What will video games be like in the future?
Video games are nothing new – they began to enter the mainstream in the 1970s with Atari’s seminal ‘Pong’ arcade-style home entertainment game.
But they’ve come a long way from paddling a pixel on a black and white TV screen. Today, the video game industry is in rude health, with media titans producing content a thousand times more varied and engaging than could have been dreamed of back in the late 70s. Already worth a staggering $120 billion in 2019, the industry surged again during the pandemic, as people sought out ways to entertain themselves during a period of lockdowns and other social distancing regulations. It is estimated the market will be worth over $250 billion by 2025. The growth of video games is driven by its seemingly never-ending ability to move with the times and remain at the cutting edge of new technology, introducing new gaming experiences to a hungry audience. What will the video games of the future be like?
Whatever incredible new games are devised; they will be driven by developments in streaming technology. Online availability of games has already helped to grow the industry, with players connecting with each other over the internet in their millions, wherever in the world they may be. As 5G, satellite and ultra-fast broadband technologies become commonplace, multiplayer games are going to become more and more popular. Downloading will become a thing of the past as people buy games and immediately start playing, on whatever screen they desire.
Smartphones are everywhere. As they’ve permeated further and further through society, gaming companies have been quick to adapt and design games specifically to play on these ubiquitous devices. Billions are already playing video games on our phones. With advancing phone technology and improved connectivity, the mobile market will only become more important to the industry, with consoles becoming a thing of the past.
Graphics will continue their inexorable advance with some stunning strides to come over the next few years. Ray tracing, a technique which allows light to move in a game in an entirely natural and realistic manner, will become an everyday element of gaming technology. Complex 3D graphics will become the norm and pixel technology in gaming will advance to a point where it matches, or possibly outperforms, anything possible in the movies, even on mobile devices.
Reality – Virtual, Augmented
Virtual reality (VR) games offer a completely immersive experience via VR headsets and gloves. The tech’s relatively new (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation’s PSVR came out in 2016) and while it has gained some traction, the hardware is expensive and by blocking out the real world, it can be an uncomfortable experience for some people. The touch technology is still relatively primitive, and the screen resolution can leave a little to be desired compared to standard games. Improvements will be made no doubt, but it is more likely that augmented reality (AR), will be the more casual gamer’s choice of the future. AR games link the digital world with the real one, superimposing video and graphics on the physical environment. While playing AR games, players can interact with the digital world but also move out to reality when desired. The tech has already been used successfully with Pokemon: Go!; a worldwide phenomenon. Further in the future, AR implants could allow players to play games using only their eyes.
Artificial intelligence is going to have a huge impact on the video game industry. In the game development process, AI will be used to create customized games that use the data of each player to deliver bespoke experiences based on their preferences. There will be big advances with the non-player characters (NPCs) within games too. At the moment, interactions between players and NPCs are rather primitive and unconvincing. They never stretch to anything more than a few lines of dialogue, with limited responses and outcomes available to the player. Within the next few years, NPCs will be able to interact far more believably and more freely. It could well really feel like talking to a human being who can adapt and react to you in real time.
The industry itself
Advances in technology will not merely change the games we play, but it will change the industry itself. While the improvements in tech will offer the industry ways to cut costs and improve the speed of game development, many of the advances will add significantly to the already high costs of creating games. The major releases over the past few years have often involved teams of hundreds of people. Games will become more complex, more immersive and more reliant on specialised technology. Rather than employing huge teams of experts in house, the growing trend to use a video game outsourcing company to work on aspects of a single project will become completely widespread. This will allow the video game giants to lighten workloads, add specialist expertise and crucially, get games to market rapidly.
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