Welcome to part 2 of my forecast of what console game players should expect to be available in 2011.
There are just a few caveats attached to this prediction: First, that the global economy finds its way out of the doldrums. The second involves the factual accuracy of executives who were interviewed about their companie’s upcoming projects and that they were accurately quoted in the media about what is to come. The last caveat is that no unforeseeable events occur to delay the essential technology rollout to the mass market during 2010.
If you build it, they will come! And if you build it right, they will come in droves, with wallets open wide.
If you haven’t read part 1 - describing my methodology for gathering information, you might want to do so. Much of the forecast you are about to read is based on an analysis of what I’ve read - particularly from in-depth interviews of executives of game hardware manufacturers. Also, this forecast comes from reading game reviews to learn what irks professional game reviewers about a game? And, last of all, I consider what do gamers themselves, at least those who post comments have to say.
What seems to “trigger” the greatest gamer dissatisfaction? Most often, I find it comes down to a game’s "implied promise" not being kept. That disappointment often escalates to outright contempt.
By now many are already aware of Sony’s plan to introduce a new line of Bravia TV’s with 3D technology. They are expected to be pricy at their market introduction, as were HD flat screens when they first came out. Prices can be expected to drop as production (meaning consumer demand) increases.
But, the cost of 3D TV screens are an aside to this key point: Recently, the head of Sony Computer Entertainment spoke of what is now in the works in the way of new 3D games. Kaz Hirai is reported to have said, " Next year, in tandem to the Sony 3D TV product launch, PS3 also plans to launch 3D game titles, not just first-party, but we're also actively supporting third-party 3D software development."
Around the world at console game publishers, at companies like Ubisoft and many others, it is easy to picture teams of game developers busy with 3D upgrades to their franchise titles. Instead of doing updates to their stable of old concepts, the most talented should be (and could be) working to push the game experience envelope by creating truly original, next generation games in 3D.
But, I am a realist. That means to expect valuable human resources at game development companies being tasked to come up with cheap, yet creative ways to enhance with 3D effects the publisher’s current stable of games. If the industry stays true to its past, I’m expecting we will see many of the same tired, old games, patched up to take advantage of the new features which will soon be available on the 3D video screens of the Sony Bravia’s early adopters. If that is all that happens from the introduction of 3D, it would be a golden opportunity for Sony blown. (Keep that last comment in mind for later in this forecast.)
3D is not all that’s coming soon from Sony. There is also Sony’s new, motion sensing “wand” device. Another recently published interview, this time from a different Sony executive, included this important bit of information:
“The Holy Grail of gaming is placing you, as a consumer, into the game physically. When we provide further details, people will see exactly where we're going, not only from a technological standpoint on the hardware, but also where the gameplay is transitioning,” said Sony Computer Entertainment America’s Hardware Marketing Director, John Koller. Significantly, Mr. Koller went on to say, “I think the areas that are going to be really critical to our success will be family games, as well as shooters and sports games."
So, for those who want to know the future, the game experience to come is going to get gamers to get into the game physically, very physically. Not such a new idea, when you consider how that was the key to the successful introduction of Nintendo’s Wii console. The Wii proved how physical engagement overcomes almost everything else. For example, less than state of the art backgrounds. When you are physically brought into the game, the multi-sensory experience becomes so all encompassing that the Wii’s weak graphics won a free pass. But, that was then.
Not to be outflanked by Sony, Microsoft’s has its “Project Natal” in the pipeline. Project Natal’s upcoming camera, motion-sensing controller is due out next fall and will give Microsoft an overdue technology boost. But, there is more that may be coming soon to the Xbox 360: On December 17th, a new patent filed by Microsoft suggests a new Xbox 360 avatar system that will match the user's real-life, physical appearance and bio-metrics. That would seem to be more than enough to get people really deeply “into” the game.
So between Sony’s “Wand” and Microsoft’s “Project Natal” it is safe to forecast that at some point within the next 24 months we will get to witness the “reinvention” of how gamers interact with their consoles and with their games.
As 2010 begins, we are all on the cusp of witnessing what the next stage in the evolution of functionality will be. Some of us are helping to nudge it to where it needs to be. Our goal is to witness by the end of 2011 not only a redefining of what gaming is based on, but to see brand new content that will take maximum advantage of 3D technology, motion sensing and the ability to be physically drawn deep into the game. The only element that hasn’t been disclosed…is the long overdue promise of game play in virtual reality. VR technology has been in widespread use for years by military training contractors like Raydon. VR’s time is at hand. The only question is, which console developer is going to be first to announce it. Will that announcement come at CES in 2010 (as I write, no one is mentioning it) or in 2011?
So, what might the next generation of games look like? What themes might new games offer? Keep in mind that family games, shooters and sports games are all needed for the console manufacturers to recoup their investment in new hardware and the technology that drives it.
To best answer the question of what might the next generation of games look like, consider what has just been announced simultaneously by a company based in Rome and its marketing alliance partner located half a world away in Hawaii.
Past Perfect Productions, slr, is offering game licensing rights to the world’s most accurate and detailed 3D re-creation of ancient Rome. (see the video posted at www.R2F2.com ) Called Rome Reborn, its recent 2.0 version is much more detailed than the scaled back 1.0 version which, just a year ago was introduced by Google Earth as a new destination for its popular global exploration platform.
So, as one important digital 3D element, the destination of Ancient Rome is ready right now to become the background landscape for a time travel game. And, thanks to a decision to select IBM to help provide technology for its state of the art digitization, Rome Reborn is already optimized for the Playstation3’s cell.
Also, look for franchise building game publishers to create games offering gamers a broad choice of the type of play - through something I’m calling “overlapping genres.”
Visualize a “family game” that can be played as a certified learning experience in one of its modes in junior high geography classrooms. Then, at home, it can be switched to another mode and become “the mother of all shooters”. This kind of transition can be developed – the technology from content creators is there ready to be licensed. The only question is whose console will be the one to introduce new generations of gamers to never before possible opportunities – including the one that will bring VR time travel? Imagine the level of engagement that comes from touring the cobblestone streets of Rome in 320 AD, or experiencing adult adventures inside many of the 7000 buildings, which were academically documented to exist during the time of Constantine the Great, back when the Roman Empire was at the height its power.
Professor Bernard Frischer of the University of Virginia directed the 13 year long effort to digitize ancient Rome with an architectural and historical precision. No game developer today could afford to undertake from scratch a project of this magnitude.
The other half of the unique pair of content providers announcing this historic alliance is Millisecond Publishing Company, Inc.. For almost 15 years this company has been digitizing and precisely mapping out the deepest known family histories of millions of people alive today in what is known as the Family Forest Project.
From hundreds of previously published books and genealogy periodicals, Bruce and Kristine Harrison have created over 8 million lines of computer code and gone on to publish the Family Forest Genealogy Library with over 500 titles.
The Family Forest digital content is shown to have more than a score of well-known Hollywood icons and celebrities whose roots track back, generation by generation, to locations within ancient Rome. In fact, those ancestral pathways will lead right into Constantine the Great’s palace.
It is easy to imagine a host of these celebrities becoming truly riveting avatars. They would serve as “ancestral tour guides” to gamers and lead them to new adventures within their unique “time travel” experiences. Consider having Brad Pitt or Tom Hanks, or Paris Hilton, as your personal time travel escort (their screen images morphing into avatars) to lead you on a journey back in time via their known genealogies.
Imagine gamers with virtual reality headsets making VR visits to the distant past to times and places, perhaps gaining advantages by choosing to participate in historic events - such as battles, or to assist with world-changing discoveries, like the first flight of the Wright brothers. That is the potential that in 2011 can be available by matching up the technology interfaces recently announced by both Sony and Microsoft with the Family Forest’s digital content (to create the time travel experience) which can then have as its end game all manner of adventures within ancient Rome: from chariot races to hand-to-hand gladiator combat; to visits to the Senate; tours through either seedy or elite neighborhoods, or into spa-like bathhouses – all provided in high definition 3D by Past Perfect Productions’ Rome Reborn digital model.
What I am forecasting today is bound to happen. Part of the reasoning behind it deals with demographics and bringing about a breakthrough that will drive sales of consoles to non-traditional gamers.
With millions of people of all ages and walks of life keenly interested in researching, even memorializing, their family histories and thirsting for knowledge about the lives and experiences of their distant ancestors, it is a real “no-brainer” to conclude this forecast this way:
The first AAA computer game to come to market which includes a family history enrichment component, different genres (genre hopping even) is bound to elicit sales to many tens of millions of what are today considered as “non-traditional” game buyers. The games I can foresee are going to be real “game changers”.
Or, as a Paris Hilton avatar might say, “This is huge!”