The way the gaming world moves, we don’t always catch on to shifts in technology at any one time. Games and systems are always getting better, and we’re free to sit back and enjoy the fruits of developers’ labor, playing the latest games and using better and better consoles year in and year out. But you know what?
As we wrap up 2016 and head toward a year bound to be filled with PS4 Pros, Xbox One S’s, and virtual reality everywhere we look, let’s take a second to consider some of the biggest tech changes we’ve seen in the gaming industry of late. They’re actually pretty wild.
Your Phones Are Just VR Portals Now
Remember how awesome it was when you first started playing games on your smartphone? How much trash you talked to your buddies in Words With Friends, or how you just had to admit that yes, Monument Valley was freaking gorgeous? Well, that’s all in the past now when we talk about smartphone gaming. No, Clash Royale and Super Mario Run aren’t going anywhere, and yes, there will be conventional smartphone games for many years to come. But now, where gaming is concerned, your phones are merely vessels for big tech companies’ VR headsets to operate on.
We already knew this to some degree because of the Samsung Gear VR (built to work with Galaxy phones), Google Cardboard, and any number of cheap-ish knock-offs outfitted for various mobile phones. But it was solidified when Google announced its Pixel phone with a new VR headset (called the Daydream). The headset was almost as big a deal as the phone itself, and seems to all but assure Apple will have to answer with its own counterpart. So get ready: games will follow, and soon we’ll care as much about our smartphone headsets as we do about our consoles.
Also, There’s Regular VR
Can we actually stop to appreciate for a moment that we can now enter virtual reality environments from the comfort of our own homes? VR actually looked pretty crude in the early going, but the high-end headsets—we’re talking Oculus, Vive, and PlayStation VR—are pretty damn impressive.
Look through a list of the best VR games available and yeah, you’ll still see a few minimalistic, experimental games. But titles like Eagle Flight, Batman Arkham VR, and Eve: Valkyrie (among others) show off the incredible power of these headset systems. It’s a whole new (virtual) world.
Online Poker Is So Yesterday
…. At least, insofar as it really feels like it’s happening online. Those days of working your way into tournaments, staring at a dull screen and clicking on cards with all the excitement of playing Minesweeper? That’s in the past (and fine, Minesweeper was awesome). Now, thanks to improving technological capabilities for online gaming platforms, casino sites are hosting live dealer table games including poker, blackjack, roulette and the like.
That means that instead of staring at lame animated imitations of green felt tables, you can now play a poker game and look through your screen into a real life casino, where a real life human freaking being is standing there dealing cards and controlling the game. It’s actually a pretty stunning advancement in a gaming genre that felt like it had gone about as far as it could.
Plus & S Aren’t Just Labels
A lot of people seem to be treating PlayStation Pro and Xbox One S as pseudo upgrades, sort of like the iPhone S series of gaming consoles. And it’s true that they’re not full-fledged updates to brand-new consoles. But these are some of the most powerful and visually capable entertainment devices we’ve ever seen, and we shouldn’t take that for granted.
The fact that we’re talking about 4K on gaming consoles and no one seems that impressed is extraordinarily 2016 of us. We expect perfection from game and console developers—and perhaps that, more than anything else, shows how far we’ve come.