Playing with the future
Microsoft wussed out when it backtracked on the ‘always on’ features at had planned for the Xbox One. Gamers kicked up a storm – quite rightly – about how the world wasn’t quite ready to ditch physical discs. But if the company had held its nerve, been a little more understanding to the needs of gamers at the time, it would be way ahead of the curve now.
I almost never buy physical games anymore. It’s just so much more convenient to buy them online and download them. Now we’re nearly ready for the next stage – streaming-first gaming.
Following announcements from EA and Microsoft over the weekend, it seems likely that in a couple of years you’ll be able to play triple-A games over the internet on almost any device.
This next generation of streaming (more advanced and reliable than Sony’s retro-focused PlayStation Now service) will transform the accessibility of video games. Games seem to be going the way of music, movies, and TV: subscription-based, and all-you-can-eat for a fixed monthly fee.
There are some big questions, though. Firstly, how will games companies address the needs of players who don’t have fast internet connections? Will discs live on, simply out of necessity?
More fundamentally, how will streaming transform the economics of video games? Big titles are ludicrously expensive to produce. Will piecemeal subscription revenues adequately replace big one-time purchase prices?
And finally, how will streaming affect game design? We’ve already seen how music streaming has changed the way pop hits are written
. Getting to the hook as soon as possible is more important than ever. Given a huge library of games, players will be tempted to drop any game that doesn’t grab their attention in the first few seconds.
I don’t have the answers, but I look forward to seeing how the tail wags the dog when it comes to the future of gaming.