Thursday, June 7, 2012

What this year E3 Shows About the Future of Gaming?

So, E3 is ending (if it not ended already), so, what those few days delivered to us, gamers? Well, we receive some new games, more details on games we already now, a little bit more information on new hardware, the usual stuff. This E3 was very disappointing, because nothing really surprising and innovative was show in it, but was quite entertaining to discuss it. But now that no more surprises wait for us, a question raises. What about the future? What this convention tell us about how videogames will be in the future?

First, I saw many games trying hard to be more than just silly violence. Yes, most games shown had at least some violence in some degree. Even Pikmin 3 had some cartoonish violence, about using force to achieve an objective. But many aren't using violence as the main point, as a way to appeal to our own violent needs. Some, like The Last of Us, used violence not as fun and amusing, but very raw and disturbing.

It is clear that the game industry is really trying to create something different, or at least to make what seems to be a common place and try something different with it. This is a trend the industry is showing for some time now, trying to diversify their offerings a little bit, despite we all knowing that gamers claim for something different and original but buying the same kind of games over and over again. And that brings me my next point.

While some in the industry is in disposition to try something different, clearly some have no idea what they should do from now on. Nintendo showed that very clearly. Nintendo showed that they aren't sure what they should do to gain more consumers. They showed at least three Mario games, not a single new IP and nothing really geared towards the audience who ignored the Wii to buy a PS3/360. All their games geared to those consumers were ports of existing games or multiplatform games who will come in the end of the year.

Even Zombi-U may come to other platforms. Meanwhile, Nintendo showed lots and lots of first party titles geared to their family and children audience. It shows that Nintendo don't know to whom they should work hard to get. If to the same people who made the Wii a success or to the audience who are in other platforms. This lack of focus may be costly to Nintendo, were they could fail to attract both audience in the first years of the Wii-u(it is international law you must laugh at this name, so, HAHAHAHAHA). I don't think they will go 'the way of Sega', as the 3DS is doing well, so they can have the time to decide were to focus before their new console fail.

Microsoft, on the other hand, showed very clearly where they want to be. They want to be in the living room, selling you subscriptions for live so you can stream a lot of movies trough their Xbox. They believe there is a broader market for this than just a good game machine, and they might be right. But to gamers, this could be a real bad thing. Microsoft started as the gamer machine, the machine made to play the best games the best way, the games the older audience wanted. But now Microsoft don't want them anymore. Or better yet, they believe they cannot lose them.

Yes, there was some good game showing in the conference, but clearly they wanted to showcase all the 360 can do aside games more than what their existing public want. This casts doubt about how good it next machine will be for games or if they will just focus on their new strategy of 'entertainment center that even do games', they could lose potential buyers. On the other hand, it does not mean Microsoft forgot of the games, because they still see money they can earn from games. So, while I don't expect Microsoft giving up on games, I expect them to just put them on the back seat and ask them to be quiet.

Sony showed a bit more focus on games. They may being expecting that both Nintendo and Microsoft may lose some dedicated gamers because of their strategy and they can see an opportunity to grab them to themselves. Also, with all the financial problems they are having, focusing their products for an audience who spend lots of money may be a better strategy. While they offer some video services and their machines do more than games, they are putting the games back on their front seats. But that will only pay off if they make some more marketing.

The recently launched PS Vita was almost forgotten in their presentation, which show that they still need to work a lot on their marketing. But they showed some solid games, some new stuff related to games. Sony may have done lots of mistakes this generation, but it seems they know those mistakes and are trying to make the right things.

Meanwhile Ubisoft surprised everyone by showing some new exciting stuff, and have being acclaimed as the best (or at least, more exciting) presentation in this E3. A complete contrast with EA more of the same presentation, which bummed many games. While one is trying to create excitement, the former is just saying 'here are more of you like!'.

All those presentations showed that the industry is in the middle of a crucial point. Should they completely change themselves, keep as it is or going back to the way they were? The fact is that they don't know the answer yet. With gaming become more and more an universal experience than something a select group appreciated, it may as well be very hard to predict it today. It is clearly that there is several strategies at this point, and some will pay better than others.

I believe that staying the same will just end poorly. It is clearly that gamers want new things. It is also clearly that a complete change will scare away everyone. Maybe The Last of Us showed what gamers really want: something familiar enough to them to recognize but done in a different way that they weren't expecting. And that is my prediction:

The companies that showed a desire to make different, to use what they know in different ways, like Ubisoft and Sony, will be very successful in the future. Those who are stuck in the past like EA, or don't know what they should do now, like Nintendo, will have trouble. And Microsoft may be successful as a media distributor, but that is coming at the cost of the games.

I doubt my predictions will come true in the next two or three years, but I believe we will see the signs of it as soon as all console makers launch their new platforms. But one thing I am sure. Gamers don't want the things as they are now.

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