We're going to get to 100% photo-quality in the next few years
I think I've heard that statement too much over the last 10 years of gaming. Photorealism? Hmm. A run-of-the-mill DSLR camera has 12mpix these days. They're gonna have to invent some revolutionary monitors soon - not to mention the graphics cards.
Photorealism is marketing BS. When the first 3DFX "Voodoo" cards came out, everyone said "It's almost photorealistic" - and REAL photorealism is only around the next corner! Wait and see!
No - photorealism isn't.
One of the things that WILL need to be worked on - significantly - is AI, and interaction. Most games today (sadly!) are still just Wolfenstein 3D, with higher resolution textures, and faster framerates. We're still running around in confined spaces (though truly groundbreaking games like Operation Flashpoint - and before that Delta Force - have shown what is possible, if we sacrifice some eyecandy) shooting at stupid bots (or stupid people) and picking up medkits.
If gaming is to become more real, we need to involve the other senses - not just vision. It's a sad fact that 95% of games that are released, are not in any way new, revolutionary, or even moderately original. We're happy if there's a new bunch of maps, the odd multiplayer mode, and some achievements.
If we want "the future" and "the next big thing™" in gaming, we need to look to games like Flashpoint, and other groundbreakers in other areas (the Source engine was a major landmark in physics, for example - but it's not really letting me run around on an entire island or 5).
We have a lot of different "directions" that games are going. Eyecandy, or "photorealism" is by far the *least* important - but the easiest one to slap on the back of a box, and sell. And ATi and nVidia sure would love for us to not notice that the same boring old wine doesn't taste better because the bottle gets prettier. They're doing quite well so far, sadly. People buy new GPU's every year, so the game devs "need" to put out games with awesome graphics. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy of crap.
I've recently picked up Neverwinter Nights 2. A marvellous game. It's not pretty, but there's great storytelling, there's lots of believeable interaction with NPCs - friendly and hostile - and it feels like your actions and dialogues *really* affect the game. It's a great contrast to that hollow feeling you get after completing yet another shooter like Darkest of Days or Wolfenstein. Sure, there's new people to shoot at - but really - is that progress? Is that where we've ended up after several decades of game development? FIFA 10, and generic shooters?
Simulators have all but died. RPG's are struggling (Diablo isn't an RPG, please). All the niche games, that took gaming to new creative places - they're gone. Now all we get is DX11-effects, and shinier guns. Whoop-de-effin-doo.
And we've got noone to blame but ourselves.