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Thursday, January 07, 2010

2010 Gaming Predictions

Note that my predictions are generally based on uninformed hearsay and the occasional rumormongering. So with that dash of new optimism - let us look forward.

Nintendo will throw more hardware at the problem
I would like to say "Nintendo will give third party developers what they need to succeed" ... but I just don't think they have the interest at the moment. Sad as it is, the Wii's current plight probably works for Nintendo. Worse case scenario is that sales begin to drop, but that still leaves a huge pool of people to sell crappy license titles (for which Nintendo is certainly seeing some cash) and more hardware (accessories to measure your heart rate, for instance, so that you can see just how much the console is boring you).

A new HD-enabled Wii wouldn't shock me, but I'm not calling it just yet. This is more than just tweaking a few pixels here and there, and it would be ramping up Nintendo's console schedule ... and I don't think they're losing enough cash for that. Earliest suggestions from the pundits is 2011 - which will be in time to really do battle with Sony and Microsoft's motion technology.

Which brings us to...

3D, Motion Tech will be mostly talk
Despite the big splash Microsoft and to a lesser extent Sony has made out of adding new functionality like Natal, 2010 isn't when we're going to be knee deep into it. I'd guess we'll see a near holiday release of any big changes to the hardware and 2011 is when the software will really come to play. Whether Sony makes a big push for 3D gaming is hard to say - I'm still not buying into the idea that 3D sets are going to be viable in our near future.

We start to hit the graphics ceiling
In previous generations, year to year would prove out large changes in the how games looked on consoles as better compression and data algorithms were moved from chalkboard to chips. The gains of these kinds of tricks seems to have already slowed down for at least the 360 and PS3, making one game with awesome graphics look quite like another game with awesome graphics. Take Uncharted 2 as an example - quite possibly the best graphics put on Sony's console to date, but not a generational leap like we saw with some PS2 games.

Add in the fact that developers are beginning to question if some statistics like 60 FPS will really turn out not only a better product, but also bigger returns ... and I think the next real push from developer's won't be better graphics - but better animation, lighting, visual effects in general ... i.e. - better set design.

2010: Year of the DLC
All three console makers have fully embraced downloadable content and 2009 moved us past the "Age of Horse Armor" as it were ... we're finally seeing real expansions, real content and now that the PS3 and 360 are into both Netflix and Facebook ... extending the consoles past merely grabbing game content. 2009 also saw a huge push into games we'd normally think of as disc only titles becoming available for download ... and 2010 will continue to push that envelope.

One twist for a "Wii HD" that I can think of is Nintendo not pushing their graphics hard, but release a console which a) upscales the current content and b) serves essentially as a Roku. It would be a small enough change that they could release it ahead of 2011 ... but I don't really see it happening.

MMO's come to consoles
Sony is in the lead here, with Free Realms and Sodium One - though one is a free MMO that doesn't have a publish date and the other is a Sony Home space few people seem to have heard about. Still, we also have MAG coming up, which supports a ridiculous amount of people online ... all adding up to the notion that the network and the hardware will be able to handle it. This leaves the "but my PC knows my macros" rationale ... which I doubt will be a real barrier.

Remember, DC Universe is due out early in 2010. The real breaking point for the genre will the game that charges a monthly fee.

OK, that's that for now - might have more later or at the very least a 2010 wishlist.


sterno said...

Nintendo won't go HD. The problem they face right now is that what sold the Wii is the unique control scheme that it had. If they tried to release a new console, people who already own wii's would shrug and go on playing their Mario cart. The only thing that would hurt Nintendo more than having an underpowered shovel wear system would be a new HD version of the same thing nobody was buying.

Nintendo got lucky with the Wii. I don't see that lightning striking twice given that both MS and Sony have more unique control schemes nearly ready to go to market with nary a peep out of Nintendo.

My prediction is that the Wii was a high point for Nintendo but that they will slowly fade away. Their hand held sales slowly taken away by Apple, and their console sales stagnating with no potential for competing with 360 and PS3. Nintendo will still make money selling their software, but they'll end up selling it on other platforms like what happened with Sega.

Josh said...

I agree. The real problem is that HD won't solve their problem. Their problem is software, not hardware.

Sadly - the best piece of hardware they could introduce is a serious gamepad designed for the real world, not for retro games. But they can't because they've positioned the Wiimote as being so important and already thrown so many adpators at people.

I didn't buy into the Nintendo naysayers when the Gamecube was in decline, but I'm willing be more sanguine now. Microsoft and Sony's motion offerings may be the nail in the Wii's coffin.