One of the few constants in the world of popular technology is that you can never truly anticipate or predict, with any appreciable certainty, what will be popular and what will not. For every iPhone there is a Segway, you could say. You cannot really tell how something will be received by the public, or in what way it will have an impact on both popular culture and the technology world in general. You find that sometimes the big-money, throw-everything-at-it initiatives will turn out just the way you expected them to, with big paydays and critical acclaim. However, there is a curious little phenomenon present with our new technology that has an interesting and much more close-to-home impact than you might realize. Sometimes, contrary to real life but bolstered by movies and pop culture mainstays, the underdog, the little guy, wins big. Sometimes, the out-of-left-field piece of technology changes the game in a big, big way.
Video game development companies spend millions of dollars every year to develop the next generation of games, playable movies that double as out-of-body experiences for $60 a title. We, as the game-playing and game-purchasing public, will go along with it. It’s a thing of love and loyalty, to both the games themselves and to the hobby in general. However, it seems that a shake-up is occurring all around us. One of the most popular, if not the most popular video game on the market today is a simple physics game that sells in the App Store for roughly $2. Of course, we are talking about that juggernaut Angry Birds. It has made Apple a great deal of money, and this looks to be the trend for the coming year. 2011 could see Apple reign in over $1.6 billion in video game sales alone. For more information, please visit Forbes.
When we think of advanced technologies, the images that come to mind are rather fantastic. We picture flying cars and buildings of amazing scale, such as those in the beginning of the movie Blade Runner (which is, in a temporal sense, about eight years from now). We picture the best and brightest from science fiction stories. We picture a world of ease and comfort and beauty unsurpassed. We picture that every little thing, from tying our shoes to washing our clothes to communicating with one another is done with the ease of breathing. We want the best and we want it now, and no substitute or excuse for less will be accepted. Such as the culture that technology has promoted. However, we must also think about what the technology does to our culture in the sense of our entertainment and leisure, for that is a very large barometer of where we are.
For instance, a very big trend in gaming is the “hands-free” experience. Peripherals such as the Xbox 360’s Kinect or the Playstation 3’s Move system have promoted a future free from the grasp of remotes, where your body itself controls the action. A big trend that is not seen in gaming so much right now, but is huge in the film industry, is realistic 3-D technology. While there have been movements toward a home 3-D experience, the expense as well as the need for special glasses has prevented any serious foothold. Until now. The recently-released Nintendo 3DS provides an on-the-go 3-D experience, where the DS’s upper screen is now a 3-D screen that does not require glasses to experience. The 3DS retails for about $250 in North America.
Digital marketing and digital retail are quickly becoming facets of our culture. Now, nearly every one of you reading this right now has utilized an Internet marketplace such as Amazon, Craigslist or eBay to buy or sell goods. This is now a staple of the Internet experience, yes, but it is not exactly what we are talking about here. No, we are talking digital proliferation of the product, a full business exchange that sees payment for services or products rendered alongside the actual delivery of the product. Many media outlets, such as Hulu and Netflix, provide this for free or for a nominal fee. Streaming content and members-only exclusives are quickly becoming a popular aspect of the television and film marketing world. As well, even books and literary content have seen a move toward this method of operation, with eReaders such as the nook and the Kindle. It seems that the wave of the future will be an on-demand one.
Now, that leaves many with one question: where are video games in this whole mess? Well, they are getting in on the fun as well. Platforms such as Steam and OnLive have pioneered the delivery of streaming video games over the Internet. As well, services such as Xbox Live Arcade have allowed users to download titles to their machines for some time. These moves were seen by many as the beginning of the death-knell of physical video game sales. However, the old adage ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ is certainly apt in the situation regarding GameStop. The popular video game retailer has recently unveiled a move toward streaming video game content, including from their stories via kiosks.
In the modern world, a true measurement of the popularity and ubiquity of a product is its revenue. True, other factors such as advertising, word-of-mouth, and of course the performance or said product are key in how it performs on the market. Even still, the biggest indicator of the impact of a certain product or service has been, and will remain for some time, the amount of money it earns. There is a saying out there that states that the biggest way for a citizen or consumer to be heard is not to vote with a ballot but to vote with your wallet. There is a great deal of truth in that statement. For one, what you buy determines exactly what you as a consumer are willing to spend money on. Companies see this and rush out for ways to duplicate or improve upon this success. Every dollar spent is influential, make no mistake.
A recent study by marketing intelligence firms VGChartz and FADE has been released, detailing the revenue earned by the video gaming industry in the year 2010. Reportedly, worldwide earnings have topped $33 billion. This is not really telling us too much that we did not already know as a game-buying public: people like video games and are willing to shell out some cash for the newest ones. What is more interesting is the fact that 7.6% of that market share comes from the sale of digitally-distributed content, which typically costs a great deal less than hard-copy games. That 7.6% equates to rougly $2.5 billion dollars in sales. Nothing to scoff at, surely.
A great deal of new technologies can be overwhelming at first glance. Yes, we live in a wonderful world that has seen humans connect to one another in ways never before imagined. Distance is no longer a matter that hinders contact and collaboration. Our interactive experiences, by way of both entertainment and industry, are getting more sophisticated by the minute. It seems that there is nothing that is out of our grasp, what with a little hard work, dedication, and imagination. One of the more exciting examples of a recent technological leap, is the Xbox 360’s Kinect controller. The first hands-free gaming experience, the system is limited only by your own ingenuity. The center of a great deal of hype, the Kinect is said to be the leader of a new revolution in gaming.
What is the Kinect? It is a new system for controlling video games inspired by the Nintendo Wii’s wireless controller. The Kinect itself is a webcam-style peripheral for the 360 that captures gamers’ physical movements, interprets them, and displays this information via a physical avatar. It is, essentially, a completely hands-free, controller-free gaming experience. The Kinect responds to not only physical movements but also voice commands and features voice recognition software. A select number of titles are currently available that are exclusive to the Kinect system, but this list will undoubtedly grow as the system gains prominence. There is even talk of the Kinect technology having PC support by the time Windows 8 is released to the market.
There are a few constants in this life. One of the most prevailing is that things cannot stand still. No matter where you turn or where you happen to be during this turning-around, you will find that everything around you is changing. Mountains are eroding as trees attempt to scrape the heavens with the return of every spring and summer season. People grow up, buildings rise and fall, as does the economy, and we all bear witness to the changing of time. As we do this, we also witness the rise and fall of different technologies, endemic to the needs and wants of the general public and of industry. These, too, change over time, and are far from static entities. However, if we recognize where change can happen and attempt to deal with how our day-to-day will change, we can embrace change with open arms.
Technology is an ever-changing entity. In fact, right now the consumer market can be said to be changing from a ‘ground computing’ model, where your computer stores everything you might need, to a cloud computing experiences, where everything is on-demand, accessed via third-party hosting. Yes, it seems likely that one day our Internet experience will be a streaming, on-demand endeavor, where computers are merely kiosks. However, what does this spell for the future of gaming? There has been great speculation as the cloud model has been tested in this industry via endeavors such as OnLive. Is it apt to say that console-based gaming is dead and/or dying? That is a question that will take some time to rectify, not a simple yes-or-no situation.
Every indication of the future of technology, at least in the consumer sense, is pointing toward the cloud. What is the cloud, you say? Imagine that every program on your computer, all of your data and settings and preferences, were being stored not on the computer you are usuing, but on third-party servers thousands of miles away. In this way, the entire computing experience is on-demand, with every computer becoming something of a kiosk, a way to access everything that you need whenever you need it. While some privacy issues have understandably come up, there is a great deal to be excited about here. Companies such as Google and Amazon are testing the waters of this new technology and it seems that the public is warming up to the idea of an on-demand computing and Internet experience.
As well, the world of gaming is setting up to be the next big adopter of the cloud computing trend. OnLive, an on-demand gaming service that stores and renders games on cloud servers, streaming games directly to the user over the Internet. Introduced in the summer of 2010, OnLive has gained quite the reputation for having not only impressive service and an expanding array of titles, but also for a lack of technical issues that would be endemic to a streaming service. Expect to hear a great deal more about this service as 2011 draws on, as over 20 video game publishers (such as Warner Bros and Ubisoft) have struck deals to present their games over OnLive.