Previously, I had written about why the biggest technological changes take almost everyone by surprise. Not many people recognize the exponential, accelerating nature of technological change, and fewer still have the vision to foresee how two seemingly unrelated trends could converge to create massive new industries and reconstruct popular culture.
Today, we will attempt to make just such a prediction.
Computer graphics and video games have improved in realism in direct accordance with Moore's Law. Check out the images of video game progression to absorb the magnitude of this trend. One can appreciate this further by merely comparing Pixar's Toy Story (1995) to their latest film, Cars (2006). But to merely project this one trend to predict that video games will have graphics that look as good as the real thing is an unimaginative plateau. Instead, let's take it further and predict :
Video Gaming (which will no longer be called this) will become a form of entertainment so widely and deeply enjoyed that it will reduce the time spent on watching network television to half of what it is today, by 2012.
Impossible, you say? How can this massive change happen in just 6 years? First, think of it in terms of 'Virtual Reality' (VR), rather than 'games'. Then, consider that :
1) Flat hi-def television sets that can bring out the full beauty of advanced graphics will become much cheaper and thinner, so hundreds of millions of people will have wall-mounted sets of 50 inches or greater for under $1000 by 2012.
2) The handheld controllers that adults find inconvenient will be replaced by speech and motion recognition technology. The user experience will involve speaking to characters in the game, and sports simulations will involve playing baseball or tennis by physically moving one's hand. Eventually, entire bodysuits and goggles will be available for a fully immersive experience.
3) Creative talent is already migrating out the television industry and into video games, as is evident by the increase in story quality in games and the decline in the quality of television programs. This trend will continue, and result in games available for every genre of film. Network television has already been reduced to depending on a large proportion of low-budget 'reality shows' to sustain their cost-burdened business models.
4) Adult-themed entertainment has driven the market demand and development of many technologies, like the television, VCR, DVD player, and Internet. Gaming has been a notable exception, because the graphics have not been realistic enough to attract this audience, except for a few unusual games. However, as realism increases through points 1) and 2), this vast new market opens up, which in turn pushes development. For the first time, there are entire conferences devoted to this application of VR technology. The catalyst that other technologies received is yet to stimulate gaming.
5) Older people are averse to games, as they did not have this form of entertainment when they were young. However, people born after 1970 have grown up with games, and thus still occasionally play them as adults. As the pre-game generation is replaced by those familiar with games, more VR tailored for older people will develop. While this demographic shift will not make a huge change by 2012, it is irreversibly pushing the market in this direction every year.
6) Online multiplayer role-playing games are highly addictive, but already involve people buying and selling game items for real money, to the tune of a $1.1 billion per year market. Highly skilled players already earn thousands of dollars per year this way, and with more participants joining through more advanced VR experiences described above, this will attract a sizable group of people who are able to earn a full-time living through these VR worlds. This will become a viable form of entrepreneurship, just like eBay and Google Ads support entrepreneurial ecosystems today.
There you have it, a convergence of multiple trends bringing a massive shift in how people spend their entertainment time by 2012, with television only watched for sports, documentaries, talk shows, and a few top programs.
The progress in gaming also affects the film industry, but in a very different way. The film industry will actually become greatly enhanced and democratized over the same period. For this, stay tuned for Part II tomorrow.