Innovation in the eighth generation

By | November 4, 2013

According to Wikipedia there are eight generations of video game consoles, each generation defined by the consoles that are released and the innovations they make. We are at the start of the eighth generation with the PS4 and  Xbox one about to hit the shelves this month.

Releasing a console is such big business that the money made from the console purchase itself is negligible. Often sold at a loss console developers will instead be hoping to cash in on much more, including licensing fees, monthly subscriptions, video steaming rental and advertising.

Being such a big business the creators of consoles routinely pump money in to them to make sure their console is different and cheap enough to capture the public eye. With so much money going in to creating a innovative product at a low price it is no wonder some of these innovations creep over in to the lives of those who don’t play games. For example, the PlayStation 2 came with a DVD player that at the time meant selling the console at a loss, this however is seen as the major vehicle in bringing DVD into the home; the same can be said for the PlayStation 3 and Blu Ray.

It is no surprise that some innovations creep in to education. Sometimes it’s a suitable knock on effect such as the medium used to deliver content, sometimes it’s not even hardware based. In 2005 Microsoft released the Xbox 360 and with it the concept of Gamerscore, gamers could earn Achievement points by completing ‘meta goals’ spread over the game. These points are then managed outside of the game as form of motivation. Have you taken a MOOC recently? How many digital badges did you earn?

We are currently in the eighth generation of consoles and this month will see both Microsoft and Sony unleash their latest beasts on the public. So far we’ve already seen the Wii U hit the shelves and are still looking forward to ‘Steam Boxes’. With innovations in gaming having a history of uptake outside of itself I’ve been wondering what trends we will see. Sometimes it’s quite hard to visualise how these will affect things like education directly but I feel early signs are fights about around standards, business models and digital rights management. How can education not be involved?

HTML 5 / WebGl uptake

I was amazed to find that you can now buy Virtual Reality Gaming headsets for <£200. After taking the plunge and getting one myself I was even more amazed to find that you could use libraries such as three.js to build virtual worlds completely in WebGL.

I still wasn’t sure how viable it was to develop full games using WebGL until I stumbled across a series of great posts by development studio helloenjoy around getting content from the game development engine Unity into three.js

A fight for the stores

In previous generations we saw a focus on hardware.  This generation we start to see a bunch of consoles with the fight focusing on the software or the DRM being used.

DRM kings Valve are gearing up to release a Linux based operating system ‘SteamOS’ to run on a console manufactured by a series of vendors. There is no specific configuration for the machine and users are able to bring their existing library of PC games (as long as it uses Steam DRM…) to the console. Console manufactures of steamboxes are simply selling hardware, gamers get to move their games from PC to console and Value get to sell you the software and implement the DRM and without the Microsoft/Sony licensing fees developers might see this as a lucrative choice.

We’ll also see android leave the phone as an army of consoles based the operating system is released. While consoles such as the Ouya have already been successfully funded on kickstarter, it would be crazy to think Google won’t be making a move in to the territory soon, it’s play store and advertising opportunities being the driving focus.

With hardware taking a backseat in these cases the fight over DRM standards will be a nasty one. Perhaps one that MOOC providers might be interested in..

A Coup d’état on DirectX

The popularity of the Windows platform is still high (despite Windows 8?) and while there are many reasons why Microsoft enjoys the market share it does some of it is down to DirectX. DirectX is a collection of API’s for games supported by Microsoft systems such as the Xbox and Windows and has been the API of choice for many a game developer.

With Steam Boxes and Android pushing competing library OpenGL will we see developers finally jumping ship? AMD are also smelling blood and have released Mantle to give developers low level access to its chips. Interesting AMD were the only people who knew that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would be using them to supply chips for their new consoles.

Will DirectX still enjoy it’s top spot for game development, more importantly will gamers still be forced to stay with Windows and how will this effect Operating System marketshare?

The haptic controllers / End of duel sticks?

As PC game content makes its way to the TV through these consoles there must be a hardware designed to deal with it. Valves haptic game controller recently hit the BBC news, the PS4 and even android console OUYA has a touchscreen on it’s pad.

Steaming Services

Streaming is not new, the idea in gaming is that the you play a game that is ran on some super computer somewhere so you can play it on your underpowered PC. The fact that Sony spent $360 Million on a Service to make sure it’s console can do it suggests it might finally take off in gaming. The streaming of digital content will surly be of interest to any educator who has read YouTubes T&C.

-I’m going to go away and think a bit harder about how some of these issues might have a knock on effect to the world outside of gaming.I’m sure I’ve missed lots, comment ahead and tell me what you think/where I’ve got it wrong.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *