The Wild, Wild Tech: The games they are a-changin’

For the past decade, the gaming industry has been fairly predictable. Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony have been the major players, each one
battling the others in the console wars. On the handheld front, Nintendo continued its dominance, although Sony did rise up and challenge the Big N with its PSP line.
Most importantly, all of these devices were designed to play games. Sure, they might play DVDs or have some slight multimedia capabilities, but it was not their primary goal. Recently all of that has changed.
Lately, rumors have been spreading about the possibility of the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s next-generation console, doubling as a cable box. This is
something Sony experimented with in the past with its Japan-only PSX, a PlayStation 2 running expanded software with DVR capabilities. In addition, the PS3 is capable of being a DVR, although this is not officially supported in the US.
It has also been revealed that the upcoming Android 4.0 operating system, nicknamed Ice Cream Sandwich, will have native support for
game controllers.
This means that upcoming games for Android phones and tablets do not necessarily have to be touch screen-based. When you add in the fact that
many of these devices come equipped with HDMI output, it’s easy to see that the Android platform may be positioning itself into the living room as well.
The portable game market has completely changed as well. Games for Android and iOS devices have become clear threats to companies like Nintendo and Sony, whose respective 3DS and PlayStation Vita handhelds will face increased competition from these platforms.
All of these changes seem to be indicative of the industry embracing and moving into a brand new direction.
But what exactly is this direction?

The truth of the matter is that no one, even the companies leading the charge for these “advances” in gaming, knows how to answer that question. Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo, Sony, Valve and a whole host of other companies may have
stumbled into some great technology and ideas, but execution has and always
will be the key to success. In the early 90s, the video game industry experienced a similar multimedia boom, one that saw the market flooded with hardware and software. However, few people remember these multimedia consoles, supposedly immersive virtual reality headsets or the slew
of full-motion video games that seemed
to pop up on every system with a CD-ROM drive. Instead, most people remember playing games on their Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis.
Things are certainly different in today’s market. The technology has advanced to a point where multimedia and gaming capabilities in a system are respectable and of growing importance to consumers. The stage seems set for another market filled with do-it-all devices whose gaming aspects are but one of a vast array of features. It’s almost sad to see the point where games may no longer be the focus of these
consoles. We’ve been there before, and it wasn’t always a pretty picture.
For my sake, and for the sake of gamers everywhere, I hope that these companies don’t forget that we didn’t buy our Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis systems to watch movies or record TV shows; we simply wanted to enjoy the adventures of a blue hedgehog and a
heroic plumber.
The market may have changed, but that desire remains. Embracing new technology is wonderful, but I hope the industry doesn’t forget what made these systems so great in the first place.