From the release of the next-gen system to the unveiling of Valve’s Steam Machines, 2013 was a seminal year for the gaming industry. You can go as far as dropping in a cliché like “it was a game changer,” and you’d be right (but please don’t, because it sounds very dumb.) But while 2013 propelled gaming to the front page of newspapers, the homepage of websites, and the top story on TV shows as confused hosts tried to understand things like “always-on” and “streaming,” 2014 will be equally important – maybe even more so.
Much of what we saw in 2013 won’t come into its own until 2014. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, for example, both had incredible launches in terms of sales, but 2014 is when we will start to see some of the games that truly utilize that hardware. The new year will also see the continuation of trends that have been building for years, and in some instances those trends will mature in new ways in the new year.
Basically, if you thought 2013 was a good year for gaming, wait until you see what’s coming in the next 12 months.
Gaming peripherals are coming
When new gaming hardware is released, it inevitably leads to a slew of manufacturers unleashing new peripherals. We’ve already seen some standard ones from multiple companies, like rechargeable controller docks and headsets designed to work on the new consoles. Expect more of that, especially when it comes to peripherals like controllers. But there will be others too.
… it will be 2014 when the promise of the new [gaming] hardware begins to be fulfilled.
When the Wii was released, it led to several new types of devices made possible by the new hardware, like the Wii Balance Board. With the new technology available on the Xbox One and PS4, including the upgraded cameras, it is likely to lead to companies trying new things out. Some will work like the Balance Board, some will not. Remember the multiple guns casings designed to house the PS Move controller like the Sony’s Sharpshooter, or Nyko’s Perfect Shot. No? There’s a reason for that.
Now that the next-gen systems are out and available, the numbers of peripherals for them should explode in 2014.
This is more of a continuing trend than something new, but the relationship between mobile gaming and traditional gaming on a computer or console should continue to grow. We’ve already seen several developers and publishers use mobile devices as a second screen app to expand gameplay options, while others like Call of Duty are using them to host meta-games. In Battlefield 4 the “Commander Mode,” which is controlled on a tablet, actually lets you play a different type of multiplayer game while earning experience.
That trend of integrating mobile devices will continue, as will the porting of games from consoles and PCs to mobile devices – and not just older games, but new games designed to also work on the less powerful hardware. Mobile gaming isn’t going anywhere, and console and PC developers are constantly finding new ways to extend your big screen experience onto a smaller one. Expect to see that continue into the New Year.
New possibilities with older hardware
As with 2013, the coming year will see familiar devices become better suited for gaming. There’s nothing new in that, but hardware is catching up with ambition, and devices like ultrabooks that once could barely be used for gaming are going to continue to improve to the point where they can fill that role.
2013 saw the start of that with devices like Razer’s gaming ultrabook the Blade, and that will continue. Just as mobile devices have become more able to play games, so will everything else.
Next gen games will show the hardware’s true potential
While 2013 saw the release of new gaming consoles, it will be 2014 when the promise of the new hardware begins to be fulfilled. Part of the reason gaming system launches are fall short of expectations is that developers simply don’t have enough time to adequately familiarize themselves with the hardware. Now that the systems are available, we should begin to see more and more games that take advantage of it.
..as early as CES in Vegas … Valve, Razer, and Oculus VR all have announcements planned.
Oculus Rift is here
If you follow gaming or technology in general, it’s hard to have avoided at least some mention of the company Oculus VR. The startup began as a Kickstarter project in 2012, then during 2013 it released a prototype to developers, secured tens of millions in funding, and ramped up hiring. It even brought on several new staff members, including gaming legend John Carmack as its CTO. In 2014, we will get to see how that all pays out.
Although Oculus VR has not officially confirmed a release date for the retail version of its virtual reality headset, the Oculus Rift, it is expected in 2014. Ever since the headset first hit its Kickstarter goal, there have been cries that this peripheral will change gaming forever – more than just gaming. Many see the OR for its non-gaming applications as well. That may be the case, and we’ll see the beginning of it in 2014.
Steam Machines will challenge the norm
Sony and Microsoft are battling with Nintendo for gaming dominance in the living room, but 2014 could see the rise of a fourth competitor thanks to Valve. Not content to just develop and run a virtual storefront for games anymore, in 2014 we will see Valve release of the Steam Machines. These Linux-based PCs are designed specifically to be used with a standard TV, and integrated with the Steam platform that currently has over 2,500 titles available.
Valve has already mailed out its prototypes for beta testing, but there will be several other manufacturers developing their own Steam Machines. That will not only give gamers a huge selection of hardware to choose from based on their personal preferences, but the competition should also help keep pricing down.
These devices could expand what was formerly just known as “PC gaming,” or it could completely redefine gaming in general. We should get a better sense of that in 2014.
Tradeshows will be the best in years
The gaming tradeshows in 2013 were built almost entirely around the coming next-gen hardware – even the ones like GDC where no one could really talk about them yet. Now that the gag order has been lifted, we should see major gaming announcements coming from the various tradeshows this year – beginning as early as CES in Vegas, where Valve, Razer, and Oculus VR all have announcements planned. After that, GDC in San Francisco will be the best chance this Spring for companies to make big announcements. Then of course there is E3 in June, followed quickly by Gamescom in August.
Now that developers are under no legal restrictions and can discuss whatever they want, it should lead to some of the biggest and best shows in years.