The leading system dictates the trend.
The PS1/PS2 were dominant Japanese games eras, mostly mature games, that were dominated by an rather dev friendly japanese company and its systems.
360 lead the 7th gen hardcore gaming by being the dev friendly system and being an North American company it's game style shifted to it, more war, modern thematic games.
Even though the PS3 catched up and the Wii also performed better, the year lead and hardcore US dominance dictated it almost the whole gen.
Now it came back to the PS4, games are going back to being more about mature phantasy, it also remains with the roots from the past gen, but it's showing it's influence.
The same before that as well, Nintendo times being the major system dictated the more soft phantasy thematic that's their focus.
It becomes pretty clear when you look at it this way:
3rd/4th gen: Nintendo influence. Platform domination. Less focus on story and mature themes. Phantasy.
5th/6th gen: Sony influence. Nintendo roots still on 5th gen due transition. RPGs become very relevant. Expansion on genres popularity. Story driven games/ more mature phantasy. Platforms still relevant on 5th gen due Nintendo roots.
7th gen: Microsoft influence. Sony roots still there due to transition/take back. Shooters become huge with American popularity on exploring modern/future war thematics. Genres retracting to focus around this modern influence. Online model expansion and becoming highly relevant, pushed by Live firstly. J RPGs downfall.
8th gen: Sony influence. Microsoft roots still there due to transition. Modern war thematic still relevant because of it. Genres re-expansion. Easily adaptation to mature phantasy comeback. Japanese developers getting way better envyronment to try again.
That's basically the leading/influence company traits being reflected on the envyronment.
Sony influence is expansive as not focused on single/few genres, better for Japanese developers and still attractive for Western too.
Sony model drives success more easily, it's better for the envyronment IMO. All kinds of games going on, better for the big scope.
Jap devs have less power (money) now, so they also could use this better enryronment for them and are doing so.
I totally agree. Very insightful! My only question is... do people's tastes shift first? If I read what you said correctly, you're implying that people sort of just go with whatever platform is leading the way. Like they are sort of forced into it due to their platform of choice. But what if their tastes shift FIRST, which then dictates the platform they CHOOSE?
It's an interesting question.
People definitely adapt their tastes, but it's actually a good questiin as certainly we have more and more new gamers jumping each gen and their dofferent tastes may mark or boost the shift.
But there us a natural shift going on, that may have had to do with age... even though I don't think it's the main purpose.
One thing missing in my point there was Sega.
Sega didn't dominate any gen, but they have their influence share as well.
Sega started the growth on the mature/cooler side of gaming, they advertized it, and Genesis/Mega Drive was an important part of the path leading to the PS1 popularity.
It starts will Nintendo soft fantasy, Sega takes it to a more mature side, Sony takes over focusing on that mature side and pushing realism/modern themes, then Microsoft picks this modern theme ann the gen focus heavily on it.
But there is always the natural roots going on from the last influence.
Platforms were still relevant on Sony take over, ROGs were still relevant on MS take over (going to WRPGs), and Shooters are still important on Sony take back now.
I would say it was a natural evolution as it became a more mainstream thing with the pass of time, but it was certainly pushed by the influence of the companies itself.
Nintendo: Fantasy (gamers love it)
Sega: Fantasy/Mature (gamers notice another side on gaming)
Sony: Mature/Fantasy/Modern (gamers spread, gaming gets big and mainstream)
Microsoft: Modern/Mature (gamers are more focused again)
Now seems like the natural shift is to get spread rather than focused as going back to Sony, the envyronment was getting too satured with last gen focus.
But 7th gen influence is still very relevant,as was 4th on 5th and 6th on 7th. So I would say the leading influence is definitely big factor on the shift, as the personal shift takes a little longer on conaumers as the roots show they are still with past gen influence.