Saturday, March 5, 2011

Future of Video Games

            I would like to make a prediction right now about the future of one of my favorite hobbies, Video Games.  The next gaming system, be it the Playstation 4, Xbox 720, or the Super Wii Cube Virtual Revolution, will be as different from the current disk utilizing and motion control tom-foolery as the current generation is from the Cartridge utilizing systems of years long forgotten.

            My prediction is this: Video Game consoles will stop using game disks.  No more having to go to Game Stop, Best Buy, or Wal Mart to pick up the latest title, they will all be streamed to a large hard drive found in the system utilizing the Web connection you have.  This will give you what you want more or less on demand.  The game companies will sell new hard drives, but really they won't have to.  You will have an online account which will keep track of what games you have purchased and if you ever delete a game from your hard drive for space you can just download it again at any time from the internet, you essentially will be purchasing the right to play a game at any point you wish, forever.

            What in the world makes me say such a ridiculous portent?  Many things, not the least of which being that it already exists and is insanely profitable, efficient, and well liked by gamers all over the world.

            Currently there are services that do this very thing, and you have used them recently to rub yourself off with the pleasurable thoughts of nostalgia, and to add on fresh content to a title that was of particular interest to you.

            The Playstation network allows you access to movies, news, international multiplayer, and more importantly, downloadable content that takes the form of classic games and extra levels, weapons, maps, and just pointless bullshit like clothing all without having to leave your chair to get a new game disk.  Wii has the virtual store, again a source of news, multiplayer (which is balls), and classic games.  XBLA is the best of them as they get you to pay them for the pleasure of playing "Halo" against racist fat kids in Michigan, while downloading classic games.  All of them allow you to download independent titles that showcase new game mechanics, art styles, stories, and other risky ventures that major studios wouldn't put out for fear of loosing money.

            And forget those titans of industry, lets look at Gametap, the Netflix of games, allowing you to stream titles for a monthly fee, which is fucking awesome, at least in theory, my internet connection couldn't handle it I'm sure.  And there is also Onlive, the new system which much like a cable box allows access to games on demand using their own library.  And there is the mach daddy of services, "Steam" which is produced by Valve, makers of "Left 4 Dead", "Portal", and "Half-Life"; Steam has allowed the company to become the go to in online content acquisition for the PC, and I wouldn't be surprised if Valve did the reverse of Sega and moved into Hardware production, creating a system just for the utilization of the Steam network.

            Also, World of Warcraft, and the entire MMO style of play.  Or if you are really interested in throwing out internet related content, lets look at the huge number of flash games on, or the staggering number of bullshit available in any given ap-store for tiny little touch screens.  Oh, and Farmville.

            Why in the world would these companies do this?  Abandoning a business model that is tried and true?  Simple: they are getting screwed over by the retail system, and the used game marketplace.  Currently Gamestop is of the practice of buying back games and selling them at a discount, none of that second sale money goes back to the holders of the IP's, none of the coders, none of the development teams, none of the companies who made the games see any of that money.  Gamestop is making a killing as a fucking pawn shop, and none of that money is going toward the creation of new IP's and game technology.  The worst part, Walmart and Best Buy are planning on opening up a used game market themselves, using their superior store placement and technological culture to steal away Gamestop's customers (assuming of course that Best Buy just doesn't buy out Gamestop and use them as the front for this circle jerk).

            The only way to keep money flowing to companies like Double Fine, Bioware, Valve, and Bethesda, the real producers of what we want, is to cut out the retail companies altogether.  And they should.  Retail companies produce nothing, they fence the goods produced by others with a mark up, and pay employees very little.  They are fostering a dystopian future of a Libertarian ideal gone mad.

            I personally do not buy used games.  And in general I dissuade others from buying them.  Other people tell me that a used copy is cheaper but just as good, but fail to realize that it would be cheaper still if we just bought stuff direct from the creators rather than through a middle man who currently offers less and less.  I dream of a world in which we can buy things instantly, play them, and go back to working on creating things for others to instantly buy, be it entertaining junk, food, or clothes, or anything, rather than living in a world where we are all paid tiny amounts working shitty retail jobs, and have to buy used and repacked stuff because it is the only thing we can afford.

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