Five glimpses into the future of gaming

Change is coming. The new generation of consoles is looming over the horizon, teasing us with their presence and we keep getting news stories about analysts believing this will be the last console generation. Our technology has improved so much during the span of the current generation and some things we hold as the norm are soon to change entirely for the better. We’re heading into exciting times, folks. Things are about to get very fast, very quick and we’ve already laid a bunch of groundwork for all this new tech.

Much of what we will discuss already exists today in some capacity, but a lot of it is first-generation tech that hasn’t become the standard just yet or is only used in some sort of fringe capacity. But they do allow us to get a peek into what the future of gaming will look like, so let’s do exactly that.

VR

VR has had a bit of a weird birth and adolescence. When it was conceived, our minds raced with all the possibilities and the promise of a fully immersive game world that you feel like you’re physically in. It was an exciting time and lots of people got filthy rich. But the technology is still very much in its infancy. We still get screen door effects because the resolutions of the headsets aren’t up to snuff. You need a degree in electrical engineering to plug the bloody things in since the headset requires about five kilometres of cable. The HTC ViVe is awesome, but you also need to dedicate an entire room to it if you want to play it properly. The things are also bulky, uncomfortable to wear and not exactly flattering unless you like looking like you have a bucket on your face.

But VR is the most exciting thing to happen to gaming since, well, the time it was created. This is a whole new medium we’re dealing with and we’re just now starting to take full advantage of it. Once VR strips away the baby fat and refines itself enough, you can expect this to be a permanent fixture in our futures. The PSVR proved that VR gaming can be affordable (even if it’s still pretty damn expensive) and once the price barrier drops a bit, we’ll see VR lift off to heights we’ve never seen. VR is never dead. Only resting.

Cloud gaming

This ain’t the cloud.

Cloud gaming is a nebulous term. What, are you playing games on a cloud? No, it’s when you play a game using the power of the internet. We can’t seem to wrap our minds around it just yet because we’ve not been able to really see it in action outside of a couple of demos. But cloud gaming will have a very big role to play in our futures. Think about it, instead of console refreshes happening every five years, we can now automatically upgrade everyone using the internet.

There are many doubts that this won’t work and I personally believe that we just don’t have the internet speeds necessary in the world to fully accommodate it. But just think for a second. When was the last time you went without internet for a whole day? Exactly. Once it’s everywhere, we’ll talk again.

SSDs

I have been known to harp on about SSDs to the point of annoyance, but you would too if you saw the difference. I wrote a whole piece on the advantages of SSDs over your standard hard drives which I encourage you to read. But the short version is that SSDs allow for speed as we’ve never seen before. The 15 second long black screen loading times will be gone, replaced with near instantaneous load times and almost zero downtime for you. To think, we’ve grown so used to inferior HDDs that loading times have just become the norm for us. It doesn’t have to be.

The thing is, SSDs are slowly going to replace HDDs worldwide. The need for physical storage (on the end-user side at least) is down since we’re all living digitally and laptops were just begging to switch to SSDs because they’re so prone to have HDD failures due to all the moving parts. SSDs are still pretty expensive, but once the prices drop and we start seeing these everywhere, we’ll live in a world where waiting around for stuff is a thing of the past. Just imagine the sheer amount of time that will open up in the world if this goes widespread.

Game Subscriptions

Blockbuster Video, remember them? Do you even still remember video rental places? The invasion of the digital space hit us all when we didn’t expect it. Suddenly one day renting DVDs during the weekend was just not possible anymore and everyone around you was saying you need to get Netflix. Cable cutting, “going digital” or whatever you want to call it is becoming more and more common and the future lies in subscription services.

You’ve seen them already. Xbox Game Pass, EA Access, Ubisoft is rumoured to get one too, PlayStation Now etc. The future lies in these subscriptions because of their convenience and everyone like convenience. Instead of buying older games on sale, we’ll just get to play them. New releases will be headliners on the various services and we will have more games than we’ll ever get to realistically play. Sign me up, brother.

Display technology

1080p, 60 FPS. That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? It’s because that’s what you’ve mostly been looking at for the past decade and if you’re on console, you probably got used to 30 FPS. These formats are now officially old. 4K is the next step in display technology and before you start shouting that it’s been around forever, I’m saying that 4K screens will start being the norm. 1080p panels will start to go the way of the CRTs since there is so much you can improve with it and 4K basically makes all those improvements outright.

I won’t get excited for 8K technology at all because once you reach such a massive resolution, you’re just showing off. The amount of data it takes output to 8K is astounding and while it is cool that it’s the next big step up, it’s not as important as the upgrade from 1080p to 4K. Additionally, HDR technology is getting better and better making for more immersive and beautiful worlds.

Ray tracing is the next step in graphics. At the time it’s still incredibly hard to get it to work and not completely tank performance, but if you’ve seen any ray tracing demos, you’d know it is astounding. Unbelievable realism to the point where it’s indistinguishable from reality. That sounds like the future to me. The tech has barely been around in the gaming space, but if it gets refined, we’ll have our collective minds blown.

Conclusion

The future of gaming is extremely exciting. We’ve got new technologies, better technologies taking over and massively powerful home consoles in the near future. A while back I believed that gaming has reached its peak. That what we’re doing right now is as good as it gets. But if you look at the things I discussed, I now think we’re just getting started.

I am way too tall, played way too many games and I love to write about what we love about games. In the end, I'm just being #Thabolicious

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