What's going on with gaming?
In November, the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, the flagships of "next-generation" gaming, will hit shelves. How will they change the world of video games?
At a panel entitled "IGN Presents: Xbox One, PS4 and the Future of Gaming" at New York Comic Con 2013, three writers from the IGN gaming news website touched on just about every new gaming topic, including next-gen consoles, more-realistic graphics and the rise of indie game development.
"I think next generation is really going to be about online connectivity and cloud computing," said Andrea Rene, a senior video producer at Alloy Digital.
Even after the new consoles come out, it'll take a few years, she speculated, before developers figure out what to do with the huge jump in processing power that the new consoles will provide.
In the past, new video game consoles have made a splash with their upgraded graphics capability, but that kind of excitement may be wearing out. "Are we done being wowed visually by video games?" asked IGN's Marty Sliva. "Is the threshold just going to be so slowly, incrementally raised that there won't be something that just [makes us say], 'Oh my God'?"
That's not to say that the new consoles' graphics aren't impressive. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One's increased processing power has brought games closer to photorealism than ever before. But the panelists remembered that previous consoles, particularly the Nintendo 64 released in 1996, had represented a much greater jump forward in graphics, relative to the preceding models, than has been seen on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
Triple-A and indie games
Graphics aren't the only way the video game world is changing.
"Near the end of this generation, we saw the death of the double-A game," said Sliva, referring to console video games with mid-sized budgets that don't achieve the critical success of so-called "Triple-A" titles such as "GTA V" or "Call of Duty."
In particular, Sliva and the other panelists pointed to video game publisher THQ going out of business in Dec. 2012.
"I feel like there are going to be that handful, maybe dozen triple-A games that come out each year that will sell and still be profitable," he predicted.
To fill in the cracks, indie games — those made by small studios or startups — have increased in both scope and reach.
"I'm really excited about the fact that people are thinking smaller — indie games, games that are less expensive, that are going to be really risky and try something new," Sliva said.
Indie games are part of the reason PC-based gaming platform Steam has become so popular. And now the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 seem to be tweaking their distribution models to more closely resemble Steam's, said IGN's Greg Miller. Both consoles' online stores — Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network — promise to offer more indie titles and are starting to offer games as digital downloads instead of hard copies on discs.
What about the Wii U? Nintendo's representative in the next generation of gaming came out in 2012 to mixed reviews.
But the Wii U was the first to incorporate second-screen gaming, which several of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4's games are now touting as part of their experience.
Upcoming games like "Watch Dogs" and "Madden NFL 25" will let players connect a tablet or smartphone to access new features and interact with the game world in a different way.
"I think everyone's waiting for 'Smash Brothers,'" said Rene, to loud cheers from the panel audience.
"That's the thing," agreed Miller. "That's what's so crazy about Nintendo. They know everybody's waiting for 'Smash Brothers,' so they can just chill!"