Each generation of video game consoles features trends that emerge. These are things that start with one developer, and then snowball out of control as more and companies pick them up and run. With the original PlayStation, we saw the rise of the joysticks. With the Super Nintendo, it was all about the massive, sprawling RPG.
This generation was no exception. In fact, there seems to actually be more trends from the seventh generation than any previous time in history. Some observable trends are smaller, and only change certain genres of games, but others are so massive that it shapes the very direction in which the video game world is heading. Many of these will continue to carry into the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, which means we will continue to feel their effect for years to come. Whether you like them or not is a matter of preference, but they are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future.
When the Wii hit, many gamers perceived it as just a gimmick, and for Nintendo, it kind of was, as the company moved away from the input method with the failing Wii U. However, Sony and Microsoft both jumped on board as quickly as possible, with Sony introducing the Move and Microsoft the Kinect. Going forward, Microsoft is betting heavily on its motion control input, packaging it with every single Xbox One. Even if the company backed off requiring it for the console to work, it’s still clear that it’s here to stay, at least for the next generation.
The motion control craze was actually so powerful that it bled into PC gaming, with devices like Track IR and Leap Motion making small waves in the scene. PC gamers tend to be the most reluctant to accept change, so it remains to be seen whether it really gains a strong foothold there, but regardless, motion controls hit in a big way this generation, and it will be interesting to see where they go as time goes on.
Persistent Multiplayer Characters
Back in the day, multiplayer gaming was something you jumped in, played, and when you signed off, you were back to the beginning. This was fine, as you had your increased skill to show for your time, but then Call of Duty 4 came along and changed everything. Players grew accustomed to unlocking guns and levels with experience, and for many, it was hard to go back to playing just to play.
For me personally, I am the type of player who likes to have something to show for my time, and a persistent character accomplishes this. It’s the reason I was able to play Call of Duty 4 for two years straight without getting bored. As I played, I always had some new level or challenge to strive for, which was sorely missing from most online shooters before. Since then, almost every shooter has adapted some sort of persistent system, and it has made the genre much more fun.
Video games used to lead the player down a very defined path, both in terms of the direction the player takes and the story. During the PlayStation 2 and Xbox generation, games like Grand Theft Auto really defined what an open world game can do, and in this generation, we saw that taken even further with an abundance of games offering the player the ability to make choices that would directly influence the story of the game. Choice existed in games before, but it really was pushed to another level by Bioware with Mass Effect and Dragon Age.
Choice is a great thing in gaming, as it allows the player to define their own experience. Games like LA Noire and The Walking Dead really made the most of this mechanic, allowing the player to change the actual ending of the game based on how they interact with other characters in the world. With the power of the next generation consoles, it seems logical that choices will become even more important, with developers having greater flexibility in how they decide to make them happen.
Not too long ago, when a player finished a game, that was it. Sure, you could go back in and play the game again, but some games have such a finite beginning and end, that there is no motivation to do so. That’s where DLC comes into play, as it allows developers to release more content and inject new life into a game. This is nothing new in the PC space, as expansion packs have existed for as long as I can remember, but in consoles, it’s a new concept that really took hold in a big way during this generation.
What started as a method for developers to expand their game has actually led to an entire new method of distributing to players. It all started with developers realizing that they can use the increasing broadband penetration rate to get more content to gamers, and now, it’s actually shaping the way video games are sold to consumers, completely changing the video game industry as we know it.
Rise of the Indie Scene
Indie games have always been around. People who are not a part of a major development house have always had the desire to make games. The difference between then and now is the fact that they can actually get the games into the hands of players. Both Sony and Microsoft (as well as the PC) have embraced smaller indie games in a big way, and as such, so have the players.
The other major factor in the rise of the indie scene is crowd funding. Sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have already led to a ton of games hitting the market that would never have been funded before. Both major console developers have committed to indie games in the next generation, and programs like Steam Greenlight are helping to bring more games to market. Indie games are showing no sign of slowing down, and it all really got started during the illustrious seventh console generation.
These trends are shaping the video game industry as we know it, and they will continue to do so going forward. Whether you’re a hardcore or casual gamer, it’s quite likely that you have encountered these at least once!
What trends do you think were the most influential in the soon to be over console generation? Hit the comments section below and let your voice be heard.