state of the nation 1280Given that the next generation of consoles is about to be unleashed upon us, now is a good time to reflect on the major changes that are currently in progress in the video game industry. We have witnessed the rise of casual gaming via smart phones and tablet devices. The Ouya has promised to be the $99 console that changes the world, and last but by no means least, Sony and Microsoft have promised that their respective console will provide you with every form of entertainment that your heart desires, delivered directly to your lounge. But what does all this mean for your favourite hobby?

The rise of casual gaming  has made it easier than ever to get into video games. With the proliferation of the Android OS on smartphones and tablet devices, you can download a wide variety of games at the touch of a button (Don’t forget iOS devices. Not just saying that because I own a bunch and want to feel special too. Promise. Maybe. – FemShepEd). The only real downside of touch screen devices is that the controls are not ideal for all game types –  it’s for this reason that I only play puzzle and tower defense games on my phone. But the controls are a minor quibble given how easy and convenient mobile gaming has become. Heck, even my wife has started downloading games to her phone

The growth of mobile gaming is not the only major development in the gaming industry. Ouya is the Kickstarter sensation that promised to bring you console gaming at the low, low price of only $99. I had high hopes for the little console-that-could but the shine has been dimmed somewhat by logistics problems at launch. There were numerous reports of Kickstarter funders not receiving their device, reports of dev units being shipped to retail and poor responses when customers queried the delays. The people behind the Ouya have a great vision for the device and how it could change the world of video games, and it’s a vision that I support wholeheartedly. But they will have to jack up their customer service if they want to compete with the likes of Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony for market share.

Speaking of Sony and Microsoft, they debuted their new consoles with well rehearsed launch events. A large part of the Microsoft presentation focussed on the media streaming and communication features of their device. Given the region protection that is still enforced on content, most of the streaming media will not be available to us locals. As regards the communication features, I am not too keen on anyone interrupting my precious game time with a call or message via Skype. I am, however, very keen to see how the new gaming franchises will look and play on the shiny new hardware. Sony’s presentation focussed a lot more on the core gaming features of their device but as with Microsoft the success of their new console rests firmly with the quality of their games. Both Sony and Microsoft have excellent franchises in their respective stables but their success in the market will be determined by how well they can advance these franchises on their new kit.

Whether you prefer your games on a mobile device, a budget console, or the latest and greatest offering from the major console manufacturers, today’s gamers are spoiled for choice. It has never been easier or more convenient to get into video gaming. The video game industry has hit the mainstream and this has opened up a wide variety of gaming options. There is something to suit every taste from the casual gamer to the hard core. With the next generation of consoles invading your living room, it may turn into the ultimate battleground in the latest console war.