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The Fruition of Predictions

There is a sense of pride in being right. But there is an even greater sense of pride in being accurate about your predictions – about your instincts –  regarding the outlook of technology innovation. The farther back your prediction goes, the more tech-clairvoyance you have. It was never just a gamble. Fundamentally, I understood technology more than the naysayers who disagreed with me.

On November 11, 2013  – 639 days ago – I wrote the following sentence on Facebook:

When I read articles about the cloud, I see possibilities that are endless. Even 6 months after launch, there will be more potential. I understand how the cloud works and why it’s the future. That is why purchasing a system in November will not be hasty. And again, it is a 50/50 decision regardless. The only reason to wait, at this point, is price.

Then, on the same day, I quoted the Wall Street Journal which wrote:

In particular, the companies have taken different approaches to Internet services, or the “cloud.” Sony, for its upcoming PlayStation 4, dove head-first into technology that allows customers to play a game on a server far away, and then stream the images and button presses to the device over the Web. That technology, called “cloud gaming,” was popularized by companies like OnLive and Gaikai, which Sony purchased last year for $380 million.

The technology also plays into Sony’s larger vision of a videogame console that would “melt” into the network, more easily linking players together. This approach has generated quite a bit of buzz, particularly for one feature that allows gamers to play high-end titles on the company’s PlayStation Vita handheld game console.

But Microsoft doesn’t see it that way. It says the Xbox One, and revamped Xbox Live service, is designed from the ground up to allow game companies to use Microsoft’s servers to better their games.

Then, on November 21st, 2013, I wrote the following on Facebook:

This is just the beginning everyone. I have posted two links that gamers should read. For those of you who suspect I’ll be wrong about my predictions, please hold me to these statements. The Xbox One – utilizing the cloud – will change the gaming industry. This is not even close to the battle of PS3 and 360. I have heard nothing from Sony about utilizing the cloud. Defenders of Sony – who do understand cloud computing – have simply noted their incredulity of whether cloud computing will work. (This is despite the knowledge that Amazon has already started planning for this – http://www.ign.com/…/amazon-appstream-offers-cloud-based-ga…). They offer reasons such as “internet latency problems” as one impediment for the efficiency of cloud computing. But eSRAM + Cloud = a better playground for game developers. Hold me to these statements in 2014.

I wrote a blog post giving the full details and background on my predictions of cloud computing for the Xbox One. I titled it, “Xbox One Cloud Gaming – The Diamond in the Rough”.

During these past 600 days I have been looked upon by some as crazy. But I have made consistent and blatantly obvious predictions regarding how the Xbox One is the gaming console of the future. I understood the implications of how cloud technology would mix into the gaming world. When Microsoft started providing information into their investment into Azure, when they gave hints about using that infrastructure to help power their games, everyone thought they were crazy.

Now, in 2015, the naysayers are slowly beginning to realize just how wrong they were. Crackdown 3 is only the beginning. The possibilities of game-evolution is endless with the cloud. There is a good chance the Xbox One will be the only piece of hardware we’ll need for more than a decade. But the difference is that, unlike the Xbox 360, the Xbox One will get better over time. Understand cloud technology and this all begins to make sense.

With a vindicating title that salutes Microsoft’s past ode to cloud computing, Dave Tach of Polygon writes an excellent depiction of where we now stand in fully understanding the marketing journey of Xbox One. The article, titled : Crackdown 3 (Finally) Proves Why Microsoft Put Xbox One’s Head in the Cloud has a great quote:

And, at a certain point, they also run up against the limits of console hardware. Modeling physics is hardware intensive. Keeping track of four goofballs with rocket launchers firing every few seconds, accurately modeling the destruction each blast causes and syncing with such speed that nobody playing can tell there’s any lag is far more than even a tricked out PC can handle.

Microsoft’s solution: Offload calculations and physics modeling to the cloud, where servers do the math that your Xbox One can’t — all while keeping everyone in sync.

Everything I saw in Crackdown 3 looked like it was born and raised on the hardware in front of me. In truth, much of it lives in the cloud. My character could be standing in front of a wall shooting tiny little pieces out of its concrete with a relatively weak gun. It looks realistic, and it’s far more physics modeling than the Xbox One could do on its own. Those chunks exist because the developers offload much of the processing required to create and track them to servers floating up there in the fabled cloud.

For the gaming industry, and for Sony in particular, the competition just increased. If you think developers have a world of progress to explore on PS4 hardware (since it is true that developers learn more about the hardware as time goes on), you can’t even imagine the explorative possibilities on the Xbox One, (plus eSRAM, Directx 12, and Cloud).

The creation of Crackdown 3 also marks the beginning of the end of my hiatus in predicting the future of gaming. There is really nothing more to predict. I don’t feel qualified to predict further than what I already have. The proof of Crackdown has created a clandestine realization in the minds of those who were once (as I always said), incredulous. And now that it has been shown, I can no longer enjoy the uniqueness of being “aware” of the future.

Some people must be given full proof to see the future. This is why pioneers, mavericks and innovators are so important. Without them, no one would be trying new things. Everyone would need proof before attempting something novel. If no one was capable of understanding the fundamentals of a good idea without its implementation, then no progress would ever be made in society because of the fear of failure or being wrong. The real separation between those who are optimistic about innovation and those who are pessimistic is really in the measurement of belief they have in themselves for innovation. Perhaps my musical talent gave me the creativity to think about how cloud technology would work in gaming – even without understanding, at the level of an engineer, the full tech-aspects of cloud technology. But my creativity pushed me beyond the standard limits of perspective. Perhaps I would be less believing of technology I understood little about. But in cloud technology I understood the fundamentals and saw a trajectory of technology-as-a-service coming into the market with so much power. I no longer feel the need to beat the drum of innovation in the gaming world. People are starting to see for themselves.

There are still others out there who will purchase a gaming system because of their affinity to the brand – irrespective of technological epiphanies. They will purchase a console for which they have affection, in the same way a family has a die-hard affection for a certain sports team. In other words, people will purchase the PS4 mostly because they have an attachment to one or two single games. Don’t get me wrong; this is a great reason to purchase a system. But in the face of such a dramatic shift in technological capabilities, one must consider their options heavily against this purchase-emotion.

I believe gamers should reward the companies that are innovating. To be capable of this, you must be cognizant of such innovation to begin with. The marketing war between the Xbox One and PS4 has been the leader in determining console sales. It is far easier to understand advertisement speech than it is that of technological; and the former gives rise to young gamers who are susceptible, while the later gives rise to older, more technologically savvy gamers who are no longer concerned with gaming. It is clear to see how the beginning of this console war was in favor of Sony.

This means that advertising is the key. Microsoft must advertise the technology of the Xbox One in a way that is fun and simple for almost anyone to understand. (Keep in mind that Microsoft could have purposely held back on the advertisement of their “cloud technology” so as to confuse Sony on their strategy. Afterall, Sony came out with a console that cannot connect to the cloud in the same way the Xbox One can. Sony can use cloud technology in games the same way Netflix uses cloud technology for movies. But a Sony developer will not be able to update their game in real time using the cloud, and that would take a full update).

The rest of the console wars will be won by microtransactions. And if that’s the case, maybe I’m not entirely done with making predictions. Either way, I’m going to enjoy watching the innovation that comes from the gaming industry.

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