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The Free Future of Gaming

The “free” future of gaming is fast approaching. I don’t mean free, as it relates to your wallet, but free as it relates to what goes into the game system and what goes in your hands. This means more downloadable games, and less discs, cartridges, and controllers. Will this future also be make gaming get at least a little closer to monetarily free? In the short term, no. In the long-term, possibly.

From a disc/cartridge-free perspective, Sony is currently the farthest along among the three major console developers. Their recently released “PSP Go” system does not take UMDs that the prior versions of the hand-held system ran games off of. Instead games can only be purchased via an online store and then downloaded onto the system. The PSP Go comes with built-in memory of 16 GB and can have more memory if an additional memory stick is purchased. Like any “first” in technology, the PSP Go is not actually the future of gaming. For one thing, it offers no tangible benefit over the preexisting PSP units other than being smaller.

The older PSP systems are also capable of downloading games off of the store AND can use discs.

Furthermore the PSP Go is more expensive and, importantly, the PSP itself is one of the least sold consoles to begin with. It only narrowly outsells the PS2 on a monthly basis, which was released several years earlier.

For there to be success with a download-only system it must either be an entirely new console with unique games and features, or be cheaper than the alternative. Realistically, the cheaper idea is not going to work.

Microsoft has no incentive to sell a new version of the Xbox 360 that could only run downloadable games for less than the console they are already selling. So, as I said it won’t be helping out your wallets in the near future. There has already been some success in adding downloadable games to consoles as one option though. Hits such as Braid and Geometry Wars 2 have been only available for download. As a result of games like this I would not be shocked to see at least 1 of the successors to a current platform (360, PS3, Wii, DS, or PSP) be fully disc-free from the get-go. Just don’t expect it be any cheaper for it.

Next is the controller-free concept. Nintendo really made hitting the “non-gamer” market its priority. To do this they made each of their newer consoles have less traditional video game controllers. Each has buttons, but the DS also as an interactive touchscreen and the Wii uses a controller that has motion-sensing controls.

It has so far worked out beyond anyone’s beliefs for them with the Wii and DS easily outselling the competition, after Nintendo’s more traditional approach, the GameCube was outsold by the Xbox and PS2.

Clearly, Sony and Microsoft heard this news just like the rest of this. At an important video game trade show, E3, this year Sony showed off a motion sensor controller and Microsoft unveiled a totally hands-free way of controlling a game through a camera, complete with voice-activation.

Now camera based gaming is nothing new. Microsoft even has a “vision camera” for the Xbox 360. The PlayStation 2 had something similar called the Eye Toy. These have always been gimmicky pieces of hardware with limited support and usually poor functionality. With Microsoft’s new camera feature codenamed “Natal,” they seem to be hoping to make it more mainstream and usable. Whether this iteration of the hands-free gaming will be the one to finally take-off has yet to be seen. Certainly, it has more buzz around it than the Eye Toy or vision camera and major developers have been reported to be looking into its practicality and application in games. Regardless, it is clear that the concept of a controller-free gaming universe is one that is not dying off and I believe it is becoming evident that it will become more and more widespread as the years go by.

Both the disc-free and controller-free concepts seem like they should benefit the customer by being less expensive. If all you have to physically purchase is the console and not controllers or games it should be cheaper. Buying games would only require downloading code and the system would come bundled with all the controllers needed. One day this may be the case, but for now, like with any new technological shift, it will not be any cheaper than the past, and may actually be more expensive. Is this what gamers truly want or would a change to more powerful hardware, better games, and traditional controllers be better received? Would gamers rather have the current way to play get cheaper or have developers continue to push for new ways of play that could be more expensive?

Pros and Cons Of PC Games

PC games became popular in the year 1983. This is after the launch of ‘crash’ which was a big hit. Since then the industry has undergone a number of changes and it’s now common to find high quality games that come with separate consoles.

PC games come with a number of pros and cons:

Pros of gaming

When playing, you easily socialize. This is common when playing multiplayer games that require you to play against other people on the sofa or online.

Another advantage is that the game plays a huge role in improving your intellect. This is because most of the PC games are intellectual; therefore, you have to use clever strategies for you to beat the people you are playing against.

Other than improving your intellect, the games help in fast thinking. This is because you require to think fast which plays a vital role in improving your reaction times.

In some cases, the games are educational. For example, simulations of flight and real-life situations are usually educational thus they teach you a lot of life lessons.

Improved eye and hand co-ordination is another advantage. As you play fast action games, you tend to have top notch eye and hand co-ordination.

The final advantage is that PC games are fun; therefore, you thoroughly enjoy yourself when playing. This plays a vital role in eliminating boredom.

Cons of gaming

Some of the games are single player; therefore, you can only play them alone. This requires you to be isolated from your family and friends for long hours. This can make you be marked as anti social.

The games tend to take plenty of your time which you would have spent doing something productive. The result is lowered productivity which can be fatal on your side. To ensure that you don’t lower your productivity, it’s recommended that you play only after you are through with your daily chores.

High quality games require high quality hardware and software which are usually expensive. This means that if you have poor money management skills you can end up going broke after buying a number of expensive hardware and software.

Although, the games have their fair share of disadvantages, they also have their advantages. To minimize the disadvantages you have to develop strategies on how you will play. One great strategy is to play free games in order to avoid getting broke.

You should also consider playing only when you are through with your daily activities.

The Survival of Computer Gaming

Our industry is dying. We all know that the so called “Next Generation” consoles are driving our beloved PCs out of the market. I could list the reasons why this is happening…I could even list the reasons why it should not be happening, but to those of you who are interested in reading this, I know that you’re already intimately familiar with our predicament. It really has crept up on us. Honestly, there have been some great PC games released over the past couple years that have satisfied my gaming needs; but a few days ago, I had a rude awakening into this new world of “console only” games that has unleashed a beast inside of me. As a side note, I should say that I really don’t have any problem with the Xbox360, the PS2, or the Wii other than the fact that they are killing the industry that I love…the industry that I grew up with. Anyways, back to my rude awakening. Many of you have heard about LucasArt’s new title “Star Wars: The Force Unleashed” which will be released this fall. Many of you have also heard that it will not be released for the PC. Not now, not ever. Judging from the trailers and new technology that has gone into this game, it looks like it would be addictingly fun and could possibly even be my favorite of the year. However, according to the producers of the game, the PC market is not stable enough for this title. In other words, there aren’t enough people out there with computers that would be able to handle the game. (Ironically enough, it is being released on the Nintendo DS and the Wii, neither of which are high performance gaming systems.)

What has happened? I’ve been playing Star Wars games on the PC for over ten years back when the X-Wing series and “Rogue Squadron” were just coming out. And now LucasArts won’t even port their major release to the PC for their most loyal of fans? The situation is bad and on course to get much worse. After all, this is just one of the many games that have been excluded from the PC already. So is it time for PC gaming to become extinct? Should we give up our fully customizable gaming platforms and surrender to the standardized systems accepted by corporate stooges? I say NO!!!

But what will it take to survive in this industry. How can we regain our prowess in the world of video games. We have to be smart. We can no longer rely on our superior numbers to guarantee acknowledgment and preferential treatment in the biz, so we must rely on our superior brainpower to win this war (That’s right console fans…I said it…we’re smarter than you). We can no longer rely on unorganized petitions that half of us won’t even see anyways. What Should We Do?!?!

We must get organized. We need to understand that we are an extremely marketable, niche group of people that should be catered to by game development companies. Lets face it, computer gamers are generally pretty nerdy…I’m guessing there’s not one of us who couldn’t set up a simple website if need be, not one of us who isn’t doing some serious online surfing every day, not one of us who wouldn’t love to work for Tom’s Hardware full-time, and the list goes on. Yes, there are only a few hundred thousand of us, and compared to the millions of console gamers out there, it’s pretty hard for us to get attention these days. But we are all interested in the same thing: Computer hardware and games, and as a unified community we could become very powerful again. Remember, 500,000 gamers times $40 equals $20million, plenty enough to make some pretty awesome games.

So here are some ideas for what the computer gaming industry needs:

  • A database of all the computer gamers in the world and the systems they have.
  • A well-maintained forum to discuss important events and plans.
  • Elected leaders to attack those who deny us.
  • A website devoted to keeping PC gamers informed on industry news.
  • Polls to decide which games we will support and which we will protest.
  • A group of ninjas to kill console gamers…………..ok maybe not that one…..but maybe.