Video games are changing as a result of these technologies, which also include virtual reality and artificial intelligence.
The popularity of video games has been rising consistently for years. And the trend has only gotten stronger as the social advantages of video games have come to light. The gaming industry has surpassed both the movie and sports industries in size.
The gaming industry generated $184 billion in revenue in 2022, and by 2025, there will be 3.6 billion gamers worldwide. Furthermore, it’s not just children: 38% of gamers are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 16% are above the age of 55.
So what comes next? The popularity of gaming will only increase culturally. But how will new technological advancements affect the gaming experience and how will they shape the future of video games?
ADVANCES IN VIDEO GAMES
- virtual world
- combined reality
- Intelligent computing Cloud gaming
- high-quality images
- a metaverse
Virtual reality (VR), which players access through headsets, has long tantalized players with the promise of a totally immersive experience. However, the technology has taken a while to fulfill that promise.
Ben Kuchera of Polygon stated it succinctly in 2020: “VR has been five minutes away from some kind of breakthrough for about eight years.”
When compared to the rest of the gaming business, VR is still a niche market, and sales and manufacturing reflect this: In 2022, shipments of VR and AR equipment fell by 12 percent globally. And even now, despite all the hoopla, it still causes some buyers to hesitate.
According to VR game developer Kevin Mack, “right now we’re sort of in this trough of disillusionment about VR.” in 2020. It received a lot of buzz in 2015 and 2016, however after that, everyone was disappointed when their first-generation VR headset failed to transform into the Holodeck.
Despite a few roadblocks along the way, tech and gaming businesses are hard at work trying to advance the industry by spending a lot of money on creating VR technology and games. Over the past few years, businesses like Meta, Valve, PlayStation, and Samsung have all entered the VR market. Even Apple is said to be working on a VR/AR system, but there have been delays and problems. The sector for VR games is expected to develop at a rate of 30.5 percent by 2028, thus this trend of investment is likely to continue.
Promising advancements in VR are on the horizon. But there are a few issues that must be resolved first. Specifically, the pricey headsets and their bulk.
The majority of VR headsets weigh more than a pound and need to be secured firmly to the user’s face. It’s not really cozy. You start to perspire, and after 30 minutes of play, you feel exhausted.
The failure of the first generation of VR headsets to transform into the Holodeck immediately caused “sort of butt-hurt” throughout the entire world.
This experience runs counter to the traditional playing style of gamers, which involves spending hours curled up on a couch. Will VR hardware be able to thrive if it can’t adapt to gamers’ preferences? With the exception of early adopters and tech enthusiasts, most gamers will continue to shun VR headsets unless manufacturers reduce their size, do away with bulky connector cables, and reduce their costs.
VR is being worked on by businesses to appeal to a wider audience, and hardware costs are coming down. The downside of the conventional VR experience may restrict its potential even when these obstacles are overcome.
“[VR] is an experience best had alone. To the exclusion of everything else, it’s something you’re doing on your own initiative, according to Mack. Although he likes to play VR games, he hesitates to put the headset on if someone else is nearby.
Even though he is aware of the drawbacks, Mack is enthusiastic about the future of VR.
He asserted, “VR, in my opinion, will remain niche, but it could eventually turn into a major niche. In the upcoming years, “I believe we’re going to see some very impressive and very compelling stuff come down the pipe.”
In a 2020 interview with Built In, Mitu Khandaker, a professor at New York University’s Game Center, expressed optimism about VR’s potential in the gaming industry. Khandaker just doesn’t believe it will appear as people playing through headsets alone in their houses, but rather as a shared co-located experience.
She stated, “I believe that social VR is more the future of VR.”
In fact, a number of VR games, such Rec Room and VRChat, provide social interactions that allow players to connect and hang out with one another in real time. VR will be able to secure a major position in the future of gaming if it helps individuals establish stronger connections with one another.
Through smartphones or special glasses, augmented reality (AR), a type of gaming technology that superimposes digital pictures onto the actual world, made a major splash on the gaming market in 2016.
At that time, parks and plazas were crowded with smartphone users playing Pokémon Go, a mobile augmented reality game in which colorful creatures known as Pokémon are superimposed over a user’s field of view. The game, which has sold $1 billion worth of merchandise annually since its release, was most people’s introduction to augmented reality and is now one of the medium’s greatest success stories.
However, the adored intellectual property of Pokémon Go is only a small component of the game’s overall success. People can spend time with Ash Ketchum and Pikachu in a variety of other games, novels, and movies. The interaction between virtual characters and real-world locales is the game’s true secret ingredient.
“I believe designers might find complementing reality a more trackable design challenge than trying to simulate reality entirely.”
Because people prefer playing games that involve interacting with reality rather than isolating them from it, AR has gained popularity more quickly than VR.
The entertainment opportunities in augmented reality, in my opinion, won’t strive to be immersive, Mack added. “When I played [Pokémon Go], I would go to particular locations merely because a Pokémon was there. That’s a potent social driver, too.
Instead of going deeper inside the goggles, the x-factor that caused the network effect that made Pokémon Go a multi-billion dollar sensation was further out in the neighborhood. Its popularity will undoubtedly motivate more game developers to strive to meet consumer demand for games that combine the virtual and the real worlds.
“I could totally picture a game where you’re playing hide-and-seek or some kind of laser tag,” Mack added. “At that point, it just feels right.”
In the medium term, at least, Rogelio Cardona-Rivera, a professor at the University of Utah’s School of Computing, believes that AR will prove to be a more fruitful environment for game developers than VR.
In 2020, he said, “I think designers might find complementing reality a more trackable design challenge, rather than trying to simulate reality entirely.” Then, possibly, some of the lessons learned from AR will be applied to VR.
The most well-known AR games are played on smartphones, but tech giants like Meta, Snap, and Magic Leap are also developing AR spectacles. The flexible, glasses-style headset from Magic Leap is designed primarily for business applications including healthcare, design, and manufacturing. Despite not really being for sale, a few creators have access to Snap’s Spectacles in order to test them out. There will undoubtedly be fresh developments for gamers interested in augmented reality since Meta is anticipated to introduce its own AR glasses in 2024.
In non-player characters, or NPCs, such as the vibrant ghosts in Pac-Man or the innocent bystanders in Grand Theft Auto, artificial intelligence has been deployed in games for decades.
NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS WITH AI
NPCs are now handled by game designers in a more sophisticated manner in recent years. Today, behavior trees are commonly used to design NPCs, enabling them to make more sophisticated decisions. Instead of heedlessly charging into gunfire one by one like they’re in a corny action movie, the hostile aliens in Halo 2 can cooperate and coordinate their attacks.
NPCs are still limited to the actions specified in their code. Even though it appears that they are acting intelligently, the game’s designers nonetheless have predetermined what they will do.
Could we anticipate seeing more sophisticated AI in commercial games in the future? Experts say it might happen, but not everyone believes it will happen soon.
Games are a somewhat conservative industry in terms of publishers’ or studios’ willingness to take chances.
Khandaker remarked, “You can try to construct a very fantastic, thorough AI system which is about allowing a character behave in all kinds of ways the designer hasn’t foreseen. However, if there is an excessive amount of that, there is no assurance as to how the plot will develop or whether it will be enjoyable.
In other words, even if we could give non-player characters (NPCs) minds of their own and let them roam free in games, chances are that the player would have a less enjoyable experience as a result of their autonomy. A rogue NPC could opt to forego helping the player reach the next level or lead them on a pointless mission where nothing happens.
In addition to posing difficulties for game designers, free-range NPCs might not even make sense from an economic standpoint.
In terms of the willingness that publishers or studios have to take risks, Khandaker stated, “games are a relatively conservative industry. There is a genuine sense of wanting to keep doing the same thing because there is such a fantastic history in terms of design for what does work in games.
It might be possible to add NPCs with higher intelligence to games. However, studios will have less incentive to make it happen if it is expensive and does not enhance the player experience.
However, some designers continue to work on improving NPCs, particularly trying to find ways to make NPCs seem more realistic and human.
According to Julien Desaulniers, the programming team head for AI and gameplay in Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, “the biggest challenge for AI is to mimic what is perhaps the most complex and mysterious capacity of the human brain: imagination.” This is being taken to a whole new level, one that not even all humans can accomplish well, by having AI develop narrative content.
AI GENERATION IN GAME PLAY
However, AI isn’t limited to the gaming environment. It’s a necessary component of the gaming process. Designers no longer need to carefully create each solitary tree in a forest or rock formation in a canyon because AI is now being used to assist them in creating game materials. Instead, employing a method known as procedural content production, which has become a pretty common practice in the business, designers can offload that task to computers.
Game levels are also created using procedural content creation, sometimes at random, to provide players a unique experience each time.
(The 2016 game No Man’s Sky took this concept to the limit; the game’s whole open world was randomly generated without any before planning on the part of the developers.)
In a technique known as experience-driven procedural content creation, which NYU professor Julian Togelius calls on neural networks, some game developers create levels specifically for each player.
For instance, researchers gathered Super Mario player data in 2009, characterizing each player’s preferences as they played. It could be that a level had too many jumps and not enough sewers, or that coins were difficult to get to and enemies were too simple to take out.
THE ROLE OF AI IN GAMING
The jobs of human designers aren’t under danger just yet, despite the fact that AI generates game materials and, in some circumstances, whole levels.
In his 2018 book Playing Smart, Togelius predicted that “for the foreseeable future, we will not have AI systems that can design a complete game from scratch with anything like the quality, or at least consistency of quality, that a team of human game developers can.”
While AI may not now be capable of creating whole video games, it may in the future. In just three days, one designer even created a horizontally scrolling gun game using AI art.
Although experimenting with AI systems may be entertaining for artists, researchers and game designers alike are still working to build AI systems that will manage the game in a way that is interesting for the player.
In Cardona-Rivera’s future, artificial intelligence will take the role of a game master, making decisions for a human player.
Imagine what it would be like to have an AI “director” who is watching what you do and orchestrating the experience for you, the speaker continued. That’s similar to what my research and a lot of other intriguing work in the field (not just mine) aims to accomplish.
On someone else’s PC might be where gaming goes in the future. In the cloud, in other words.
Cloud gaming, sometimes known as game streaming, is a type of internet gaming that enables users to access video games from distant servers directly on their device, much like how Netflix users may stream movies on their smart TVs without first inserting a DVD.
Theoretically, this setup makes the gamer’s local hardware less important because they can stream the games from any device. Additionally, because cloud gaming is sometimes promoted as a subscription service, players are shifting from an ownership mentality toward one of renting digital content.
The long-standing console gaming leaders Sony and Microsoft have just launched their own cloud gaming services. Nvidia, a manufacturer of gaming chips, has done same.
Even Big Tech is participating in the fun. Amazon’s Luna cloud gaming service made its debut in 2020. Even Netflix, which until now has solely produced films and television episodes
Microsoft revealed that 20 million users of the Xbox cloud gaming services, or twice as many as was previously stated, have done so. GeForce NOW, Nvidia’s cloud gaming service, has grown significantly in recent years as well. From 14 million users in 2021 to 20 million in 2022, the platform saw growth.
Cloud gaming is probably here to stay, with an estimated $3 billion in market value by 2024. Cloud gaming may be choppy for players without a reliable WiFi connection, but as more people gain access to the internet, this situation is expected to change.
Video games have gone a long way in their pursuit of photorealistic graphics.
The development of graphics cards that support high-fidelity images in games and innovations like ray tracing has advanced significantly thanks to PC gaming firms like Nvidia and AMD. When a game features 3D visuals with a large number of intricate vertices—the locations in space where line segments of a geometry meet—high-fidelity graphics are present. Most high-fidelity video games also feature ray tracing technologies.
Previously, elements like shadows, reflections, and lens flares were simply painted onto the game’s objects. The appearance that light was emanating from the sun or moon and behaving as it would on impact with a surface was created by this.
If only consumers could get their hands on the technology, it could transform the game. The industry has been hampered by a chip scarcity for the past few years, but executives from some of the largest semiconductor firms think that will soon change.
Future video games won’t all be built with such lifelike graphics. not at all, independent video games. According to Mack, there are two separate paths that game producers might take in terms of graphics.
One strategy is to hire a lot of visual artists and technologists to produce a ton of art for high-fidelity graphics, as you can see in triple-A games (high-budget games created by major game publishers). Large teams, large resources, and increasingly
The alternative strategy is to create a more stylized, and occasionally cartoonish, aesthetic for your game. In this manner, expenditures are kept low yet the game maintains its stylish appearance and avoids the accusation that “It doesn’t look realistic!” According to Mack, this strategy is getting more and more popular in the mobile VR industry.
Over the past several years, the popularity of free-to-play games has skyrocketed. In actuality, most gamers over 35 favor casual games and use smartphones to play. The market for free-to-play games is anticipated to increase further, reaching an estimated $83.6 billion in 2023.
Some games, like Overwatch and Apex Legends, are free to play but contain in-game purchases (such battle passes and skins) that drive revenue. Many free-to-play games make money from advertisements.
A number of gaming businesses are starting to realize the advantages of providing free-to-play games with in-game purchases. The developer of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, and Overwatch, Activision Blizzard, said that in-game sales accounted for $5.1 billion of their total revenue in 2021.
The metaverse is a theoretical idea that has captured the attention of many of the biggest computer corporations in the world. No talk of the future of gaming would be complete without mentioning it.
The metaverse is best understood as an online cyberspace, a parallel virtual world where anyone can log in and live out their (second) lives. Author Neal Stephenson popularized the idea in his 1992 science-fiction book Snow Crash. In a perfect world, the metaverse would integrate both virtual and augmented reality, have a working economy, and permit total interchange.
Even if we might be a long way from it, signs of the metaverse are becoming more visible. You can see it in games like Fornite, where players can dress up as their favorite Star Wars or Marvel characters and attend virtual Ariana Grande concerts, as well as in gaming platforms like Roblox, where high-end fashion labels like Gucci hold events.
Approximately 500 firms are establishing industries focused toward the digital world, according to a survey from market researcher Newzoo, and this number is increasing as more businesses attempt to create the metaverse.
Like the internet, the metaverse will be used for purposes other than gaming. It might also include office work. However, the scope of gaming is growing. It’s now more about connection than competition. Keith Stuart refers to it as a “digital third place,” more akin to a skate park than an arena.
Our urge to connect outweighs our desire to escape, if the patterns and predictions for the gaming business are any indication of who we are.