We’re only one year into the eighth console generation, but you better believe that there’s at least a few heads over at Nintendo, Sony, or Microsoft that are buzzing around with possible new ideas for the NINTH console generation. Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to exactly what these gaming giants have up their sleeves. When the average life of a console is roughly about 6 to 7 years, we’ve got a long time to wait before we even get a small taste of that succulent new hardware. Although, one could say that the next evolution for consoles could be right in front of you.
When you buy a video game console, it is ready from the moment you take it out of the box. You plug it in, you pop in a game, and bam, you’re off and rolling. That little disc of polycarbonate plastic we call a CD is set in stone unless the developers tell you otherwise with DLC or patches. When you buy a PC on the other hand, especially a gaming PC, you’ve now invested in a serious project. The amount of careful planning that goes into simply finding the best one for your needs can be mind numbing. You have to take into consideration not only price, but graphical capability, memory, CPU, storage, power, audio and then somewhere along that list is where I just turned to my more PC capable friends and told them to pick one for me, because I needed to go find myself a stiff drink. But if you can get through that initial power storm of choices without developing a serious drinking problem, you’ll find that the next evolution for consoles is control and it is now at your finger tips. PC games are rarely set in stone, as crafty modders are always out there working to add and create new modes, characters, maps, textures, or even entirly new games based on the engines of your favorite titles. For instance, a mod was created for GTA 5 on the PC that allowed you to play in first person view long before the remastered version was released with it. Modders gave Half-Life 2 a full HD face lift, managed to run Elder Scrolls Morrowind through the engine and textures of Oblivion, and added a fully voiced companion to Fallout 3 to fight along your side. When developers are done with a game, their done, but that doesn’t mean gamers have to be.
It is the goal of all developers to give their games a set amount of replayability, but most expect at some point you’re going to reach the limit where you’ve exhausted the available content and DLC at which point they will hopefully have their new title waiting there for your next investment. That’s how they turn a profit. Some could argue that modding muddies this process by cutting down on DLC sales and giving the player less reason to buy the new titles. Although, some developers like Valve openly support modding of their games, selling us things like Garry’s Mod, an almost endless plethora of tools and objects to make nearly any game we can think of. So now imagine a console that was designed and packed with the tools you need to make your own games from your living room. Developers would release packs that could be purchased to change the crafting experience to fit your needs and experience level. A 7 year old, may only want a content pack from his favorite cartoon that allows him to create simple platformers or a go-cart game. On the other hand, a 20-30 year old aspiring game developer might invest tenfold to expand his library of textures, objects, and physics tools for work on his vest new adventure game. Your creations would be easily uploadable to a world wide library of games from around the world for others to enjoy. Now we may not see this in the ninth console generation if we’re being realistic, but it is fast approaching and we’re already seeing the beginnings.
Microsoft’s Project Spark, released back in October, is an amazing step forward for the future of games. Acting like a streamlined game engine, it allows you to start crafting your own games straight out of the box. $40 gets you plenty of tools, models, and textures to make nearly anything and additional packs can be purchased to expand your experience even further. Little Big Planet has shown time and time again that giving players the ability to create their own games can be daunting at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be adding your own game levels to the now 9 million creations currently out there. These games are just a few examples of the steps developers have taken towards the future of gaming as we know it. An evolution like this won’t just mean a new console, it’ll be the transformation of an entire industry.
Now the ideas and concepts laid out here are currently just theoretical and the forseen technical hurdles are plentiful, but that doesn’t mean they lack potential. Developers like Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo are constantly pushing the limits of what’s to be expected from our once simple living room consoles. Interactive peripherals have evolved from the clunky days of the Duck Hunt laser gun to the full body motion of Kinect in the time of 30 years. The idea of a console being your all in one entertainment hub is here in it’s prime. Where else can the world of video games go except deeper into the realm of creation and control, after all that’s what they’re all about. Whether you’re grinding for loot in Diablo 3 or crushing the Patriots in NFL 2015, you’re in control and that experience is uniquely yours. Indie games are flourshing, pouring out daily on sites like Game Jolt, also showing that gamers no longer need to wait for big developers to create their dream games. The industry is expanding quickly, but reaching it’s limits, making the next evolution for consoles the one that may be forced to truly break the mold.