This year is one of the most exciting years for the video game industry in recent memory. Two new consoles are launching this year, which is exciting for the industry and gamers alike. This drastic upheaval of the current video-gaming status quo gives us an opportunity to predict where the industry is headed over the next few years.
At E3 2013, we tracked the major (but maybe not so obvious) trends happening within the console industry. Here's what we learned.
People are passionate about their digital rights
This week, Sony pushed in the knife Microsoft had already slipped and impaled itself on a few more inches. If you were in attendance at Sony's Press Conference, when CEO Jack Tretton announced that PlayStation 4 games would see none of the restrictions Microsoft plans to impose on Xbox One software, you could have easily mistaken the reaction to that of a sporting event. Or that moment during a rock concert when a popular, but unexpected guest takes the stage. In other words, Sony very successfully popped the crowd.
With this announcement, Sony easily assumed the role of the pro-consumer console-maker in the eyes of many gamers. Gamers have spoken: in general, they don't like what MS is cooking, and judging by the nearly 2,000 comments this story's amassed since Monday, they aren't shy about expressing it. Some in a particularly passionate fashion.
Ownership rights are obviously important to gamers, but we'll have to wait and see just how the current general gamer disdain (or at least perceived disdain) for the Xbox One actually affects its sales.
There's still some gas left in the current-generation tank
Don't count out the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 just yet. Sony's booth had more PS3 kiosks than PS4 ones. Consider this: a generous number of titles announced at this year's E3 are games that will be exclusive to current-gen platforms.
Also, a sizable portion of games that will appear on next-gen system will also have current-gen offerings. The takeaway? You probably won't need to run out and buy a next-gen console on the first day to get some of the latest and greatest in games.
Sharing game footage is the next big thing (whether that's something you're into or not)
Sharing game footage is the new black. The PS4 does it, as does the Xbox One. Nvidia's Shadowplay will do it for PCs.
Between both the PS4 and Xbox One offering built-in interfaces to record and easily post gameplay footage from your console, to each system sporting integrated live-streaming capabilities, it's clear that if you're not currently sharing your gameplay with the world, you likely will be soon .
Next-gen graphics won't be as drastic of a jump as from SD to HD
Sorry to pop this balloon, but next-gen games don't look as jaw-dropping as you might be expecting. Do they look better? Of course. There are many more high-resolution textures and a ton of noticeable upgrades that even casual gamers will discern, but the generational stepstone isn't as dramatic as it was when consoles went from SD to HD.
That said, it's worth noting that these games are just the first wave of next-gen titles. As developers get more experience with these new platforms, the visual quality will also improve.
Nintendo is carving out its own spot
It's almost as if Nintendo exists in its own video game industry vacuum as, more than any other publisher, it seems perfectly comfortable doing its own thing. That "thing" seems to be doubling down on its franchises. At E3 2013 it featured new entries in the Mario, Mario Kart, Pikmin, Donkey Kong, and Zelda series.
By focusing on its core franchises, Nintendo excites and satisfies its base. It's as if Nintendo is finally realizing that people don't buy a Wii U to play Call of Duty; they buy a Wii U to play Nintendo games. And that's exactly what the big N is giving them.
That's not to say that third parties are absent on the Wii U. Ubisoft will release Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag, Watch Dogs, and Rayman Legends on the system later this year.
Independent games matter
Sony laid out a very convincing case to be the go-to platform for independent games at the company's E3 2013 press conference. Microsoft had a few indie titles up its sleeve as well, but didn't spend much time on the subject.
On the other hand, Sony's open publishing platform, major face time at the company's press conference, and significant booth floor space dedicated to indie games really helped to get the point across.