With new consoles coming out all the time, to attendant massive publicity, and in an age when it’s possible to buy a Nintendo controller so big that it doubles as a coffee table, it’s hard to imagine them going away. Nevertheless, there are subtle shifts taking place in the games industry that suggest the future of gaming may be in browsers, with new consoles gradually ceasing to appear or being developed only as a niche industry. What’s going on?
While there have always been people who have opted to do their gaming through browsers, this approach hasn’t been the choice of serious gamers because browsers haven’t been fast enough to provide the best gaming experience. That’s beginning to change as the teams behind both Chrome and Firefox, recognizing the appetite for improved PC gaming, are making a dedicated effort to catch up. One of their aims is to do away with plug-ins to give you a fully optimized, streamlined gaming experience. The results of these efforts should start to become visible within the next few months.
Gaming on the internet
Another factor that’s changing gaming preferences is the fact that gamers now want more and more integrated experiences. Sure, it’s possible to do multiplayer, remote gaming on some consoles, but this is quite limited; you can’t have another window open at the side in which you’re plotting your strategy together with a friend, and you can’t play at the same time as you’re keeping an eye out for an important email from work. Browser-based PC gaming gives you a lot more flexibility.
Looking ahead: World of Warcraft
One man who figured out which way the wind was blowing some years ago is Bobby Kotick, who pushed World of Warcraft hard as a game that could be played without special equipment. If you check out Bobby Kotick’s IMDb, you’ll see that he’s taken this approach with a lot of his games, bringing them into a space that potential customers are using already rather than requiring those customers to make an extra effort to go to them. This has enabled World of Warcraft to attract people who would never have thought about gaming before, and has helped the wider industry to move into the mainstream.
The importance of convenience
The key factor that Kotick identified is the importance of convenience. Most people will never be able to devote their lives to gaming, and often they don’t want to. They want games to fit around the rest of what’s going on in their lives, and this is much easier when playing on a browser. It’s good news for die-hard gamers too, because the more people who play, the more impetus there is for the development of new games and better game engines. The move to browsers is also advantageous because it does away with the dependence on particular platforms, so you can play whatever games you want with any of your friends.
A changing industry
With more and more games now being distributed online, rather than in any kind of physical format, browser gaming is becoming a practical option both for casual gamers and for those who are keen to seek out unusual games or the latest things to go viral. It’s a great situation for indie game designers, who are better able to get their work out to a wide market this way, but big games companies still have plenty to offer, and are increasingly designing their wares with browsers in mind. Console designers are fighting back, of course, and this is a battle that’s likely to lead to rapid improvements in both areas of technology.