Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gaming in the Coming Years

When Sega released the DreamCast with the above average Sonic Adventures no one would have guessed the DreamCast’s downfall and that the quality of Sonic games free fall in the coming years.

To that end one has to wonder what crazy things will happen in the next few years in the ever changing and spontaneous world of the digital entertainment industry. I for one, have wondered, and have come up with some particularly crazy ideas that are so crazy they just might happen.

Xbox 360 Gets Parasite Eve 3 Exclusive

Square Enix (SE) is known for continuing its franchises for as long as possible, however with that comes the problem of console loyalty, it will take something special to 'de-commit' yourself from a company you are so used to working so closely with and expanding your borders.

For instance Square has invested heavily in developing the 'White Engine' that is to drive Final Fantasy XIII and Final Fantasy Versus on the Playstation 3, it would require an investment of almost the same magnitude to port Final Fantasy XIII to the Xbox 360. The fact that the Xbox 360 is dominating in North America and struggling in Japan is more reason for SE to hold back the J-RPG's from the console.

Enter Parasite Eve, SE's less than spectacular survival horror franchise that saw itself come into existence on the original Playstation. It makes sense on a number of levels, Parasite Eve is an existing franchise that SE owns, SE licensed Unreal Engine 3 (no doubt influenced by the better than expected sales of Gears of War in Japan) and is probably working on Parasite Eve 3 on the Xbox 360 as I write this article.

Nintendo Will Release New Console First (2009?) Which Will be the Only 100% Backwards Compatible Console After this Gen

Lets face it, the Wii isn't exactly a number cruncher and as fun as it is its cheap manufacturing and dated technology gives Nintendo the edge in two regards. First is obviously releasing its successor before any of the competition is even thinking about releasing a successor for their consoles and secondly it will, due to the older hardware, be the only 100% backwards compatible console after this generation is over and done with.

However the extremely high success of the Wii may also be a cause for Nintendo to delay even releasing a Wii successor until after 2010, it would be like pouring cold water onto the Wii's heavy sales. To that end it is more than likely Wii's successor will be seen, at least from a market standpoint, an extension of the Wii. Hence developers will be making games for the Wii well into 2012 and beyond.

Wii Highest Seller, 1 in 5 homes Have a Wii with PS3/Xbox 360 and 1 in 3 Homes have a Wii

The Nintendo Wii is dirt cheap as it stands, and it can only get cheaper, once demand drops and people can find it in stores Nintendo will probably release a limited edition Pokemon themed Wii for a new cheaper price and slaes will sky rocket again, rinse, lather and repeat.

More and more homes will have multiple consoles, specifically a Wii and a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360, given the Wii is cheapest by far with the most attractive exclusive titles that does not have an equivalent on either the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 it will probably play Console number 2 in most homes but quickly become console number 1 as people play with it more.

While people can argue that the Xbox 360 has Halo 3 we all know that the Playstation 3 will have Killzone 2 and stupid fanboyish rants aside at the end of the day they are both probably going to be high selling high quality exclusive titles for both consoles, but tell me this, which of those two consoles will have something to compete with Wii Sports or Mario Kart?

Average Joe Consumer Thinks Wii Has Best Graphics

If the Nintendo DS proved anything it proved that you don't need a zillion polygons and other crazy graphical features for games to look good. What you need is art direction. Reggie said himself, games on the Wii will look beautiful, and he is right on too.

While developers may be pulling strings trying to get such and such feature off of the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360 they will be more concerned with art direction in the older Wii hardware. At the end of the day it really is the attention to detail that makes the visuals in a game, thats why old games can look beautiful.

Of course not all games will be 'beautiful' on the Wii, heck, heaps of them look terrible, but in the long run if you start comparing AAA titles I think you'll find the Wii titles will stand out based on their art direction alone.

Chrono Trigger Sequel (Chrono Break/Brake), Xbox 360 Exclusive

Whats stopping Square Enix from making a Chrono Trigger sequel most certainly isn't the demands of rabbid fanboys but rather one of 'copyright details'. The original team that brought us the amazing Chrono Trigger and its sequel (which incidentally shitted all over what the original stood for imo) has long since been disbanded. Only recently three of the original creators of Chrono Trigger have come together to make Blue Dragon on the Xbox 360. Bingo.

Generally speaking the people who worked on Chrono Trigger do want to make a sequel, that and the orignal Chrono Trigger wasn't really a very heavily oriented J-RPG (unlike its sequel) hence the Xbox 360 would play the perfect platform for the re-entry of the Chrono franchise, especially for a North American audience.

Of course one issue is that Microsoft Game Studio's is publishing Blue Dragon, hence there will be more copyright disputes than you can poke a stick at, but if Microsoft does want a title that will single handedly stand up to the all-mighty Final Fantasy its this one, so one way or another I hope/pray they will strike up some deal with Square Enix and pay through the nose to get it. Come on Microsoft, just throw money at it to make it work!

Playstation Home Will be the Arch Enemy of Every Boyfriend and Husband Who Own a Playstation 3

Maxis' exceedingly popular franchise 'The Sims' can attribute a large portion of its success to the wives and girlfriends who picked the game up after the first wave of hardcore gamers who actually bought the game dropped it due to boredom.

Now Playstation Home seems to be what the Sims is taken to an extreme, there is no objective in it whatsoever, what put off the mainstream gamer from 'The Sims' was a lack of objectives, though some were there, 'keep your 'Sim' happy' being the primary one. With Playstation Home there is no objective whatsoever and all the hype is the same as all the hype that went into 'The Sims', hyping what will turn out to be a gimmick for the mainstream gamer, or more specifically, the Playstation 3's target audience.

My prediction is after a couple of months of Playstation Home and a few dollars spent on furnishing ones own virutal home the gamer is going to get bored of loading up a hub and going from a to b to c to do to do seemingly mundane tasks such as downloading trailers or getting friends to join in a round of 'Resistance: Fall of Man'. So thats when the 'game' is dropped by the Playstation 3 purchaser and picked up by... you guessed it.

The Wife/Girlfriend will pick this game up and find the same appeal she found in 'The Sims', however, unlike 'The Sims', here furniture costs real life $$$, of course the person who has a few grand in his virtual wallet will not like the idea that his significant other is draining his bucks on virtual jewelery.

Sony succeeds in getting 'casual gamers' into using the Playstation 3 and making lots of money, the girlfriend/wife finds something to do with the Playstation 3 and spend the money of her significant other while said significant other just cries.

Blu-Ray and HD-DVD Won't Make a Big Impact (this even have anything to do with gaming!?)

I'm just going to say neither will make a large enough impact onto the industry to become the DVD's successor. The problem here is consumers won't be able to justify shelling out heaps for a Blu-Ray or HD-DVD movie when the DVD movie is more than adequate.

While it is true those with HDTV's may be willing to I don't think those few (of which I am one) will make much of a difference in the market like DVD did. As it stands most people who own DVD players and are not big spenders won't have the motive to shell out more for a slightly crisper picture. This isn't VHS to DVD where all these great new features came along no one had ever seen before.

Granted Blu-Ray and HD-DVD do have some cool features but still, I don't think it will justify mass market adoption on any level save for the videophile's, early adopters and tech heads, of which there isn't a whole lot.

Real Time Graphics Rendering Will Take a Major Shift to Ray Tracing

Sony's engineers where almost crazy enough to make the CELL CPU the only thing running the Playstation 3 (albeit a stronger CELL CPU), of course that is nothing short of impossible for developers to come to grips with.

However the concept of CELL, and more specifically, that of multi-core CPU's does favor a specific type of rendering - Ray Tracing. With Intel planning on releasing 80 core chips in the future and Sony's heavy investments into the CELL CPU, it is becoming more and more feasible to explore such a rendering method for real time gaming.

Ray Tracing is what is used in Hollywood special FX and it is also arguably easier to work with. There already is an implementation of Ray Tracing in Quake 3 which also through benchmarks supports the idea that multicore CPU's increase its performance significantly. It makes sense, since each core on the CPU can render a portion of the screen at any given time it can theoretically scale at near 1:1 ratio's, that is, four cores will clock almost twice the FPS of two cores. Taking a look at the screenshots even more advantages of this particular rendering method can be seen.

The only problem is AMD is investing in developing a GPU/CPU combination, joining the CPU and GPU into the same platform means that creating games for such a combination will be the same as it always has been, and it will be radically different than Ray Tracing.

I can't call the odds on this, at best I think there will be a combination of Ray Tracing and Z-Buffering/Scanline rendering.

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