Gaming today is a lot different to what it was like in the early years of the industry. For a start, you no longer have to travel across town to a poorly-lit video arcade to load giant machines with coins just to enjoy a few minutes of play.
By the 1980s, computers and consoles began appearing in our homes, but they were still nothing like the machines we have today. Firstly, much of the software for early home computers had to be loaded from a cassette tape, which was a slow and laborious process.
When you finally did get the program loaded, graphics were primitive and sounds effects were just a series of beeps. You also had to know all the commands for the computer since there was no graphical user interface like we have in Windows and OS X today.
The 2002 game Grand Theft Auto Vice City’s intro sequence gives a nod to this. After the Rockstar Games logo is shown, a blue command-line screen (similar to that on the ZX Spectrum) appears and text input is purported to be typed in that would load the game.
Over the years, video game companies have made big steps forward. Tape cassettes were replaced by floppy discs and cartridges, these were replaced by CDs, then DVDs, Blu-Rays, and now finally digital downloads.
Graphics have improved too, making games more realistic and allowing players to explore a more complex 3D world. Other technological innovations have helped developers to create new types of content. In the 1990s, improvements in internet connectivity and the widespread adoption of the home computer led to the creation of real cash casino sites that let players wager on slots and table games like they would in a land-based casino and real online shops that enable the users to purchase items from the comfort of their home.
Similarly, they’ve helped to make it possible to play games on the go through our smartphones and handheld consoles like the Nintendo Switch.
Although we have come a long way, there is still a lot of potential for the gaming industry to push boundaries and create new and exciting products for players. Here are some of the ways gaming could look in the future.
Virtual reality is not new. Early VR devices were created in the mid-20th century. One of the most well-known examples is the Sensorama, a 1962 machine that you sat in to experience sights, sounds, and smells, along with wind that would be generated by a fan.
Many in the industry have been touting virtual reality as the holy grail of gaming for some time. In theory, it would allow us to step into another world and become the character that we play, rather than seeing them from the outside.
Today, technology has come a long way. Full 360-degree HD graphics with full head tracking are now possible in the most recent VR headsets, opening the door for entirely new types of games.
However, in practice, it has been a lot more difficult to make this a reality. Nintendo’s early attempt at VR was the Virtual Boy. Released in 1995, this “tabletop” VR headset could create 3D images but lacked the head tracking capabilities of modern devices and was limited to red and black graphics. It was a commercial failure and was taken off sale very quickly afterwards.
Console Free Gaming
Portable and mobile gaming has advanced a lot since Nintendo released the original Game Boy in 1989. We’ve gone from basic monochrome dot-matrix displays to multi-touch high-definition screens in less than 30 years.
Even over the last decade, smartphone games have progressed a lot. While they’re still incredibly fun and remain popular, titles like Angry Birds and Doodle Jump look almost primitive compared to the likes of Fortnite and PUBG Mobile.
Console-quality gaming is almost available on smartphones, though the technologies in the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S offer a better overall experience still.
However, a world where we no longer need games consoles may not be that far away. Companies like NVIDIA and Google both have streaming services that let you access AAA games on underpowered devices like smartphones and laptops.
With Google Stadia, users can access popular titles like Cyberpunk 2077 and FIFA 21 from anywhere. Provided your internet connection is good enough, you could begin playing on your phone while travelling home on the bus and then switch to your TV when you get there.
Longer Life Cycles
In the 2000s, RockStar Games released a title almost every year. GTA III went on sale in 2001, Vice City in 2002, San Andreas and Advance in 2004, Diversity City Stories in 2005, Vice City Stories in 2006, IV in 2008, and Chinatown Wars in 2009.
It wouldn’t be until 2013 that Grand Theft Auto V would be released for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It was re-released for the next generation of consoles in 2014 and is due to be re-released again in November 2021 for PS5 and Xbox Series S/X.
It will likely be 2022 or 2023 before GTA 6 hits the market, a full decade after the last one. This is because Rockstar has been able to extend the life of the game by continually releasing new content for its online multiplayer mode. It generates additional revenue through microtransactions when players pay for extra in-game items. This type of income accounts for around half of GTA’s publisher’s revenue.
GTA is not alone, CS:GO is also nearly 10 years old, League of Legends was released in 2009, Minecraft turns a decade old this year, and Hearthstone turned seven years old in March.
With the exception of games like FIFA and NBA 2K, we’re likely to see most other video game franchises continue to live longer and longer before they’re superseded by an entirely new version.