With Project Scarlett recently announced by Microsoft at E3, and Stadia entering the gaming sphere in November this year, next-gen is quickly becoming this gen. As with any new generation of hardware and software, we expect there will be some patterns that emerge as so many have done before.
The fifth generation was one where 3D games started to dominate consoles, as led by Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot. The sixth generation brought about a new level of graphical fidelity and high-speed action with games like Devil May Cry and Halo. The seventh showed us how brown everything could be, and the eighth brought us closer to cinematic experiences than ever before, for better or for worse.
So what big changes do we expect to see in the ninth generation, based on the trajectory laid out for us so far?
Better Game Streaming
Game streaming isn’t exactly new, as the likes of PSNow have been managing it on some level for years. However, many considered the efforts of those like Sony in this regard perhaps a little too before its time. Only recently has internet infrastructure and general speed reached levels where all of us can take advantage of these ideas, and this is where Google comes in.
As an enormous multination corporation, Google is able to place data centres in many countries all over the world. This is important because of the role which latency plays in-game streaming. Distances more than several hundred miles mean lag can become unbearable, and Google is one of the few companies with the resources to combat this issue.
Together, the double-sided advantages of lower latency and higher bandwidth open the doors to game streaming becoming a reality, and maybe even dominating.
It might seem a strange idea, but there is a basis in other gaming technology which leads us to believe in this form of gaming’s potential. Take online casino gaming for example, as you can find from one of the many websites listed by Oddschecker. It’s not just the bonuses and free bets which draw attention to these games, it is also the fact that many can be played over both desktop and mobile systems.
This is the advantage which streaming will offer. Imagine the same games being able to be played anywhere with a good enough internet connection, regardless of the power of the host device. The next Battlefield on mobile, at full settings, on the bus, is too enticing for many of us to ignore.
It might not be here immediately, but developments like 5G make this a matter of when rather than if.
We don’t know much about the next-gen consoles yet. What we do know is that they are in development and that Microsoft’s Scarlett will apparently incorporate game streaming to some degree. What we also know, is that Sony intends to ship their console with a solid-state drive as their primary form of storage.
Some early tests on already existing games such as Spider-Man have shown around a 10X improvement in loading speeds. As many loading times for game have gotten fairly out of control recently, this is an advantage which we can really appreciate.
Another big part of this ties into the concept of backward compatibility. The idea of playing an older game on current-gen systems is, again, not a new one, but it is an idea which has often been lain by the wayside. At the very least, we know that Sony is looking to make the PS5 compatible with PS4 games, and no doubt Microsoft is doing the same.
This means we hopefully will see additions and advantages similar to what the newer consoles like the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X offer over their base counterparts. Faster loading with solid-state drives is a gimmie, but proper patches and support could also mean better frame rates, higher resolutions, and other expanded opportunities.
Greater VR Adaption
Despite having come a long way this gen, virtual reality is still far from perfect. Some of this will be addressed through the creation of the next generation of headsets. Other issues will be fixed through the increasingly evolving set of technology and understandings which developers have to approach VR game development.
In real terms, this means that gamers should expect a greater quantity of regular games to ship with VR support. Understanding how to overcome problems with VR is a significant hurdle for developers, after all, but as the industry gets used to the technology, this problem lessens considerably.
Don’t expect to see every game with a VR adaption, but some like racing games and FPS games should see many more VR versions than they have in this gen.
Good Things Take Time
Every new generation has a teething period, and we expect everything covered in this article to be much the same. Early game streaming will no doubt start off rough and get much better over time as the issues are addressed. Next-gen launch titles, as is often the case with launch titles, will likely be far from the system’s best, but the games will improve drastically.
VR gaming might also take a cautious few steps until something turns up which shows the big boys how it is done.
Whatever the case, we’re already getting ready to throw our lots in with our consoles of choice, and we’re guessing many of you are doing the same. Let’s just hope for more along the lines of Xbox360 and PS4, rather than Xbox1 and PS3.