Okay, I will be the first one to admit I don’t really have a clue which ones are going to be the platforms of the future.
There used to be simpler times where one could predict where the industry was headed. Or at least have a vision somewhat aligned with the near future and act upon it. We knew Playstation 3 was going to come after PS2, XBox 360 after Xbox, better and improved PC hardware. We could sit back and plan in the long-term.
But, now, what the heck is happening?
The foundation trembles
Stop the train, I want to get off. We are living this paradigm shift everywhere that it’s hard to ponder all the changes without risking being left behind.
Just to mention a couple of examples, Flash just released Stage3D. Deemed dead by the hand of HTML 5 now Adobe is trying to reinject new life into their platform. Already, Epic announced Unreal Engine running on Flash 11. What?!
This guy Brandon Jones from Motorola Mobility ported a Team Fortress 2 level to WebGL, granted, still green but remarkable nonetheless.
We already have been over the Wii and the broadening of the market. Everyone and their grandmother were playing games. I cannot recall how many movies and series I’ve seen that used Guitar Hero, and it was cool to play a game! No longer something uniquely related to the geeky lab rat.
Battlefield 3 is about to come out with an entire part of the game made in the web. Maybe it’s not the core game, but the whole community, leaderboards, engagement, server selection is actually a meta game of its own.
The very foundation of gaming is trembling and with it, a great deal of options are rising.
Slew of options
A slew of options indeed! I swear you can stumble upon anything and get gaming.
Bring out your cellphone, play a game.
Go to a friend’s house, turn on the PS3/Wii/Xbox360, even older ones (PS1, XBox, N64, Dreamcast?). Play a game.
Turn on the PC, do some work, send a couple of emails. Launch Steam, Impulse, whatever. Play a game.
Launch your browser. Play a game.
Turn on your Netbook. Play a game.
Grab your tablet PC. Play a game.
Don’t forget your portable Nintendo DS or Sony PSP. Play a game on the subway.
I’m not sure if we are there but possibly in no time, turn on your TV. Play a game, using your Smartphone as a controller (The stuff of the future, I tell ya!).
And to top it all. Some bold moves on behalf of Onlive, Gaikai and many others that are trusting on the cloud and making the platform obsolete. Or at least, moving the pivot point between the user and the game provider. Forget that there is even a console, tv, pc, tablet or phone. Use everything to play a game!
This is leading to an explosion of accessibility, or should I say implosion?
Convergence or divergence
One could say that there is a huge divergence in terms of platforms available. That there is a place for everyone. Just different types of gamers, and more importantly, more potential gamers. As developers we just need to cater our games to different markets and be ready to face any specific challenges. Gaming everywhere!
On the other hand, web technologies and the extreme accessibility and deployment that the Software as a Service is bringing to the table (and behind, all their cloud siblings such as IaaS and PaaS), is hinting of platform convergence.
Maybe, just maybe in the near future, you could turn on your PS4 and play a game on the web, after playing an intense Uncharted 5 session. Or just show your friend this big mean boss from Resistance 5, on your tiny phone while she plays a MMO on the Xbox 720, against other players that are on the road with their notebooks.
Or what if there is no PS4/Xbox as we think there is gong to be? It could more diffuse than a single platform. Right now, trying to know what the future holds, is an exercise in futility.
So, where are we going?
Well, I will admit once again, I still have no clue after all this rambling. Do you? Please tell me.
In the past, knowing what the direction of the industry is going is a powerful thing and has enabled several companies and developers to be ahead of their time.
Now, anticipation could be the best thing you could have ever done or the worst. Studios come and go faster than ever before, no one likes to lose their job or their beloved projects.
That leads us to embrace adaptation as key, more than ever. Be ready for anything.
Whatever the case, the possibilities are exceedingly exciting and they are there for the taking.