Computer games are big business, with the global industry set to hit $70 billion by 2015. A number of new technologies have been announced for 2013, with Microsoft and Sony developing new consoles and a number of smaller companies competing for this lucrative market. Online technology continues to influence the development of gaming consoles, with once fixed features increasingly relocated to the cloud.
With computing speeds, graphics power, and network infrastructure constantly evolving, the computer game industry doesn't get much chance to rest. Despite these advances, however, the last few years have seen few changes to the way people use gaming consoles. Current systems have been relying on software updates to stay in touch with social media and video streaming, using outdated hardware and less than perfect cloud integration.
Microsoft are hoping the new Xbox One will address these problems, with a system designed from the ground up to work alongside cloud technology. Along with the cloud-friendly Xbox One, Sony has also announced plans to release the PS4 this year, with the Ouya system and Valve's Steam Box also ready for release in 2013.
While Microsoft and Sony are undoubtedly the big names of the gaming world, conditions have changed in the last few years that better enable rivals. Ouya is one of the best examples of the new paradigm, a new Android based console with a $100 price point and free games for users. In contrast to the closed systems of Microsoft and Sony, Ouya are presenting a more open and developer friendly version of the gaming future.
In the brave new world of cloud computing, new hardware releases are more dependent than ever before on the Internet. While this change seems inevitable, there will be some stumbling blocks as users and developers decide just how much online connectivity is needed to buy, share, and play games. While the flexibility of the cloud does create some exciting new possibilities, the changing nature of content ownership also raises some serious concerns.
Xbox Live, Microsoft's online gaming service, is upgrading from 15,000 servers to 300,000 servers for the Xbox One release. “We’ve thought of how we architect Live to cloud-power everything that the console does,” explained Marc Whitten, the chief product officer for Microsoft’s Interactive Entertainment Business unit. This will enable Microsoft to evolve their platform through updates to cloud infrastructure, with new features faster to implement and less reliant on hardware changes.
Tighter integration with the cloud will affect all consoles, with benefits including social gaming, more efficient game updates and bug fixes, and the possibility of dynamic games that grow and change with users. With consoles designed to change from the outset, we could see an acceleration in computer game development over the next few years. According to Boyd Multerer, Xbox’s director of development, “Once you go there, it kind of changes your philosophy. Not knowing, and having the flexibility, is the feature.”