A decade ago we would have found it hard to believe that free-to-play MOBAs, arguments about resolution and frame rate and remakes would dominate the industry. We peer into the VG247 crystal ball to see what lies ten years into the future.
There are four triple-A releases in 2024, all of them in November
Mainstream triple-A gaming grows ever more expensive and labour-intensive, despite the creation of hundreds of middle-ware tools that iron out the speed bumps. Publishers double down, and double down again, on a decreasing number of hot properties.
Games take five to ten years to complete, and each franchise has at least five studios working on it to ensure sequels occur within generational gaps. EA, Activision, Ubisoft, Take-Two, Sony and Microsoft each have four franchises in active rotation.
Four games release every November, having been announced between one and two years earlier – after at least three years of leaks, ensuring nobody ever enjoys a surprise. About half way through 2024, gamers chatter about how busy the end of year release calendar is. By January 2025, they’re complaining about a lack of games and swearing 2023 was better.
Mid-tier gaming stays dead, but we have six new tiers
The gap left in the market by the diminishment of triple-A has left room for what was once known as the “indie” market to flourish, diversify, and generate billions of dollars of revenue each month.
Unfortunately, this plethora of diverse content for diverse audiences cause outrage among the gaming old guard, who immediately go into hyper-defensive mode, unleashing their planet-sized adjustment disorders and dominating the dialogue until they have established a hierarchy of gaming exclusivity which they feel comfortable complaining about.
As a result, gaming is now divided into: the mainstream experience on consoles and PC for “core” gamers (and also the 300 million people who bought the latest Call of Duty); “low” gaming, “low-middle” gaming, “upper” gaming, “peppermint” gaming and “thinking” gaming. Adherents of each tier wage comment wars that make platform choice – largely now reduced to “do you like InFamous or Crackdown better” – arguments look like leftover cake: not ideal, but nothing you’d turn down.
Nobody ever gives the same answer when asked to define these categories.
Halo is on its second reboot and Tomb Raider is on its fourth
Publishers have given up on new IP, but they’re so loath to put out a game with a number greater than three on the end of the title that they keep rebooting universes. This works about half the time, but each reboot is backed for at least two sequels regardless of whether it sells phenomenally or not at all.
Every reboot is initially greeted with scornful contempt, before earning a grudging respect, weathering a scandal, releasing to orgasmic reviews, and finally being persistently derided by the original detractors when everybody else has moved on and gotten over it.
Every few weeks someone puts together an image showing every iteration of a particular character or environment through 15 or so sequels, and everyone marvels over the advance of technology before spitting hate at each other over what counts as “real” Lara.
“Auto” is the new “solo”, which was the new “indie”
Each creator was required to spent a week meditating under a waterfall before starting, in order to ensure their product was not developed with the intent to make a living.
Here in 2014, the word “indie” has lost all its meaning. Nobody ever locked down what precisely “indie” developers were independent of, when many of the companies laying claim to the term answered to shareholders or took funding from publishers or backers, and the word is now being thrown around as if it were a genre or aesthetic.
By 2024, “indie” means “corporate shill”. Indie teams were replaced by “solo” games, created by one single developer, and therefore entirely true to the creator’s vision. Each creator was required to spent a week meditating under a waterfall before starting, in order to ensure their product was not developed with the intent to make a living. All solo developers took a vow of poverty and were disqualified from ever creating again if consumers gave them money for their products.
Unable to sustain itself among increasing criticism from vocal gamers, the “solo” movement is plagued by incredibly high turnover and frankly rubbish games. Spotting a niche in the market, a clever entrepreneur put together software that automatically generates various slightly dull gaming experiences, drawing the narrative blocks from random look up tables stacked with post-post-post-modernist texts and the graphics from Falafel, the next big art-focused social networking site.
These games, developed in a spirit of pure creation untainted by human desire to feed children and pay the electricity bill, have been hailed as the only “pure” form of game. The original creator has run out of banks to put his money in, and is reportedly considering a sell-out, at which point it is expected Internet commenters will actually vanish up their own rectums in their disgust.
Retro art runs its course and comes out the other side
After pixel art and sprites go out of fashion, indie (and solo and auto) developers turn in desperation to the next obvious steps, rolling backwards through various kinds of raster graphics to vector graphics to oscilloscopes and finally punch cards, with no graphics output whatsoever. This constant push for nostalgia eventually leads to a brief fad for slabs of rock shipped with chisels, to carve your own tic tac toe sessions.
With the retro trend now completely exhausted, someone has the bright idea of reversing the polarity, and starts promoting their primitive title as being more advanced than the last one. The gatekeepers of fashion meet in secret and agree to dole out advances in small portions, but the arms race accelerates and before we know it the fashion for “retro” graphics demands more advanced techniques than even triple-A is cranking out.
The polarity is reversed again, and in 2024 the current fashion is for end-of-era SNES graphics – think Donkey Kong Country.
Masochistic gaming has gone mainstream
“No longer satisfied with ambushes and enemies that can kill you in one hit, players demanded games that switched themselves off, erased your save file, and issued small fines.”
The craze for difficult games really took off over the past ten years. It started innocently enough, with sneering masochists representing a greater proportion of the gaming audience, but by the time we hit 100% saturation and everybody in the whole world was complaining that Dark Souls 4 was “too easy”, we hit a tipping point.
No longer satisfied with ambushes, enemies that can kill you in one hit, and the loss of resources, players demanded games that switched themselves off, erased your save file, and issued small fines.
It escalated from there, and the adoption of VR and full-body nerve suits only accelerated the trend. Some gamers now refuse to cough up a penny unless a game shuts down all their senses and limns their every neurone with exquisite pain, while chanting YOU ARE NOT WORTHY, YOU WILL NEVER BE WORTHY.
Gamers are very excited about the PlayStation 5, Xbox 7000 and the Samsung Quill
It’s been a long decade, but we’re just starting to hear the first rumours about the next set of consoles, tentatively expected in 2033. All the companies involved are refusing to say anything, even as their studios go mysterious silent, one-by-one; their financial reports show huge increases in R&D costs; they are spotted wooing component manufacturers; and workers keep sneaking prototype pictures out to Kotaku.
Early leaks suggest all three new boxes will be, um – computers. They will require you to purchase a keyboard and mouse, and have user-swappable components, making them future proof. In order to avoid any problems with compatibility, if users purchase a game that their rig can not run, they will receive a “free” digital version, tied to their premium console network subscription, which will be stored in the cloud and streamed directly to their TVs.
None of the three new consoles will function offline. All will allow you to share your games with anyone and everyone you like – as long as they also have a premium console network subscription. Console network subscriptions will cost $150 per month.
Nintendo has cured cancer
Nintendo is actually run by a small group of lizard men in consultation with an ancient demon, which resides in a massive split rock buried miles below Nintendo’s Kyoto HQ.
Despite running a chain of highly profitable and yet socially-responsible hospitals across Asia and increasingly in western territories, Nintendo keeps insisting it is primarily an entertainment company, not a health-care provider. “Laugh the pain away,” Shigeru Miyamoto cackles from the cybernetic robot suit in which he now reposes, ensuring his immortality and the continued compliance of shareholders. The suit administers another shot of heroin. “Laugh it all away!”
Satoru Iwata has retired. Reggie Fils-Aime is now running Nintendo both sides of the pond, although it has become apparent that Nintendo’s public leadership is actually a group of actors hired to smile broadly at the camera and take part in undignified charades; they are quietly brainwashed until they themselves believe they are running the company, but are actually just playing a future version of Tomodachi Life.
Nintendo is actually run by a small group of lizard men in consultation with an ancient demon, which resides in a massive split rock buried miles below Nintendo’s Kyoto HQ. The secret management files down here during blood moons to make sacrifice and receive the demon’s wisdom. “It’s time for new hardware, oh loathsome one!” they moan.
“Let it be round like an egg,” the thing hisses, in a voice that strikes the small of your back with a faint, damp pressure, briefly stopping your heart. “Let it have three screens and be powered by the human pulse.”
“What shall we call this device, oh tepid underbelly of the midnight sow?” they chant.
“Let is be called… the Poo Too,” the voice intones, and the blast of its breath on your face is as dry and hot as a camel’s fever dream.
It is an instant best-seller.
Gaming has gone mainstream
Although console manufacturers keep smiling as they tell you there’s only one place to enjoy “real” gaming, you can now play the latest Final Fantasy game on your FitBit, which has inserted its metallic tendrils through your flesh and into your nervous system, where it can override your optic input to deliver graphics directly to your brain.
In fact, you can play the latest Final Fantasy – and indeed, every major non-exclusive release – on every device your wear or own, including your microwave. Every second of the day you are not bent over your wheelbarrow, shifting resources for your machine overlords inside the signal-dampening control field synched to your life support collar, you are gaming. Everyone is gaming.
You saw a dead body once, in the next pod over from yours in your community housing unit. It had froth still drying on its lips, and the word “DING” carved in its chest, apparently by its own hand. You alt-tabbed to Dota 3. Later, James told you the dead one had finished all the games. You laughed. Fairy tales to frighten children.
All the big publishers are scrambling to push out asynchronous turn-based real time RPG shooter MMOs (or whatever)
It’s no wonder every publisher is scurrying to add an asynchronous turn-based real time RPG shooter MMO (or whatever) to its catalogue for the coming year. We have our doubts about it.
Although the genre has been around for ages, asynchronous turn-based real time RPG shooter MMO (or whatever)s are suddenly the focus of publisher attention. It probably all began about five years ago, when a disruptive new player arrived on the scene, taking a strange niche genre mostly played by the hardcore PC modding community and turning it into a phenomenon almost overnight.
The first major asynchronous turn-based real time RPG shooter MMO (or whatever)s was followed by dozens of imitators, which innovated to various degrees and found loyal fanbases. But it was when a developer best known as an industry hero had a go that things got really lucrative.
While asynchronous turn-based real time RPG shooter MMO (or whatever)s are only vaguely recognised by mainstream culture, taking a far distant backseat to more familiar, blockbuster genres, they’re among the most-played games of 2024. The concurrent user bases are staggering. It’s no wonder every publisher is scurrying to add an asynchronous turn-based real time RPG shooter MMO to its catalogue for the coming year. We have our doubts about it.
VR really takes off
After display technology and architecture collided, resulting in every private and public space housing a round, floor-to-ceiling television, consumers found that actually, they weren’t that averse to the idea of a headset that immersed you in a virtual world. It’s not like you notice the difference; there are ads screaming at you and shaping your mind from every surface regardless of whether you’re in “real” or “virtual” space.
You don’t have to like my jokes; I get paid anyway. Now let’s hear yours.