, augmented reality is something of a middle ground between virtual reality and, well, “regular” reality. It is when you are presented with a visual of the real world, either through a camera-device or lenses with some form of display in them. It allows you to provide visual augmentations and interaction to things in the real world, such as, for instance, taking a map placed on the table and using it for references to play a form of video game with virtual characters on said map.
We have seen some use of this form of technology in Microsoft's Kinect, which can record footage of the player and map their body movements as they interact with virtual objects in a game. Now, imagine that same form of interaction, but reversed: the player now has a device of some sort, perhaps worn on the head, that would allow them to see interactive objects outside their tv set. This could be used for all sorts of purposes: HUDs, extra buttons, throwing fireballs into your tv set; you name it. It would be like the jump to 3D all over again, except that this time the 3D is both literal and fully interactive.
Sadly, I don't expect to see this sort of thing any time soon, if ever. The industry does not seem to have that kind of creativity these days and simply wants to maintain the status quo. I do not foresee that going well, but if my prediction is right, I am hoping that things don't get too much worse, either. In my mind, it seems like we're heading toward another crash in the games industry similar to the one in the 80's.
What Technology Could Revitalize the Industry?
Blog entry posted by Breefolk, Aug 6, 2012.