Lately it’s become easy to think of the gaming industry as something that’s constantly churning forward thanks to better graphics, bigger games, more immersion, and higher quality console. We’ve grown used to that kind of progression. Even so, we seem to be reaching a sort of crossroads in regard to the future of gaming. Different companies are starting to look toward the future with very different ideas of what the public wants, and it’s going to be interesting to see which ideas win out.
Improvement Of High-End Consoles
With no disrespect to Nintendo, which is still the prime provider for gamers looking for a certain kind of experience, Sony and Microsoft have come to command the industry. Furthermore the two power players are coming out with re-upped versions of their high-end consoles: the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One S, respectively.
This is kind of new for the gaming industry, and seems to suggest that we’ve just about come as far as we can in enhancing consoles. In other words, we’re not about to see the Xbox Two or PS5 anytime soon. Instead, we’re getting marginal upgrades for both the PS4 and Xbox One. As for what those upgrades actually entail, Digital Spy has provided one of the better rundowns we’ve seen, comparing the two consoles by diving into some of the changes and specs.
What we’re talking about is power and speed. The PS4 Pro is being celebrated for its ability to support native 4K gaming and 4K upscaling for HD titles, as well as the inclusion of an Jaguar CPU that will allow for significant graphical improvements. The Xbox One S has less of a power boost for gaming visuals, but will support HDR in games in addition to the ability to play 4K Blu-Ray (something the PS4 Pro can’t do). The point is that these are more powerful and capable versions of what are already exceptional consoles.
The VR Wave
We’ve been hearing about virtual reality constantly throughout 2016, and with good reason. Though some headsets have already been released and we’re still waiting on others, the potential of this new medium is clearly evident. Naturally, some of the early games are going to be a bit weak from a graphics standpoint, and developers will need some time to figure out what works and what doesn’t in VR. But this isn’t like the experiment with 3D home video a few years ago—this is an immersion stunt that’s going to stick around.
In a way, it’s come to represent the new pinnacle of gaming. The Irish lottery platform Lottoland, which has increasingly been dabbling in gaming, took the time to do a write-up about the evolution of video games, and put Sony’s VR headset at the top of the food chain. This was more of a timeline than a discussion of power or capability, but it still expresses how a lot of people feel about where we’re headed.
Circling back to Nintendo, the beloved gaming giant recently announced the Switch, its brand new hybrid console. The Switch has an interesting way of combining a mobile gaming device with a more traditional console setup, and the early reception to its unveiling has been largely positive. We know that it won’t have the raw power or capability of the PS4 or Xbox One, but there’s a chance that won’t matter to a lot of gamers. It’s something new, and unlike Nintendo’s last couple of innovations, it actually seems useful and interesting.
Whether or not Nintendo can alter the immediate future of gaming remains to be seen. But if the Switch works smoothly and customers are satisfied, we can probably expect other companies to imitate its design in future advancements of their own. The hybrid nature of the Switch is a bold idea, and it’s a curveball that a lot of people didn’t see coming. Incidentally, the console also has some features in place to attempt to bring back local multiplayer—which may actually be its most exciting aspect.
No single one of these ideas needs to “win,” but between them, they’ll set the pace for the future of gaming.