Games, and game development are advancing toward the future at a brisk pace. Things have come a long way from playing on a “Personal Computer” that didn’t even have a hard drive. I can remember being at a friends house watching him play games from GIANT 5.25 disks, and that was smaller than the absolutely laughable 8in disks. Things have been getting smaller and more efficient ever since then, but where will the future take us?
When I really starting playing games, we had an Atari 2600. At the time it was one of the best home game consoles you could get. Games were neatly kept on cartridges about the size of your fist. They were easy to store, and just as easy to swap out when you wanted to play a different game. Neatly labeled on the outside, though most of the time the artwork may have slightly over-played the graphics in the actual game. It was a nice start, however.
Next (for me anyway) came the Nintendo Entertainment System. Carts were a bit bigger but held more info. All of the portability was still there, as far as taking the games with you to a friends house. Earlier cartridges lacked the battery backup save features, but that wasn’t anything we were used to at the time so passwords weren’t a big deal. One thing that EVERYONE had to deal with on the NES that I don’t remember dealing with on the 2600 was the “blow here to make game work” feature Nintendo added. Still, it wasn’t enough to push kids away from playing games, even to this day.
Next up, CDs. Yeah it was a big step in the right direction for gaming. For everyone except Nintendo that is. CDs were sleek and could hold a crap ton of information compared to the old cartridges. Not only that, but now games could have amazing soundtracks as well. No longer forced to us a single chip for sound and music, developers were able to pack real “music” into games that changed the overall feel of the title entirely. Can you imagine playing a game like Metal Gear Solid with 8bit chiptunes? While the nostalgic side of me screams “Hell Yeah” the realistic side knows that it would have changed the mood of that game completely.
DVDs and BluRay discs were next to come down the proverbial technology pipe. While they did nothing more than add even more space for games to be shoe-horned onto, this was still a huge leap. Games could now span much much more time, have more spoken dialog, as well as full orchestral soundtracks that gamers still listen to. Not to mention the totally over the top CG graphics and cut scenes that could now play out. Making game more of an interactive movie than ever before.
Which brings us pretty much to present day. Digital distribution, that’s the name of the game now. With the ease of being able to hop onto your respective provider of choice (LIVE, PSN, Steam etc.) and download add-on packs as well as full games. Sure you don’t have the “physical” game to look at, but who has space anymore. The big question is; what’s the next step?
I am sure that it would be hard for anyone to have believed back in the early 80’s that we would be playing games that looked as good as they do now and all housed in a roughly 50gb disc. Can digital distribution phase out big box “brick and mortar” companies? Though I haven’t played much of it, is a system like OnLive really the next big thing? Will there be another physical medium that gamers will purchase to play in their home consoles? So what can the future hold for us as gamers? Where do we go from here?