It seems like this year has seen a lot of focus of what’s coming next rather than what’s happening now. All year we seem to have been looking at the next gen and just what it will bring, which is perhaps understandable. Looking towards the future is always more exciting than making sense of what’s going on now, speculation is a lot more interesting than looking at simple facts; it’s the same reason why there’s so much interest in celebrity rumour and gossip.
Of course part of this speculation has come to an end with the arrival of the Wii U; we now have one of the three home consoles that will, in all likelihood, compose the next generation of TV gaming. There are certainly some who will argue that the Wii U doesn’t belong in the next generation of gaming but for the purposes of this article lets put that to the side and simply include the Wii U.[drop2]Just like they did with the Wii, Nintendo have taken the stance that the Wii U doesn’t need to be packed full of horsepower to be a success, instead focusing on gameplay. This is one of the two approaches that you can take with new hardware, placing innovation and gameplay above simply packing in more computing power. Of course computing power can contribute to gameplay, improving AI and the realism of a world, but in general it seemed like the two routes were separate.
However, some of the rumours we’ve seen about the next Microsoft console do seem to suggest that the split that Nintendo had created had been sealed, with the next Xbox potentially having some augmented reality aspects in addition to the obvious Kinect improvements. Of course, more prominent than this is the PlayStation Vita.
Rumours so far imply that the PlayStation 4 will continue on the computing power route, but the Vita really appears to be the bridge between gameplay innovation and boosting the hardware performance. It’s clear that the Vita has some real graphical horsepower under the hood, but the almost ridiculous number of inputs that the system features has clearly introduced elements of innovation into portable gaming.
Of course many of these have been borrowed from the mobile gaming arena, and the DS has incorporated the same touch screen elements for many years now. However, I don’t think there’s been anything like the Vita before that so perfectly pulled together elements of innovation and power.
This, to me, seems like the obvious direction for the industry in the future. More power is great, and we all certainly enjoy improved graphics or more realistic worlds. However, without genuine innovation to couple with it what’s the point? It simply exists to make the games we already have look better or have more enemies in an encounter.
Obviously, it should be made clear that we can have innovation in gameplay without any innovation in hardware inputs and the like, titles like Journey make this abundantly clear. However, when you’ve got options like the Vita’s inputs or the Wii U’s GamePad it makes it easier to bring in new ideas and new ways of playing games. Really that seems like the best things for the future of gaming.