As with most tradeshows and conferences in 2020, E3 was canceled. However, the gaming community shared numerous online presentations in the weeks leading up to holiday releases.
We missed the California weather, Randy's Donuts, and waiting in long lines to demo games.
Hopefully 2021 will be different.
2020 was rough for many industries but video gaming is booming during isolation.
Contributors: George Guffey, Gil Cavada, Erik Moses, Jake Vail
The new Xbox is referred to as "Series X", but Microsoft is rebranding it and all future consoles simply as "Xbox". So far, consoles for this platform have been called "Xbox One", "Xbox One S", and "Xbox One X".
When the original Xbox One was released, Microsoft announced that it was going to be the last platform. Similar how the PC world has dealt with the same Windows 10 for many years, Microsoft has allowed Xbox One games to be playable on all three consoles. It will be the same for Series X.
Is it worth the upgrade? Playing 4k capable games at 120 fps is beautiful and it feels like you have an advantage over online players with older systems.
Oddly enough, older systems will allow PC users to stream games to their computers, but this function is currently not available on the new units.
Be prepared to max out your home internet data limits. These games are big, the updates are big and 4k streaming is big too.
Also, be prepared to use up the hard drive on the console with a few games. Xbox does allow you to connect an external hard drive, but some of the newer games won’t run through a traditional USB cable. Xbox can sell you a new proprietary 1TB hard drive to insert in the back of the console for $250.
It's Called "Xbox"
When the Xbox One was initially released, it came with the Kinect device that allowed hands free motion controls and voice commands. Not long after the launch, Microsoft abandoned the device and no longer supports it. Smart speakers from Google and Amazon now compete to fill our houses and listen to us. Microsoft was already there back in 2010 - four years before Amazon Echo and six years before Google.
Microsoft. You Had the Lead.
As most industries figure what the future will look like post-pandemic, it's easy to see how the Kinect’s hands-free experience could have helped people interact and keep social distance.
Microsoft first introduced the Smart Personal Object Technology (SPOT) watch back in 2003 and it lasted five years. After Apple Watch was released in 2014, Microsoft was playing catch up with Microsoft Band.
The PocketPC was out in the early 2000s and had a touch screen. If the UI was optimized for finger touch and not a stylus, who knows if Microsoft would have a larger market share today in smartphones.
Microsoft Kinect was often used with Skype to have video conversations. Facebook is now making hardware for this today and Zoom is taking off with its own solution.
PlayStation Plus - $9.99/month. Access to older games; ability to play games online
PlayStation Now - $9.99/month. Stream games
Xbox Live Gold - $9.99/month. A couple free games each month; ability to play games online. Xbox announced this program will be phased out.
Xbox Game Pass - $14.99/month. Similar to Xbox Live Gold with more games; ability to stream to mobile phone.
Nintendo Switch Online - $19.99/year. Access to classic Nintendo games; ability to play games online
EA Access - $4.99/month. Access to older EA games and 10% discount on the purchase of new games
Stadia - $9.99/month. Stream games on mobile device or Google connected displays.
Apple Arcade - $4.99/month. Play games on Apple devices
Subscriptions are the future. Microsoft made it clear this is the direction of Xbox. For the right price level, they will even provide you the console.
Google Stadia was advertised to be major competition against home consoles by allowing most devices to stream video games with no need for downloading, managing hard drive space, and 60 FPS 4K streaming. Due to a lack of priority games and a confusing business model, many did not adopt the new system and it seems to be on life support with major discounts this summer.
Microsoft and Sony have its own versions of streaming. Project xCloud is included in the Xbox Game Pass Subscription. PlayStation Now streams games on laptops and phones. With the current console manufacturers offering streaming, it's hard to see why console players would pay for Google’s Stadia subscription.
It's possible with the current pandemic there is less need to remotely access or stream games to your phone. It will be interesting to see if streaming will be desired in the future.
PDT is always looking for ways to integrate the use of VR into our design and development process. Unfortunately, there is not a single simple format we can provide customers for them to view on a PC-based VR, mobile phone VR, or gaming VR system. Adobe is trying to make AR easy to use, but functionality is currently limited to newer iPhones models.
The cost of VR systems has not come down. The Oculus Quest was sold out through the holiday season and sells out as soon as it is restocked. The high cost and lack of games can be limiting VR growth. It's a shame VR is not easily accessible. VR could be a great tool to bring people together virtually and take them places during quarantine.
The Oculus Go (cheaper and less-featured VR) was released on May 1, 2018, and Facebook announced the end of the system on June 23, 2020.
Sony showed off its new PS5 console, however, there was no information about the launch of a new VR system to go with it.
The holiday season passed, and it was hard to purchase the Oculus Quest. Facebook is working on VR glasses so it may be worth waiting for that.
Pilot a Tie Fighter
EA Games’ Star Wars Squadrons is a space battle game where the player can fly various space crafts for either the light or dark side.
The entire game can be played in VR! It can also be played online with other players on different console formats without VR.
The game is fun to play but VR can make you dizzy over time. It is a nice feature to play in non-VR mode.
It is a shame that you still use the console controller to fly, when it could have been more natural to gesture and flick a virtual switch while increasing your rear deflector shields.
Cross Platform Gaming
Since last year, Sony gave in now allows PlayStation gamers to play online with players of other systems like PC, Xbox, and Nintendo. This capability is great because it allows gamers to play with and against more players.
It is the lack of cross-platform gaming that could also be hurting the VR industry. It would be nice to communicate with others in VR and not be restricted by platforms.
Virtual Events, Tie-Ins, and Fortnite
Fortnite is changing the video game industry with live events that make players have FOMO to log on at specific times and witness major events that occur in-game.
Typically, there are promotional microtransactions that are released during an event for people to purchase that are not available after the event.
Early in quarantine, Fortnite hosted an 8-minute Travis Scott concert. There were in-game costumes and skins to tie-in with the event as well as real life clothing to match, available on Travis Scott’s merchandise website. The virtual concert even debuted a new song.
In the opening crawl of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the first sentence references a mysterious broadcast from the late Emperor Palpatine. The night before the movie premiered in theaters, the players in Fortnite were able to hear the message.
There were multiple microtransaction exclusive in-game items players could purchase that were Star Wars-themed to go along with the event. The items were available for a limited time only, encouraging players to have FOMO and make the purchase.
Can't go to the local Cineplex? Fortnite has in-game movie theaters. The first showing was Inception by Christopher Nolan. It was a strange, distracting way to watch a movie as players spent most of the time jumping in front of the screen or shooting at it.
Some games are getting involved in civil rights movements like Black Lives Matter and allowing players to show their support and get involved.
Destiny 2 offered a special emblem for players to equip if they donated $15 to the BLM movement.
A We The People documentary discussing BLM was showing at Fortnite movie theaters for 24 hours.
Animal Crossing (Nintendo Switch) - Businesses and Universities are using Nintendo’s open world building game, Animal Crossing, to advertise. Utilizing a feature in the game that allows you to make custom clothing, paintings, and even music, businesses can give players virtual swag to show off in the game.
Alternatives to Zoom
People have used games such as VRChat and Red Dead Redemption as alternatives to conference call meetings.
Animal Crossing and Minecraft were used to host Graduation ceremonies for small groups of students this year.
The gaming social platform Discord has recently switched its marketing from a gaming app to an overall social to address a rising number of users that utilize the platform for more than game communications. There are now features made for businesses to conduct meetings.
Virtual Airline - In the game, the player travels to islands through an airline called DoDo Airlines. The player can earn miles, needs a passport and can purchase tickets to fly. It is interesting to see the Game of Life updated for travel.
It could have been a nice opportunity to customize the airline. It seems to be the only thing a player can't build or modify.
Animal Crossing now provides face masks for player avatars. If you like the PDT hoodie in the image you can download it here.
More Money, More Problems?
Next-generation consoles can support better graphics and processing speed. Should a customer pay more money for the same game based on the platform?
Digital movie rentals do something similar: the higher the resolution, the more you pay.
A difference is when you purchase a movie or game that is all digital. Perhaps you bought a game to match your hardware or TV capability. If you upgrade at least one of those devices, should you need to re-purchase the content and pay more? There currently does not seem to be an upgrade program.
There are some game developers that announced gamers will be able to play games at the resolution your hardware can handle without paying additional money or buying a different game format.
E-Sports Missed Opportunity
With the lack of real sports on broadcast television and viewers looking for sports to watch, it seemed like an opportunity for e-sports to introduce themselves to the masses. However, the closest viewers got was watching professional athletes play sports video games, not the professional gamers that are able to play better.
As schools start up in Fall and sport programs are postponed, e-sports could be the only sport available for students to participate in.
A current trend in video game narratives is to not really create a sequel game, but tell stories that take multiple years to unfold. This is to gain a more solidified fanbase that will last for years to come and pay more additional fees to complete the story.
Franchises like Destiny 2 by Bungie have just unveiled its next two years of content for one video game. Players want a long-term commitment to the narratives that they invest both their time and money. This will make the Destiny 2 game playable and storytelling for over five years.
Destiny 2 Events:
The first live event included many players logged on to witness a ship be destroyed in the sky and watch it crash releasing a new level. This event took several hours.
Players that logged in got a limited time emblem show off if they were there. Events like this, increase the numbers of active players over a short amount of time.
Long Form Storytelling
Unreal Engine 5, developed by Epic Games, will be a major engine for video games to run on for the upcoming generation of consoles. It allows another level of realism (focus distance, lighting and shadow, detail) that can be instantly rendered as the player moves around the digital environment.
This type of technology has even helped innovate in filmmaking. Unreal Engine 4 was used to render scenery for The Mandalorian: Season 1. The hyper-realistic engine rendered environments for the camera’s perspective and displayed it live around the actors, no longer requiring the use of a green screen to place the actors in a life-like environment. This also places real reflections and lighting on the actors’ skin and costumes. Quite interesting to see it happen…
Unreal Engine 5
The new Microsoft Flight Simulator was released this year. It boasts a 1:1 scale map of the entire world utilizing satellite data.
It is slated to be a very realistic simulator for commercial flights for people to play on PC or Xbox Series X. It is interesting to see game developers now using map data to be able to recreate the world.
and Real Map Data
Players on Minecraft are currently using a similar technique to recreate the entire world.
Next Generation Sony PlayStation5
Form Design and the Internet
Due to the pandemic, there are less Sony PlayStation 5 consoles available for purchase. Like Xbox, these consoles are offered with and without a disc drive.
Currently, there is no information on VR for PS5.
There was also not many Day One games released either. It will be interesting to see how many people upgrade hardware or if they wait for more platform-only games to be released.
PS5 was introduced showing off a new clean, white, almost architectural style, that was quickly spoofed on-line. PS5 looks like it stepped out of TRON and was styled to minimize its size. It does seem to have areas that will attract and collect dust.
One beautiful detail on the PS5 controller is that the grip texture is made of the button icon shapes.
This subtle detail may go unnoticed by many, but it will mean a lot to all the diehard fans. This is a new level of branding detail not seen before in gaming.
Previous PlayStations have typically been boxy forms and a single color. The internet, of course, decided to have fun with it. Below are some of our favorite memes.
Kentucky Fried Gaming
On the topic of memes… KFC, soon after the PS5 reveal, posted images of the KFConsole as a joke to promote its brand on social media.
Recently, KFC launched a newer commercial and website promoting the KFConsole. It seems like KFC made a real PC gaming console that keeps your chicken warm!
Microsoft recently created its Mixer streaming platform to compete against Twitch, a popular Amazon-owned live-streaming platform for gaming.
Mixer was abandoned this year and Microsoft partnered with Facebook Gaming, another live-streaming platform. The rumor is Microsoft partnered with Facebook to integrate Oculus VR with Xbox consoles.