A PS3 in Your Pocket
We'll be at the generation of the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox ... 720 or whatever they decide to call it.
Now, the gaming industry' greatest obstacle has always been the fact that humans eventually have to go outside. This is why handheld gaming is such a big deal these days The best-selling game machine isn't the Wii, PS3 or 360. It' the handheld Nintendo DS, by a huge margin.
People need something to do in all those settings where, in the old days, they used to read a paperback (at the beach, waiting at the airport) and kids need something to do on car trips or in detention. Both groups tend to be avid non-readers.
Come 2013, you should have a portable as powerful as a PS3 or 360 (portables run about a generation behind), which is pushing the limit of what the human eye can even perceive on a little 4-inch screen.
Now, saying handheld gaming is the future right after saying online gaming is the future may sound like a contradiction. After all, wireless Internet access is spotty and cell phone Internet makes you feel like it' 1997 all over again. But ...
The Miracle of 4G
This is where 4G comes in.
4G is the upcoming standard that will give you a wireless connection at 100Mbit/s, anywhere. That' more than 30 times faster than the best DSL connection you can get at home, kids.
Above: The Nokia 4G phone concept, currently in the
"Make-an-awesome-Photoshop-of-it" phase of development.
Whatever the virtual-gaming universe looks like at that point, be it World of Warcraft 2 or the second generation of PS3 Home or a sprawling descendant of Spore, you should be free to access it anywhere, at any time, from your handheld.
Also, this nearly-unlimited Web access will probably signal the end of physically buying games off the shelf. Electronic Arts is not going to see the point in selling boxed games for $60, when they can have you download it for a fee, then pay another monthly subscription fee to play it (the scheme that made Blizzard rich off World of Warcraft).
What Will Suck About It
As you may have already guessed, this era of "download anything, anywhere, anytime" also introduces the era of your mom screeching up the stairs after she opens up a $600 monthly gaming bill.
That bill won't just be from little Timmy buying new games or paying subscription fees on existing ones, either. It'll be from buying in-game content. Already you Xbox-360 gamers can spend real-world money to get extra cars in Forza 2.
It will be a money-making bonanza for them. For us, well, some day we'll reach the final boss' castle and meet a dragon who tells us that the only way to prove we have the heroic heart of the Chosen One is to give him 20 bucks.
Of course, being gamers, we'll still spend most of our time wishing for the Next Big Thing. Which brings us to ...