The old ways of gaming -- the going to the store and buying the game. The unpackaging. The trading old disks with your friends and playing a static game on one console days are over.
The future rests with some combination of console integration (of sorts) and mobility. In the next several years, we're going to see people demand a dynamic gaming experience that you can take from your living room to the local Starbucks and back again. Basically -- there's a trend in sports gaming especially -- to begin to deliver tastes of the console experience outside of consoles.
What we haven't seen yet is a company have a "Eureka!" moment and wrap a mode like Ultimate Team through multiple devices and even more importantly -- make it independent of titles.
From a business standpoint, this effectively makes sports gaming a partial MMO type of game -- and licensing for players over multiple years is probably the big hang-up between getting this done and not. But when/if this ever happens, sports gaming will be changed forever.
NCAA Football has been ahead of the curb on this with Online Dynasty, allowing players to recruit and more from online interfaces. But what happens when you can not only recruit but play games from those same interfaces? Is that possible?
I'm not sure about how easy something like that would be, but it makes too much sense.
Multi-Platform Integration is the Future
Most apps for business and productivity are already sprinting towards multi-platform integration -- making them infinitely more useful. Gaming will be no different as the benefits are similar but will likely lag a bit behind this trend. Publishers will need to figure out how to monetize these types of streams, and more importantly developers will have to figure out how to make this all technically possible.
Right now, sports games are limited on a yearly cycle. Once a new game drops, all the progress you made in the last year is lost forever. That can't, shouldn't, and likely won't be acceptable forever. The mobility of user experiences is going to guarantee that. People want to take their experiences with them -- they don't want to put a lot of work into a character in Road to the Show only to have that work disappear the next year.
Moving Towards a Future of Integration
It's likely developers will continue a slow build towards what will eventually be a completely portable and multi-platform experience. You'll be able to take your Franchise to your PC to make roster moves, you'll also be able to move your single player experience forward from your mobile phone.
Think gaming in the cloud. Where your saved files are saved in the cloud in a universal format. Suddenly, gaming between platforms is entirely possible if you simply set up some kind of a data decoder in the middle (and if you don't have exclusive agreements with console manufacturers to disallow this).
Playing your franchise in Madden online is possible. Playing it on iOS is possible.
Shoot, publishers: you can charge monthly access for this and people will come. There's no doubt about it.
The cloud is more than just a buzzword after all, it's changing everything including gaming and how we think about interacting with apps. Static one platform experiences are becoming a thing of the past.
Sports Gaming in 2020
Who knows where we are exactly towards the end of the next console generation, as so much of what we are experiencing today was once thought quite crazy.
But gazing into my crystal ball, I think it's clear a multi-platform subscription based type of experience is coming. Where you can play Madden, FIFA, etc. in a lot of places and have them integrate fully into a single area in the cloud. It's a future where people play their franchise games from all sorts of places, where they draft on their PC but play their games on their PS4 all while offering trades to one another via their iPhone. It's a future where you can get a couple of games in on your franchise on your iPad while you listen to the Lumineers on your flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta.
It's a future when a lot of new and cool things are possible. I can't wait.
It's an exciting time to cover video games for sure.
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