What will video games look like in the future?
Game Consoles vs. Streaming Services. Times are changing. While you’re battling hordes of undead minions for cool points on your favorite games, the distributors of video games are battling each other for monetary dominance.
The ultimate prize is $152.1 billion dollars spent on video games in 2019.
On one side, you’ve got Sony and Microsoft who represent the old guard. They’re putting their investment capital and attention spans into the next generation video game consoles.
According to market statistics from industry watchdog Newzoo, consoles are the fastest growing segment of the video game market rising 13.4% this year.
On the other side, you’ve got Google’s video game streaming service called Stadia and other upstarts like Utomik who want to take all the tech jargon out of your gaming decisions so that you can just stream games without worrying about pesky details like framerate, RAM, and video cards. Even Verizon and Amazon are chomping at the bit.
Sony and Microsoft are hedging their bets a bit with streaming services of their own, just in case people don’t turn out in droves for the PS5 or Project Scarlett.
Playstation Now is a cloud-based service where you can gain access to hundreds of games from PS2, PS3 and PS4. You can stream those games directly to your console.
Microsoft has a foothold in both the PC market and video games. So, it’s streaming service tentatively called Project xCloud could command a large share of the market. You’ll be able to stream Xbox titles to any device for a subscription fee.
Then, there’s Nintendo. The Nintendo Switch is almost miraculously performing well and it’s super popular while simultaneously ignoring both sides of the debate.
It’s just quietly being excellent at putting fun games with familiar names like Legend of Zelda, Pokemon, and Super Mario in the palm of your hand like it’s 2011. Go figure.
Indie Game Developers Have Mixed Feelings About the Future of Gaming
To get further insight into the future of gaming, Men’s Variety interviewed three indie game developers.
Jim Shephard Is a game developer with Adventurepro Games and creator of the top down indie game Dungeonmans. His expectations about streaming video game services are decidedly cautious. Jeramy Cooke is a game designer and artist who worked on the popular Borderlands series.
Cooke believes in the existing framework where consoles are king. Andrew Aversa of Impact Gameworks is more excited about the Nintendo Switch. Like Jim Shephard, Aversa is also leery of streaming game services that are on the horizon.
MV: Hi guys, thanks for joining the discussion. So, it’s 2019. Are video game consoles a thing of the past?
Jeramy Cooke: Consoles are not a thing of the past.
Andrew Aversa: I think traditional consoles like PlayStation and Xbox still have a place for the foreseeable future, as it's impractical and costly to set up a separate gaming computer in a living room space.
Even with things like Steam's “Big Picture” mode, the user experience of using a computer with your TV is nowhere near as streamlined as using a dedicated game console.
MV: You just set up a console and it’s ready to go whenever you want to play.
Jeramy Cooke: While streaming games will happen for sure, their function is limited by latency. This is fine for many game types but for anything that has tight timing or fast action – shooters, fighting games, etc. the high latency is unacceptable.
For casual games and more slow-paced experiences this is completely fine. So, we should expect to see a lot of growth there, especially on mobile devices that don't have a lot of power.
MV: Does that mean that the type of games that we’ll be able to stream will be different?
Jeramy Cooke: We will see hybrid streaming games where some elements of a game that can be calculated offline will be streamed to the console – boosting its power.
MV: So, it seems like streaming will become at least a limited part of the console experience but won’t be able to squeeze them out of the market all together for quite some time.
Jim Shephard: Right. Streaming services seem great for players since they get to pay less money to play more games.
The tradeoff is a clumsy and disconnected experience with lower visual fidelity.
MV: So, there’s some fine print that developers aren’t putting out there?
Jim Shephard: The hype men on the show floor will show you near-zero latency wizardry, but everyone at home who's seen their Netflix drop to 480p for no good reason at random knows how the internet really works.
The technology isn't there yet, but it is getting closer every day.
MV: Guys, you are all players, of course, and game developers. That gives you a unique perspective. Do you think that streaming services will be good for game developers?
Jim Shephard: For developers, the move to streaming services pushes every game towards the free to play model.
Andrew Aversa: It remains to be seen how streaming will work for developers.
Jim Shephard: Big AAA publishers will still command plenty of money from the service, but the little folks are going to see a smaller cut than what they'd get selling their product on today's marketplace.
Andrew Aversa: From personal experience, I've seen how music streaming platforms are not always kind to artists in terms of royalty rates. However, we don't know yet how this will be handled by companies like Google.
MV: So, the concern is more with indie game developers and their share of profits? Or simply losing leverage in the market all together?
Andrew Aversa: Will they pay some fraction of a penny each time your game is played? Each hour? Will it be a flat fee?
Time will tell.
MV: And what about the Nintendo Switch? It’s like the wild card in all this talk about consoles and streaming services.
Andrew Aversa: The Switch is incredibly exciting, both as a consumer and developer.
So many great games, both classic and modern, are being released for the system and available to play in a portable format for the first time.
MV: Switch for the win!
Andrew Aversa: It's also far more powerful than previous portable systems like the 3DS, which means you can feasibly develop with modern game engines and port to Switch without making major sacrifices.
I can't wait to see what Nintendo does next.
MV: Thank you all for sharing your thoughts with Men’s Variety and good luck with your games.
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