It is a bit hard to believe that the current generation of consoles has been going strong for almost eight years at this point. Series like Uncharted and Assassin's Creed are already five years old. PC gaming has had a rousing comeback - heck, the best selling FPS in the world right now is doing so thanks to a zombie mod. A new console may very well have been launched thanks to funding from the public. The world of gaming as we know it is nothing like it was just a few years ago, as it should be, but are things about to change drastically yet again? Is gaming, in its current shape and form, about to dissapear as we know it?
Perhaps the most obvious thing to point out is yes, it is going to change - theres a new line of consoles right around the corner. The WiiU is due out by the end of this year, and both Sony and Microsoft are expected to announce new consoles sometime within the next 12 months. So, this current generation, which has shouldered the largest growth the industry has ever seen, is on its way out. But these new consoles can not fight the same fight that their predicessors have. Two threats loom in the immediate future - PC gaming and the brand new Ouya.
PC game sales increased 15% in 2011, and 2012 is sure to see even more growth. The capabilities given to us by programs such as Steam has drastically changed our views on both game value as well as service. We've all heard stories of someone contacting Steam saying "meant to buy x, bought x instead", and seen Steam give them a full refund, no questions asked. It is this service and outright love for the gaming community that has allowed Steam to become the powerhouse that it is. The Ouya, which saw its Kickstarter pull in over five times what they were hoping for, is obviously the direction that gamers want gaming to go - an on demand, straight to your TV service which offers a wide and creative selection of games. Sony and Microsoft need to take note - their audience is ready to say goodbye forever to physical copies of games. They like downloads, they like being able to get a game straight to their screen. Sure, you can download tons of games to your consoles right now, but not new major releases. With Valve also rumored to be entering the console game at some point, you can be sure the consoles are attempting to bring their big guns to bear for the next big fight.
But its not just the way we play our games that is about to change. It is who delivers them to us. The two biggest names in third party gaming, ActiBlizzard and EA, are both on shaky ground. ActiBlizzard is actively being shopped out to potential buyers at the moment, although it seems like noone is willing to touch it at this point. EA is desperately trying to plug up holes in a ship its audience has lost much of its faith in. One year ago today EA stock was worth about $23 - right now, it is worth only about half that. The names we are used to seeing before each game we play are in jeopardy, and it is entirely thanks to us, the audience, the players. And this is a good thing. Developers have forgotten just how important it is to keep the trust of your loyal gamers - betray it, and in this modern technological era, soon there will be outcry. We've seen such aimed many times towards these two mega-publishers - the repetitiveness of the COD series, publishers being bought out and absorbed, Day 1 DLC - and now they are beginning to feel the effects of it.
We are, for the first time really, about to enter the era of the Gamer. An era where Gamers have their vote, where we play just as large a role in the industry as the developers themselves. Our feedback, our votes, our comments, we are shaping this industry on a day by day basis. Our love for these games, both in casual and competitive form, is pushing gaming forward in a way we would not have even been able to conceive only a few years ago. If you want to see how large of an effect we have on gaming, look no further than the aforementioned DayZ mod for Arma II, a mod which has marked a major resurgance of a game otherwise completely forgotten. Skyrim sold, as expected, millions, but its true life blood is its mod community, which continues to dive the game forward in interesting and often hilarious ways. No, modding is in no way new, but it is far more acessable than it ever has been before.
There is a lot of change coming soon. Giants of this industry may be soon changing hands, and new challengers may be already carving out a corner for themselves. What we must do as gamers is ensure that our voices are heard from here on out. This is an industry which is learning that if you don't cater to your audience, you can actually pay the price now. The audience has gained power. Our voices and actions are having a direct effect on the way the future of gaming is forming. Hell, the fact that I am writing this article is a testiment to that - in hopes that my words may have an effect.
Will the consoles survive on demand gaming? Are the giants of publishing about to fall? Do we shape gaming or does it shape gamers?
It's all up to us, really. And that is awesome.