Much of the hype surrounding new games releases is about the realism of the graphics or a new immersive virtual reality environment, but this buzz hides the fact the some of the most popular games available this year actually hark back to older titles.
Dedicated gaming systems, such as the Playstation 3 or the Xbox 360, continue to improve the graphics of games, with each new version making the characters ever more life-like. Even on mobile the rapidly improving graphics chips in smartphones and tablets are are offering gameplay and graphics that would have needed dedicated hardware only a few years ago.
Then we have the march towards virtual reality and 360-degree immersive worlds coming to market very soon. The like of the Samsung VR headsets offer a relatively good value option for a first foray into this world, but everyone is waiting on the release of the Oculus Rift headset in the next few months, that is expected to redefine virtual reality gaming.
The Oculus Rift soared past its fundraising goal on Kickstarter within a few weeks and the excitement the headsets caused meant that Facebook soon acquired Oculus for $2 billion only a few months later. And with the financial resources on Facebook behind it, the world is expecting very big things from the Oculus Rift when it launches sometimes in the first quarter of 2016.
All these technological advancements are great directly for gaming, but also because the rapid pace of improvement pushes progress in other related fields, where some of the same technologies are applicable. For example, space agencies and weather prediction networks around the world often use huge arrays of gaming chips to power their supercomputers, because of the low cost and power they bring.
While these improvement are therefore welcomed, not everything in a game is down to the graphics – a lot of the fun of gaming is down to the experience and the challenge. This means that older games that had to be extremely inventive with their gameplay because of the lack of processing power continue to be very popular.
Playstation, Xbox, and Wii all have thousands of games available, and the Android and iOS mobile platforms offer hundreds of thousands more, but not all of these titles push the boundaries of the technologies they run on. The most impressive games tend to come from large game studios that can invest millions of dollars in development, but independent games continue to find places app charts as that is where the invention and often re-invention of gameplay is greatest.
Games such as World of Goo and LittleBigPlanet display the originality that is most commonly found in small independent games firms, with the developers pushed to find new ways for players to interact with games as they had to focus on elements outside of pushing a platform’s technological boundaries for graphics.
The growth of mobile platforms have given a resurgence in old games as well, with smartphones and tablets a little behind dedicated gaming systems in terms of hardware, so developers have looked to the past for inspiration for when developers had also similar constraints.
A number of titles some older readers might remembers from Worms to Z to Tetris to Pac-Man have all found their way onto Apple App Store and Google’s Play Store and have found new audiences that enjoy their inventiveness and wit. And some even older games have found their way onto the app stores with a few different graphics and a new name, with the popular Crossy Road game is better-looking copy of the classic 1981 title Frogger.
Perhaps the most traditional of games, gambling titles also continue to be popular games across all platforms despite being illegal in many US states and other locations around the world. As apps or as dedicated online website, apps offering casino games such as blackjack and poker remain very popular, and make up a significant proportion of revenues for the gaming industry. This site has even embraced the vintage nature of their games and expanded their selection to also include titles based on old movies or vintage physical games such as the Rubik’s Cube.
As these games rise in popularity and the sector matures, developers and websites are investing in various methods to keep them more fair and secure, such as introducing certified random number generators and even employing live dealers for card and roulette games, complete with available supervisors to settle disputes.
The open nature of the web and the ease of launching games at online stores such as Google Play, Apple’s App Store, or at the marketplaces offered for Xbox, Playstation, and Wii, mean that it is quicker and easier for developers to bring games to market and let them find fans. This has been a boon to independent developers, giving them a more level playing field when competing against the likes of EA and Activision, which results in a wider variety of games available and ever more options for gamers.