It’s the end of a decade, and while we take a look back on all the crazy things that happened the past 10 years, I thought it would be neat to look back on how we looked forward. I booted up the old internet wayback machine and looked around for what game journalists were predicting in the future in late 2009.
I’ll tell you one thing, we were smart back then. There were several correct predictions, from the rise of downloadable sales to the slow dissolution of the barrier between consoles and PCs and even consoles and handhelds in the form of the Switch.
However, for every correct prediction there were a ton of wacky guesses that completely missed the mark, especially from non-gaming centric publications that were just wowed by the technology of the time. I’ve rounded up 20 of the craziest predictions that simply did not come to pass in the last decade. We should look at these as examples of what not to do when making predictions for 2020.
3D gaming did not replace standard graphics
3D was going to be the future of all gaming! 3D TVs were in and were going to stay in. Heck, Nintendo took this prediction so seriously that it built its next handheld around 3D graphics!
Yet despite the success of the 3DS, 3D technology never took off. 3D TVs flopped and the only 3D technology we see in gaming these days is in VR headsets.
Motion controls did not replace standard controls
The Wii took everyone by storm, and everyone thought motion controls were going to be the next big thing in gaming. The Playstation had the PS Move and Microsoft had the Kinect. In fact, Microsoft was so confident in the Kinect that it was going to make its new console, the Xbox One, feature an always-on Kinect that was always listening to your voice commands.
Well not only did the Kinect fail, but it dealt a pretty massive blow to the Xbox One along with it. While the Switch still has some motion controls tucked away in its JoyCons and virtual reality sets pretty much need motion controls to operate, the majority of games still use a plain old controller. Motion controls (and their offshoot, voice controls) are still kind of a gimmick, a gimmick that can be done well at times, but not something that will replace controllers anytime soon… or ever.
Streaming gaming did not become the norm
Services like OnLive were fairly new at the turn of the decade and everyone thought that this was the future of gaming. Just think about it, you can play any game you want without needing an absurdly expensive gaming PC or console!
Nope, you just need an absurdly expensive internet connection instead. It’s been a decade and no streaming service has taken off. Google Stadia recently had its launch and it was the poster boy for streaming game services. Its launch has been less than stellar, with a small game library, games that don’t stream in the resolution or at the framerate they were advertised, and a marketing campaign that feels like it’s stuck in the 90s. While it appears that Sony and Microsoft’s new next-gen consoles will be offering streaming services, frankly they still seem like add-ons rather than a major way to experience AAA games. I’m not entirely sure we will ever have the infrastructure needed to make game streaming a better experience than playing a game with local hardware.
All gaming didn’t become digital and all consoles did not become digital storefronts
So if game streaming is out, what about digital distribution. Well, we as a community did correctly predict that digital storefronts would continue to grow in the coming decade. We even predicted that they would have a larger share of the gaming marketplace than brick and mortar retail shops.
However, some people went as far to say that all physical distribution is dead, and that has not come to pass. GameStop, Best Buy, and Target are still around, and frankly you can even find Mom and Pop video game shops still floating around selling retro games and refurbishing old consoles. In fact, that’s one thing that is keeping the market from going all digital. Retro gaming is bigger than ever and unless full retro libraries start going digital, someone somewhere is going to have to sell consumers a big hunk of plastic.
The wildest prediction I found was that consoles would become obsolete and gaming brands, like Playstation and Xbox, would simply become digital storefronts for PCs. Frankly, PC gaming simply does not have a big enough market share yet and it may never. As people shift toward weak netbooks and tablets for convenience computing, the dedicated tower PC for gaming is becoming something only dedicated gamers and hobbyists have. More mainstream consumers will continue to buy consoles simply because they are convenient.
Game elements aren’t controlled by A.I. for the most part
Remember Peter Molyneux’s Milo? It was a project that was supposed to show that people are obsolete. In the wonderful world of 2020, we wouldn’t need actors to portray our video game NPCs. Rather, we would be able to talk to NPCs via a microphone in any language and a sophisticated A.I. would allow it to talk back to us as if it were a real person.
Yeah, that did not happen. Even though Molyneux showed us Milo in action, it’s pretty clear that was all smoke and mirrors. In fact, Molyneux hasn’t been doing much these days, with his last few efforts being mobile titles that averaged around a 60 on metacritic. At one point Molyneux was promising us the future, but now it seems he can’t even keep up with current market trends.
We aren’t controlling gaming with our mind, or even monitoring our body
We were experimenting with a lot of new styles of technology at the turn of the decade. We came up with ways to control games with our brainwaves. We came up with monitors that can clip onto our fingers and take our heart rate while playing horror games. We figured that gaming was going to be a full body experience by the time we got to 2020.
Is it though? Not really. Sure, there are a lot of games that try to incorporate other senses. Some are major hits like Tetris Effect, others are almost laughable like Ring Fit. However, gaming is still primarily a visual medium, and will likely continue to be so for a while. In fact, advances in virtual reality have only made us more dependent on our eyes and hands as the main ways we interface with games.
Apple never put out a console
This was one that nearly everyone thought was happening. We all thought that someone new was going to enter the game market, and we all thought that it had to be Apple. Apple was a tech giant and it just made sense for them to use their resources to create a console that could rival anything that any other first party put out.
Maybe it was because the Wii did so well and we fell in love with the white console design. Apple always loved making white products.
Anyway, Apple isn’t anywhere near the core gaming space these days. The most they do is give a few nods to AR gaming during their keynotes. Granted, the iPhone is the most popular device to play mobile games on and Apple Arcade recently launched as a subscription service for smaller games on Apple compatible devices, but all of this feels tangential to the business that Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are doing. They certainly aren’t planning to make a console anytime soon, which is what we all thought was going to happen.
Rather, it was Apple’s competitor, Google, that went the console route with the Stadia and…. well we already discussed how that’s unfolding. We love to predict that someone is going to come along and shake up the big three consoles, but historically there has only ever been space for three competitors in that market, and without a killer app driving console sales, most people will default to the hardware they already know and are comfortable with.
Gaming did not experience a second crash
“Games are becoming too expensive!” we cried. “DLC is ruining the market!” “No one will be able to afford gaming in 10 years!”
For some reason we love doom saying in the gaming industry. Nothing like staring into that void and coming face-to-face with your own mortality.
The thing is, gaming didn’t crash. Yes, games have become more expensive and yes, DLC is central to the gaming business model more than ever, but gaming has only become more popular and profitable in the past 10 years, even as income hasn’t quite increased to keep up with growing prices.
We love our games, and it looks like we are going to pay any price to keep playing them. In fact, some companies have started exploiting that fact with some fairly predatory business practices, but that’s a topic for another time.
MMOs did not become the market’s hottest genre
It seems like every time something new comes out, everyone is ready to say that it’s going to dominate gaming as we know it for the next 10 years. A decade ago, we were still in awe at how well MMOs were doing. This was a new way to interact with people. We had gamers getting married in World of Warcraft. We had businesses holding meetings in Second Life. Clearly we were only a decade away from a Matrix style… no that reference is outdated… a Ready Player One style virtual world that we spend all of our time in.
And while VR Chat has certainly given us some unique entertainment (I’ve seen things happening between Twilight Sparkle and Winnie the Pooh that I can never unsee) for the most part we still spend a lot of our time in meat space. In fact, MMOs haven’t evolved much in these last 10 years. Sure, they have become bigger, and better, and have more content, but we haven’t seen many new ones enter the market space. People are still playing WoW or FFXIV (as a replacement for FFXI), or EVE: Online. It just turned out that the MMO section of the market was too small for a lot of competition.
Live gaming TV shows never happened
Gaming was becoming so real back in 2009 that it was clear that the lines between the real world and the game world were going to blend. Gaming wouldn’t simply be the realm of gamers. Rather, plain old TV would become interactive. It would allow people to play along with game shows and compete with real money. It would allow watchers to choose the outcome of every episode of TV they watch.
We experimented with both those formats, and neither really took off. Black Mirror had their big Bandersnatch experiment which was, OK, but only had media buzz for a few weeks before we all moved on to something else. As far as game shows go, we had the big 1 vs. 100 craze but that died out in 2011. While many games have become more cinematic and story driven we still look at them as games, not TV programs. You still get Life is Strange from Steam, not from your cable provided. The barrier between these two media is still up and probably isn’t going to get blurred much more than it already has.
Not everything has become gamified
Games are coming to destroy us all! Soon everything will be gamified. There will be leaderboards at our jobs! We will try and earn points when we shop for groceries! We are going to end up in a post-apocalypse where games rule us all.
While we are certainly in the bleak cyberpunk apocalypse, and while places of employment do have leaderboards (what do you think Employee of the Month is?) not everything has become gamified. You can see elements of gamification in social media sites, but for the most part we don’t really recognize these elements as a game. We aren’t living our lives oppressed by the need to earn points.
Indie gaming hasn’t decentralized the gaming market
We correctly predicted that indie gaming was going to take off in this decade, and it did. Game creation tools are easier to come by than ever before and indie creators are now some of the most recognized creators in the industry. Indie games have often been nominated for GOTY awards, and some, like Undertale have truly changed the way we think about gaming, and memes, and cringe humor… but mostly gaming.
Still, some of us thought that indie games would do so much more than they did. At the turn of the decade, many were predicting that indie publishing would become so prevalent that major publishers would dissolve. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. EA, Activision, Nintendo, they are all still kicking around and they still control some of the biggest and most important gaming IPs. We probably won’t see a day when Call of Duty goes indie.
Phones never replaced gaming consoles
Yes, mobile phones are some of the most popular gaming devices on the market and if you consider any electronic game as a video game this is where the majority of the marketspace is. However, 10 years ago we never stopped to consider that mobile gaming and AAA gaming may not be the same markets. Just because mobile gaming is huge and does make a ton of money doesn’t mean it was going to push console gamers or PC gamers out of their space. Frankly, PC and console gamers were just looking for a different gaming experience and it became clear very quickly that the two markets would peacefully co-exist.
Phones never even became game controllers
Hey guys! Did you know that you could connect your phone to major consoles in order to get cool facts about streaming media? You can even use them as an alternative controller for some games! No? You didn’t know that?
That’s because it never took off. The 2009 gaming industry loved to predict that all electronic devices in the home would seamlessly connect with each other. While you can connect your phone to some consoles, it doesn’t actually do much. In fact, the coolest use of a phone as a controller came out just this year with Erica on the PS4. However, we don’t see developers jumping at the chance to let you control Master Chief with your iPhone.
Neither HTML5 nor Flash has become a platform for AAA gaming
You know, I think the major problem we have with predicting video game trends is we think popularity will translate to market saturation. More specifically, we think just because something has the potential to saturate one market means that it has the potential to saturate all markets.
HTML5 was a very powerful tool for building websites and even building games. It did kill Flash, which was a significant turning point in online design. We did see multiple games get made in HTML5, though they were mostly indie games. Take over the gaming sphere as its primary coding language? No… no that did not happen.
It sort of feels like the people making this prediction didn’t know a lot about coding. Besides, it’s arguably easier to make a game in something like Unity or Game Maker Studio than it is to make one in HTML5. Game creation has become a very visual process these days, and while you still need some coding chops in order to make a game of your own, it’s probably not going to be in HTML5 unless it’s a text adventure or something.
Consoles were never integrated into TVs
Smart TVs have taken over the market and they have integrated a lot of different streaming services into them. You can now watch YouTube or Hulu or Crunchyroll on any new TV without another device.
You cannot, however, play major AAA video games on your TV without owning a console. Some TVs play well with consoles Sony’s TV line plays well with the PS4, for example, but you still have to own a PS4.
It’s going to be a while before TVs have consoles built in. It’s within every first party publisher’s best interest to make their consoles work with as many TVs as possible, so it would seem a little weird to sign an exclusivity deal for one TV line.
No console has offered 100% backward compatibility yet
For a while, we thought that consoles were going to obsolete themselves! With classic gaming libraries going digital, who needs an old NES when you can just play these classic games on the Switch.
Eeeeeh. While having classic games available on modern platforms is nice, it doesn’t quite replace the original experience. Not to mention, not a single first-party company has made their entire backlog available. Most consoles just struggle with backward compatibility these days.
While there’s rumors that the PS5 will play any Playstation game from as far back as the Playstation 1, that’s still not confirmed, and even then you’d still need the original disc. Don’t go throwing out those retro consoles just yet.
Rhythm games did not flourish… at least not how we thought they would
Remember when Guitar Hero and Rockband were the coolest games out there? They were cool enough to make you spend hundreds of dollars on plastic tinker toys that would only ever be used to control them and them alone. Obviously these were the next biggest thing and would remain the next biggest thing…
Yeah, yeah we all know the deal. Guitar Hero and Rockband haven’t been popular for some time. In fact, the rhythm genre in general seems to be taking a break in all places but VR space. Beat Saber is probably the most popular VR game, period, right now, and Pistolwhip is a major VR up-and-comer. It looks like rhythm games are still with us, just in a completely different way than we predicted.
Nintendo never tanked
Some people saw the Wii’s success as a peak for Nintendo, a peak they would never again challenge. For a while it looked like they were right, The Wii U did flop pretty spectacularly. However, we should probably never count the big N out. They bounced right back with the Switch, which is one of the best and fastest selling consoles of all time. It’s gonna take a lot to kill Nintendo, and we don’t think they are going to die in the next decade.
Playstation never became a real competitor in the handheld market
Finally, we have one last prediction to lay to rest. Pour one out for the Vita boys. Sony did it’s best to be a competitor in the handheld space, but they just couldn’t cut it. They especially couldn’t have predicted that the handheld space itself would go the way of the dinosaur. With the Switch out, now all handhelds are consoles and vice versa, and it’s the only name in the game. Unless the PS5 suddenly goes handheld, it will be the only name in the game for years to come.
What are some of your predictions for the next gaming decade? Let us know in the comments.