The Future: Games As Utilities? - mbellacio Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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The Future: Games As Utilities?

 

Every month I go through a routine that is familiar to adults all around the world. Paying bills. Housing, gas bill, electricity, water, trash, you get the point. At any rate, all of these expenses are usually categorized as necessary essentials of life. I don't know about the rest of you, but my day MUST begin with a hot cup of java, and it's not exactly easy to brew unless your bills are paid.

Now with gaming, something very interesting has begun to take shape over the past 10 to 15 years. Games are an increasingly central part of our lives and even our economy. It would have been difficult to imagine that games as simple as Pong, or Pac-Man could have given rise to such a far-reaching industry, but that is exactly what happened.

Games are pervasive throughout all levels of society and all cultures. Gaming has affected how we socialize, how we define our lives and manage them, and even our perceptions of reality and what we imagine to be possible for both our individual and collective futures. More and more, the experience of gaming has become as central to our existence as eating, working or simply managing our daily affairs.

This is partially evident in how we have come to allocate our income. While many industries have struggled to remain profitable over the past several years, the game industry has enjoyed a relatively consistent degree of stability. That stability exists in a very broad sense however. We all know the numerous casualties of the past two years or more in the world of development. But I believe that a big part of that could be attributed to growing pains as the makers of software and hardware struggle to discern what consumers want. In my opinion, the only future for the industry is to go big. REALLY big.

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To help illustrate my point, I'm going to go back in time a bit. During the glory days of the Roman Empire, life for most people was an odd mix of paradoxes. Though living under the rule of the empire certainly carried it's own unique "perks" when compared to outlying regions, it certainly wasn't a utopia. In fact, even with all of the wealth at Romes disposal, life then was much as it is now. Most Romans were caught in the daily grind of work, sleep, eat, and repeat. Even in a society of sophisticated tastes in the arts, culture, and philosophy, there were few bright spots in the daily life of the average Roman. That is, until the introduction of "The Games".

The "games" which were staged at arenas and colliseums throughout Rome enjoyed almost instantaneous popularity with the masses, and continued to do so well throughout Rome's rule. The reason being two fold. First, the games fit in with and helped to reaffirm the ideas and beliefs of many of that time. Secondly, the games provided an increasingly vital release valve for the pressures that the average citizen felt. With the games, for a brief moment in time it didn't matter who or what you were. The games were the great equalizer. All life was going to come down to these very simple, and often brutal contests of life vs. death.

The games that Rome staged became ever more elaborate, grand and even in many ways vulgar. But, that in no way limited people's desire for them. In fact, one might argue that the only real limitation of these contests was the obscene expense incurred by them. Rome was wealthy, but by no means did it possess limitless wealth. And the simple truth of that time is that an arena could only be built so large, and you could only compel so many lives, human or otherwise, to participate.

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Call Of Duty for the ancient world?

 

Now, fast forward to the present. Would it be safe to suggest that video games are our modern day gladiator games? The internet is our new Colliseum? Think of how popular MMO's and multi-player deathmatches are? And what about the new love affair with open-world gaming?

This may also hint at why many of the more traditional companies in gaming have experienced such bitter troubles in recent years. The world's appetitie for larger, ever more grand experiences has simply outgrown them.

The gaming scene of 2014 and beyond is so broad, so splintered, and diverse that it would be extremely difficult for any one company to establish dominance as we might have seen in the 80's or 90's, or even early 2000's. In fact, the ongoing war between various big players on the gaming scene has striking parrallels to the telecom wars, and cable/satellite tv wars of previous decades.

Eventually, once the dust settled and the "hostilities" abated, consumers benefitted from a more competitive landscape, with better services and freedom to choose what suited their lives. I suspect that gaming is headed in the same direction. Is it any small coinicidence that companies like Sony, and Microsoft, Google and Apple now view "the cloud" as being so essential to their business strategies?

What's more, what we're starting to see is that attempts to corner markets like streaming of movies, tv shows, or other entertainment content, have yielded marginal results. This generation, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have all tried to create their own entertainment ecospheres, where they enjoy exclusive control and erect a sort of "virtual wall" against other entertainment media outlets. But what happens if you have all three consoles?

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The truth is, people don't operate the way that the big three would like them to. For example, if I discover that my favorite grocery store doesn't carry Raisin Bran Crunch, and has no plans to ever do so, do you think that's going to stop me from eating my favorite cereal? What's more, do you think that petty decision on the part of that grocery chain will endear me to them? Not likely. In fact, it will probably erode at my loyalty to them.

What I'm really getting at here is the infinite nature of people's tastes. And for any industry hoping to serve those people, they will also have to grow in kind. That's why the future really is in the cloud. If the ancient library of Alexandria could have survived, it would be uploaded to Wikipedia. If the Roman Empire's gladiator games could have possibly survived, they most certainly would have ended up on the internet. Gaming today is a utility. Nearly as essential as electricity, gas, food. And the future will see games marketed as such. In 10 to fifteen years, you will scarcely care who makes what console, or what developer made what game. You will think about games in the same way you would think about grabbing an orange from your refrigerator, or turning on your water faucet. That's the Brave New World as I see it.

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