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Having Fun With Hindsight - GamePro #136


Areala

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Continuing our look at magazine editors' predictions for the future, we're going back to the year 2000 and seeing what the GamePro gang saw in their gazing ball for the years to come. Some of them are serious, some of them are silly, and some of them really want to be accurate but just fall short. Let's see what all the fuss was about back when the clocks rolled over and nothing at all came of the Y2K scare!

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Since this magazine is from 2000, we don't have it archived here on Retromags. Those of you interested in acquiring a print copy of your own to read along will probably have some success with eBay. If you own a copy and want to read along, we're looking at pages 48-49, the "1999 GamePro Editors' Choice Awards".

Starting us off firmly in the "weird" category, we've got The Enforcer's prediction: "The right strings will be pulled and the ultimate video game will be created: Tony Hawk's Pro Wrestling. It'll make a mint." Um...yeah... Why don't you ask ICP about the "fortune" they made from those crappy Backyard Wrestling titles then get back to us on that one. :)

I'm not sure about Four-Eyed Dragon's prediction: "Odors will be implemented into video games. You'll be able to smell the roses growing along a path or dquirm to the scent of the pungent perfume worn by one of the characters. GamePro will have an extra rating box labeled 'Smell'--or 'Olfactory Factor.'" Now at first, I was just going to toss this into the silly category beside The Enforcer's, but elsewhere in the magazine there's an actual news piece about a company that was trying to patent this technology by using a mixture of different-scented oils that could be combined and heated to produce a given smell. Obviously this never got past a prototype stage, but now I'm torn: was the Four-Eyed one being facetious, or did he honestly believe this? The world may never know...

There's something amusingly ironic about editor E. Coli's prediction: "In the future, games will play all by themselves, rendering gamers obsolete." Given the number of people who tune in to watch other people perform speedruns and other gaming challenges, this isn't too far from the truth. When written, this was obviously intended to be silly. Next!

Air Hendrix provides what seems to be the first serious prediction after the fluff: "Sony and Nintendo will continue to dominate console gaming, while Sega will survive the system wars--but as a Playstation 2 and PC publisher. Set-top box convergence and broadband net access will take gaming to places we're not even thinking about right now." The cool thing is, Hendrix is mostly right: Sega does survive the implosion of its hardware division by becoming a multi-system developer, and the PS2 dominates the console wars from 2000 - 2006. Nintendo's GameCube does wind up playing second-fiddle to Microsoft's Xbox in the end, but Nintendo gets their revenge once they release the Wii. And of course, when it comes to handheld gaming, Nintendo's systems are the only ones worth talking about since nobody else can make a dent in the portable market. Convergence doesn't really happen except in a few minor cases, so maybe that's a prediction that will come true in another 10 years. Good call, Hendrix!

I'm reasonably certain Dan Elektro was being serious with his prediction as well: "Within three years of its release, the Playstation 2 will shed its console image to become the mythical 'set-top box' the computer industry has been taking about for years--a true home entertainment system for entire families that encompasses games, videos and the Internet." He was on the right track, but about three years too early. It's not until Microsoft and Sony started to offer built-in web browsers and access to services like Netflix, Hulu+ and Qriocity that we saw companies making serious inroads towards this reality.

Boba Fatt says: "Girth will replace health as the most important commodity in most video games--and there'll be a triumphant return to epic, gorgeous, sprawling, side-scrolling action titles." While I imagine the first part was just him being a dork, I get the impression the second part of his prediction was a bit more serious. Unfortunately as we well know by this point, 2D side-scrolling action titles have pretty much disappeared entirely from the gaming radar with a couple of notable exceptions like Bionic Commando: Rearmed. Sigh. :(

Brother Buzz's predictions fall equally flat: "The first console-to-PC gaming will finally arrive in 2000. Plus, there will be a bass fishing game to coincide with the U.S. launch of the PlayStation 2." Nope, and...well, we don't see a bass fishing game for the PS2 until 2002. Two years too late. Sorry, Brother.

The only female to offer a perspective, Miss Spell keeps both feet firmly planted in reality: "We're going to see a lot more games break out of existing genres to create new ones. Innovative, unusual games like Guitar Freaks and The Sims are already leading the way. Also, girl gamers are gonna be heard!" She's right on all counts. You go, girl! :)

The problem with making a lot of predictions, as Major Mike illustrates, is that you give yourself more and more chances to be proven wrong. "Sega won't drop off the face of the earth. The company will stick around, but as a third-party software developer for Nintendo's Dolphin and Sony's PlayStation 2." Maybe he was channeling Air Hendrix a bit there, but we'll give it to him anyway. "The Pokemon craze will go the way of the Tamagotchi, but the Game Boy Color will continue to be the handheld gaming system of choice." Well, Pokemon is still going strong eleven years later and is the second-most lucrative franchise in the world bested only by Mario and friends. And while the GBC is a strong, successful system, it is replaced by the stronger, more successful Game Boy Advance in 2001. Ouch! "Fighting games will go into hibernation, but will eventually make a comeback." While it's true that the demise of the arcade put a minor cramp into the body of fighting games, they never go away for a little while. SNK puts out "Capcom vs. SNK" on the Dreamcast in 2000, the PS2 launches in the US with "Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore", "Guilty Gear X" and "Super Smash Bros. Melee" show up in 2001, and franchises like Tekken, Street Fighter, and Mortal Kombat (not to mention their various spin-offs like Marvel vs. Capcom or Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe) are continuing strong to this day. Well...one outta four ain't bad I suppose.

When it comes to playing safe, Extreme Ahab goes with some broad, generalizing predictions instead of more specific ones. Hedging his bets helps a little bit: "Video game companies will realize that, like films, games need professional writers." Considering that a number of professional writers are now penning scripts or at least lending their ideas to game developers, I'll give him this one. "Also, technology is bound to improve so that in the near future, game characters will move as smoothly as those in animated films." Yeah, but that's kind of a no-brainer once we saw what the Dreamcast could do. Claiming that things will get faster or prettier in the future of games is about as generic and obvious as you can get. Try again? "Finally, a game will come out that will capture the attention of the baby-boomer generation--it'll probably feature The Beatles in a hostile takeover of Marlon Brando." Given that the last part of that prediction makes zero sense whatsoever, we'll ignore it and focus on the first half. He's right, in a way, but it comes a bit later than he expects. It'll take the release of the Nintendo DS and the Wii to get baby boomers back into video gaming in a serious way, with Wii Sports and BrainAge leading the way for the over-forty crowd to compete with their younger progeny.

Last but not least, we come to Dr. Zombie's prediction: "Multiplayer games will meet Hollywood when game companies create real-time, interactive, multiplayer games that play like movies. You'll be assigned a character who interacts with other characters/players as the story line follows a set script--but deviates based on the interactions of all the players. You'll purchase a 'ticket' to participate, and gameplay will be based on each individual." While it's a neat idea, it's a logistical nightmare (and no, MMORPGs like Star Wars Galaxies and World of Warcraft do not count). We're getting a bit closer to this sort of thing in the single-player realm with titles like "Indigo Prophecy" and "Heavy Rain", but once you cross over into multiplayer territory, it's not really gaming any longer, is it?

I hope you've enjoyed this retrospective of futurecasting by prominent members of the industry. We'll do it again some time and see if anybody manages to improve their averages!

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