With a whole new year ahead of developers and publishers, here are three quick predictions for the gaming landscape in 2017.
Virtual reality (VR) technology is amazing but in 2016 it suffered beneath the weight of its own potential. It’s a piece of hardware that can replicate entire worlds, spare patients the agony of treatment, ease phobias and PTSD, and yet a good multiplayer game is still in the realm of the hypothetical.
However, the issue with VR is not so much content as cost – the price of entry for the HTC Vive, in particular, is $800, an outlay that doesn’t include the device players need to actually run VR content (a PC). It’s hardly a unique problem, as all new gadgets launch with prices befitting their novelty, but it’s one that’s unlikely to go away in 2017.
It is possible to enjoy VR on a budget – the Samsung Gear VR, in particular, is a great device for the price – but some of the lower-end gadgets like Google Cardboard have very little support from developers. They’re also so dependent on hardware power that a player’s chances of enjoying a genuinely pleasant experience or a bout of motion sickness are about equal.2. The Payments Arena Will Diversify
With Steam, Origin, Kickstarter, Humble Bundle, and the various mobile app stores, more money changes hands in the gaming industry than players might realise. For that reason, new payment methods, especially cryptocurrency, are making an appearance specifically to get people who don’t have access to credit cards on board.
For example, the in-development MMO Crowfall lets its supporters pledge in Bitcoin, while MrSpin, a casino website which stands out for creating its own games in-house, allows players to make a slots deposit by phone bill and try out one of the 10 bespoke slot machines available on the site. It’s one of the more unusual payment methods out there but it means that gamers can defer the cost of their iGaming experience until the end of the month.
"Mario vs. Super Luigi (316/365)" (CC BY 2.0) by JD Hancock
3. It’ll be Nintendo’s Year
The gaming world would be a lot poorer without Nintendo yet predicting a dismal end for the company has become a hobby for some outlets. There’s no hiding the fact that the Japanese firm has struggled, with sales of its home console hardware plummeting from 25m in 2009 to just 4m in 2016 (the Wii U was a disaster), but Nintendo hit the ground running this year.
Following on from the success of its debut mobile title Super Mario Run in December, Nintendo will release a successor to the Wii U at the beginning of March – the Switch. The line-up at launch is fantastic but the device is simultaneously a mobile and TV-based device, which means it’s difficult to get a bead on Nintendo’s endgame. Is the Switch designed to replace both the DS and the Wii U?
In any case, Nintendo needs to get a handle on pricing. Ignoring the fact that the Switch’s accessories – like a screen dock - cost up to $90 each, Super Mario Run costs $10, a ridiculous price point that suggests Nintendo is hawking its apps to a hardcore audience. There are simply too many similar titles on the App Store for that kind of behaviour.
As a final point, the world is still waiting on Microsoft’s new Xbox, a device that’s supposed to come out towards the end of 2017. Codenamed Project Scorpio, and capable of playing games in 4k, it remains a bit of an enigma as of late January.
Header Image: "VR games, IFA 2015" (CC BY 2.0) by Janitors