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Despite Microsoft and Sony staying adamant about extending the life of their consoles beyond the standard 5-6 year lifespan, the upcoming announcement of Nintendo's new system at E3 signals the start of the end for this console generation. At first glance this console generation may seem a bit bland compared to previous. Sure we had plenty of great games, but have we seen much innovation and evolution this generation? On its face I think its not as apparent as past generations because for awhile the jump from one console generation to another was mostly measured in graphics. We started off with the whole bit war thing. Not only was it great for advertising, "Hey, forget that old 8 bit system, this one is 16 bit! Twice the bits!" But there also was a big difference that consumers could clearly see each new generation, especially when we started to see real 3D for the first time.
I think this next console generation will be the first where its not a real noticeable difference, and some can argue that the jump from what we saw at the end of the last console generation and what we started with this generation wasn't a huge leap either, at least not compared to past generations. Putting graphical things aside now, let's look at what innovations have changed gaming over the years. We've had Nintendo introduce a bunch, such as the first standard four button game pad with the SNES. Nintendo also gave us things like the rumble pack and analog stick, two huge innovations that came in the same generation as 3D also.
So what have we seen this generation that has changed gaming and will survive into future generations? First off, the biggest one I think is DLC. I think everyone was fairly skeptical of DLC at the beginning of this console generation, and the introduction of DLC via horse armor really didn't help its case. There was a lot of controversy about developers starting to ship their games with content held back for DLC, even worse, sometimes on the disc, just locked until you gave up more money. This can still be annoying if it is done blatantly, but DLC has really made a place for itself in gaming by offering quality content at times. A good example of successful DLC is Burnout Paradise. Not only was there standard DLC to add content, but there was a ton of free updates that really added a lot of value to the game and kept it fresh long after release.
I have no doubt we'll be seeing DLC as a part of gaming for generations to come. Motion controls is another big part of this console generation that I think will stick around in future generations in some form. There have been all sorts of funky controllers and add-on devices in the past, but this current generation has seen a real push for viable motion controllers. From a waggling start on the Wii to the full body controls of the Kinect, motion controls have already transformed a lot for just one console generation, and I honestly have no idea what it will evolve into next generation. Nevertheless I'm sure we'll see that technology appearing in some form, even if a lot of gamers aren't exactly clamoring for it.
The next big evolution I think we've seen this generation is online gaming. Online gaming is obviously nothing new, we saw it on the Dreamcast, PS2, and it's been on the PC forever. What we have seen though is a big change in how consoles have embraced online gaming. Well, Nintendo still doesn't think that whole online fad is going to catch on I guess, but here's hopin next generation! Anywho, Microsoft really worked toward creating an online community that finally made it easy for console gamers to connect and play online. The PS3, while offering a free service, hasn't exactly given gamers as deep of an online society as the 360 has.
The introduction of the Home service shows that Sony is definately interested in providing more of an online experience to console gamers and it's certainly a big step up from gaming online on the PS2. I can certainly see the whole avatar thing continuing into the next console generation. Of course we should also see all three companies give us more options when it comes to connecting to your friends online, and god help me if I have to input another freakin friend code.
Now the question is what innovations will we see next console generation. I'm thinking 3D will be a big focus point, despite the fact that most households won't have a 3D television still. Another big change could be the long forseen jump from physical media to digital downloads only, or some sort of cloud storage. As much as I like having a physical copy, it certainly is more convenient to not have to switch discs. In any case, those are the big innovations I think we've seen this console generation, let me know if you can think of anymore! Also, I'd love to hear some thoughts on what you think we'll see next generation that will change gaming.