Video game consoles almost always receive numerous hardware add-ons. From the Robotic Operating Buddy for the NES to the Kinect for the Xbox 360, additional peripheral devices are par for the course. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will certainly receive at least one mid-cycle add-on each, so what can we expect the hot new thing to be a few years from now?
There have been a few popular trends bubbling up in the last couple of years, so we can easily extrapolate some of the accessories we might see for the PS4 and Xbox One. However, it’s impossible to foresee many dramatic swings in popularity. When the Xbox 360 was launched in 2005, there was no way anybody could have guessed that motion-based gaming would have taken off like it did with the Wii in 2006. Nobody could have predicted the Kinect then, and it ended up being a massively popular add-on. Keep in mind that surprises are bound to happen, and expectations are constantly shifting.
Virtual reality isn’t a new concept, and the gaming industry has tried it before. From the Cybermaxx to the Virtual Boy, quite a few attempts have been made to add a deeper level of immersion to the gaming experience. Unfortunately, VR has been quite lacklustre until recently. With noticeable lag, shoddy frame rates, and absurdly high costs, many pundits assumed VR was dead in the water.
However, the last few years have seen a surprisingly large resurgence in virtual reality. The TrackIR (pictured above) has proved that head-tracking can be done exceptionally well, and at a reasonable price. Many controllers have accelerometers and gyroscopes built-in, so natural movement is always being tracked. Hell, Nintendo even released another portable gaming system focused on 3D games. Simply put, VR doesn’t suck anymore.
Of course, the biggest news in the virtual reality scene is the Oculus Rift. This headset, while still in development, has provided exactly what people expect out of a VR experience. It displays the game world in 3D, it tracks your movement, and it makes you feel like you’re actually inside the game. The final version has yet to ship, but the reaction to the development hardware has been phenomenal.
Rumours have been swirling that Sony is developing its own VR headset – indeed, it revealed this piece of hardware at CES this week – and Valve seems to be on the same path. The Oculus Rift effectively got the ball rolling, and now VR is well on its way to becoming this generation’s big console add-on.
Better second screens
Now that tablets and smartphones are so popular, it’s no surprise that the new consoles both have companion applications for the major mobile platforms. Basic controls, messaging interfaces, and in-game displays are all standard at this point, but there are many more opportunities for second screen devices to offer new gameplay opportunities.
Without a doubt, Sony has a head-start in the second screen game. The PS4 streaming features built into the Vita are exceptional, and will undoubtedly inform Microsoft’s way forward with second-screen gaming. Microsoft’s operating system and controllers are everywhere, but it hasn’t taken advantage of that synergy very well.
We can expect second screens to become more vital to the gaming experience, and maybe more dedicated hardware like the Vita or Wii U gamepad could make its way into our living rooms. At the very least, expect the official PlayStation and Xbox apps to gain substantial functionality as time goes on.
The most novel part of video games is their interactive nature. It’s not unidirectional anymore, though. Not only can you interact with a game, but it can potentially interact with you. Of course, the game has to know what you’re doing and feeling, so biometric sensors are a must-have.
Infamously, the Wii Vitality Sensor (seen above) was supposed to track your heartbeat, and alter the gameplay of compatible titles. Sadly, that device never saw the light of day due to purported failures in the design. Meanwhile, both Sony and Valve are working on potential biometric sensors for their respective platforms.
The Xbox One’s Kinect can already detect your pulse, so developers could theoretically implement biometric data into games without additional hardware. However, the addition of sweat analysis could certainly make things more accurate and interesting. Genres like puzzle games and horror games could certainly benefit from this additional data, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see biometric sensors make their way to the new consoles.
Any of these improvements could be released in the next couple of years, but there is absolutely no guarantee. The market is extremely fickle, and new tech trends heavily influence what companies like Microsoft and Sony release to consumers. As soon as one company announces a new accessory, expect the other to follow suit as soon as possible. Obviously, neither company wants to get left behind in the wake of a burning-hot trend.
Gaming trends run very hot and cold, so we can always expect the major consoles to jump to the next big thing long before the next generation rolls around. Sony and Microsoft likely have the better part of a decade to sell millions of these machines to consumers, so anticipate new peripherals early and often to continually stoke interest.
For more on the future of these consoles, you might want to have a gander at our in-depth look at what the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One redesigns might look like. Or alternatively, if you're fed up with all the talk surrounding the new consoles, perhaps check out our piece on why now is the perfect time to buy yourself a Nintendo Wii U.