Ben Sledge 16th February 2018
Think back to the murky depths of 2008. What comes to mind? Usain Bolt breaking the 100m World Record, twice? Wayne Rooney getting married? Barack Obama becoming President?
It all seems like a very long time ago, but has much changed? Bolt still holds the World Record, the Rooneys are (somehow) still married, and… shit.
The world of technology is arguably the most rapidly changing in the modern day. Each year, new innovations astound and inspire us, and this is exactly the case in video games.
Gaming has grown from strength to strength, in technology, innovation, and popularity. We’ve seen countless consoles, characters, and creations grace our screens, and it seems that everyone has played at least one video game, whether they enjoyed it or not.
A decade ago, admitting to playing video games was still on the cusp of being “too nerdy”, like telling your partner that you’ve got a collection of Star Wars figurines that they aren’t allowed to touch. However, nowadays, gaming is much more mainstream, and it seems like everyone and their dog games, or at least casually swipes at an app every once in a while.
Coincidentally, in 2008 Forbes published an article, this article in fact, predicting what gaming would be like in 10 years’ time. We thought we’d see how their predictions held up.
Forbes’ 8 predictions
Prediction 1: “Expect the demographics of the average videogamer to change significantly. The Wii’s motion-sensitive controller has gotten a lot of credit for being technologically innovative, but its real genius is that it opens up gaming for people who wouldn’t normally play video games.”
Video games have definitely hit the mainstream. Maybe it was the simplicity of the Wii that helped bring a new target market, maybe it was the allure of staying indoors to avoid the horrors of the outside world. Whatever the reasons, more and more people have caught the gaming fever, and they are ready to play.
Prediction 2: “You don’t have to read a 30-page manual and memorize 17 button combinations to play Wii Sports. If you know how to swing a tennis racket or throw a baseball, you’re good to go.
“Low-time-commitment games are also going to be huge. While it is generally true that middle-aged women won’t fire up an Xbox 360 for a hair-raising session of Bio Shock [sic], older women definitely play puzzle games like Solitaire or Bejeweled.”
While the source of this data is unclear in the original Forbes article, these statistics mark a trend that we still find in video games 10 years on. Even though an estimated 42% of UK gamers are female, a study by game analytics company Quantic Foundry found that this statistic varies wildly based on genre.
Female gamers make up 69% of Match 3 players (a genre that includes games such as Bejeweled), as opposed to only 4% of Tactical Shooter (i.e. BioShock). Just 2% of Sports gamers are female.
Prediction 3: “Shrewd entrepreneurs are already taking this to a new level, offering so-called ‘casual games’ specifically targeted at an older, female audience. Winster.com, for instance, is focused on creating cooperative, social games that particularly appeal to this demographic.”
This prediction isn’t entirely untrue, but lacks any real insight. Amongst my friends at least, the popularity of games sites like Winster.com (or, in our case, miniclip.com) fizzled out by the time we reached year 9 (for reference: 2008/09). The advent of the iPhone, released in 2007, meant that apps started growing more popular for this genre of gaming, and is possibly something that Forbes could have seen coming.
Additionally, apps have reached a non-specific demographic. Everybody plays them. Everybody. Yes, more young people play on mobile apps than their grandparents, but I am sure I saw some geriatrics copping a Pikachu on Pokémon Go when it was first released.
Mobile gaming is now a huge market, with Nintendo releasing app-ified versions of some of their biggest franchises (namely Pokémon and Animal Crossing), and games such as Clash of Clans (which you will have undoubtedly heard of from a bombardment of YouTube ads) have exceeded 100 million downloads on Android alone.
Forbes does correctly identify that these games focus on cooperative elements, with thousands gathering in Chester for a national Pokémon Go event in order to spawn rare monsters and working together in to successfully capture them.
Prediction 4: “The smartest game makers are also ‘thinking outside the screen’’ In 10 years, mashing buttons to control on-screen avatars will no longer be enough. Gamers will insist on being able to ‘feel’ a game, or to ‘move’ realistically within it. We already have force-feedback steering wheels, guitar-shaped controllers and pressure-sensitive dance pads. In the future, expect much more.”
Nailed it. VR, or virtual reality, is definitely a growing trend in video games. While not yet overtaking traditional console gaming as the way to play, as a concept it has been met with public appeal and VR headsets that you can simply pop your phone into are now very common (and reasonably priced).
Headsets containing the screen and software are also available, although at a premium. Major players in the industry PlayStation have developed the imaginatively named PS VR which can be yours for just under $150. At the moment it might be more worth your while to lash a couple of quid to Argos and grab a folding cardboard set for your phone, but in the future, who knows…?
Prediction 5: “Video game graphics will continue to grow richer and more detailed. But don’t expect that photo realism alone will be enough to sell a game. Sony’s face-flop with the PS3 proves gamers aren’t obsessed with hyper-realistic graphics to the extent that game designers are.
“Most gamers don’t require characters that look exactly like actors in a movie, and don’t care how realistically blood splatters; they want to play great games. Chess isn’t any more or less fun in high definition; it’s the game that counts.”
Sony have picked themselves up after their “face-flop” and are the PS4 now boasts 62% of the market share, according to VGChartz.com, and 19.64 million PS4s were sold in 2017, roughly as many as the Nintendo Switch and Xbox 1 combined.
Graphics and specifications of every console are improving with each new generation from Microsoft and PlayStation, however recent successes of online games such as Fortnite: Battle Royale and Overwatch show graphical prowess is not everything.
The success of the Nintendo Switch, the fastest-ever selling console in the US, both confirm and deny these numbers. While Nintendo has never tried to compete with Xbox and PlayStation in terms of the power of their consoles, they have massively improved the specs of the Switch in comparison to its predecessor, the Wii*. It still doesn’t touch the specs of the Xbox 1 or PS4, but after all, it is a part-handheld console.
It’s hard to say why the Switch has been so popular, and what it spells out for the future (and current state) of gaming. Is it the combination of increased power and classic Nintendo titles, or is it the portability of 3rd party games such as FIFA and DOOM that are bringing people to the console?
Whichever it is, the graphics on the Switch are definitely not the same standard as those of its two main competitors, and therefore its popularity confirms that people are buying into great games, not great graphics.
Prediction 6: “PC games are going to grow in importance, especially for older, more educated gamers. After being widely dismissed as dead (or irrelevant at best) only five years ago, PC role-playing games have made a tremendous comeback.”
PC sales are hard to monitor (pun 100% intended), due to the fact that people buy PCs for more than just playing games. I don’t know anyone who has bought an Xbox just to browse Facebook and send some emails.
As for RPGs, that is such a broad term I’m not sure what to make of it. As RPGs have been a staple of both console and PC gaming for many years, I am going to assume that what Forbes was referring to was MMORPGs, which are pretty much exclusive to PC gamers.
An MMO, or Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, is an entirely online game in which players interact with one another and complete tasks in order to progress. Interactions may be cooperating, trading, or indeed fighting in order to improve and level up the player’s character.
Back in 2008, my go-to MMO was Runescape, but World of Warcraft was, and remains, the most popular choice for MMO fans. It has held steady as the most popular MMORPG over the past ten years, and even if reports are to be believed that subscribers are falling, Activision said in its quarterly report that time spent in-game “grew year-over-year”.
Prediction 7: “Expect multiplayer online games to merge with each other and with social networking sites like Facebook and LinkedIn. The result will be a virtual meta-universe where your dragon-slaying, 67th-level Paladin from World of Warcraft will be able to seamlessly cross an electronic bridge and end up in a suburban kitchen worrying about the dirty dishes in The Sims Online.”
Missed the mark with this prediction. As much as Farmville and Candy Crush attempted to bridge the gap between social networks and gaming, their persistent annoyance brought this trend to a swift end.
Prediction 7.5: “As the young people who grew up playing these games embark on their careers, they will begin to establish business and social connections through the same networks. Don’t be surprised if, within a decade, you find yourself jetting off to Singapore to meet with members of the ‘Dark Brotherhood’ and close a business deal.”
While people of all races and walks of life play video games, to my knowledge, no business deals are made or closed online, except perhaps for those that impact in-game events.
Prediction 8: “Within 10 years, guilds formed on World of Warcraft or other online games will become offline political forces. Especially in Asia, look for these groups to start agitating for social change.”
This is stupid.
“This is a role traditionally reserved for university students, but in many ways, online groups are better suited to challenge the status quo. These tight-knit, hierarchical groups are dispersed geographically, and they’re used to playing specific roles–for example, casting healing spells or printing 1,000 posters.”
This is still stupid.
“In short, the instigators of the next Tiananmen Square could very well not be students from Peking University, but members of the ‘Chinese Nathrezim Finger Guild’.”
3 big things Forbes missed
- Gaming as a profession. Who’d have thunk it? Top videogamers earn as much as $20 million for winning the biggest and most competitive tournaments. Football teams are starting to hire professional FIFA players, and gamers can forge a career on YouTube or Twitch, streaming gameplay and reactions to millions of viewers.
- On that note, “watching” games has become a new way to “play”. Personally, I watch vicariously when I can’t afford the latest releases or while I’m waiting for a download to finish (counter-intuitive, I know, but I’m impatient). Millions tune in to watch their favourite games or streamers, contributing to literally billions of hours of gaming content watched online. Games companies need to understand that their games are now being watched as well as played.
- Video games in schools. Minecraft especially is being used to teach children about world-building and programming, and the company behind it even released an Education Edition especially for schools to use. Coding is also being taught, as children are becoming aware of their own online presence earlier than ever before. Is the future of classrooms virtual?
I couldn’t really finish this article without making some predictions about what the next 10 years of gaming will hold.
Prediction 1: I can safely predict that VR will gradually become more mainstream and games will become more immersive. Perhaps by 2028 we’ll all live in a Ready Player One-esque online existence. I doubt it, but Virtual Reality will be commonplace.
Prediction 2: Nintendo have begun to take some risks with the Switch, and with that paying off, perhaps they will be inclined to take more risks in the future. Maybe they will even start to steer away from plastering the very safe faces of Mario and Link into every possible situation, and create some new characters. As long as I get a decent sequel to Yoshi’s Island that lives up to the original, I’ll be happy.
Prediction 3: Careers in gaming will continue to rise, as designers, creators, and streamers, to match the increased public demand. Viewing figures for streaming services such as Twitch will continue to rise, and big competitions will start to sign deals with major TV Networks to be shown live. In 2028 we’ll all be off to the pub to support England in the Call of Duty World Cup, live on Sky.
Prediction 4: A boom in mobile gaming. While the pinnacle of mobile gaming may have been that blissful Pokémon Go summer of ’16, I think there is more in the future. Popular mobile titles such as YuGiOh Duel Links and Hearthstone keep millions of users (read: me) glued to their (my) phones. With phones getting more and more powerful, I could see them replacing handheld consoles completely.
Prediction 5: Finally, and this is a bit of a bit of a punt but bear with me, the rapid rise and fall of Bitcoin has got me thinking about cryptocurrencies and microtransactions. Linking in-game purchases to a cryptocurrency could provide gamers with another level of difficulty in-game. When is it best to buy a new weapon, when is it not? If in-game purchases are affected by an irl currency related to the game, perhaps in-game currencies will be able to be spent irl. Maybe you can sell your house in Skyrim in order to pay for the latest DLC.
How much of this will come true, I don’t know, but the rise of cryptocurrencies alongside the continued growth of gaming could easily be woven together by a keen-minded businessman. Who knows, in the future I don’t find it too unbelievable that their paths may well cross.
*I, like many others, refuse to acknowledge the existence of the Wii U.
Ben Sledge 16th February 2018