The worldwide video game industry is on the up, with millions of people playing every day. This rapidly expanding sector has paved the way for many exciting innovations and trends, and we’re here to take a look at some of the most important ones.
Recently, game creators have started taking a more sophisticated approach to non-player characters. Many NPCs have started being programmed with behaviour trees, something that lets them perform more complex decision-making processes. Halo 2’s enemy aliens, for example, can work together to coordinate their attacks rather than recklessly beelining into gunfire one at a time like they’re in a b-grade action movie.
But NPCs can still only do what’s written in their code. The way they act, however intelligent it seems, is something that’s still determined in advance by the game’s creators. It looks likely that, in the distant future, we could expect to see more advanced AI appearing in commercial games. The biggest challenge for AI is that it needs to mimic what is maybe the most mysterious and complex capacity of the human brain, the imagination. Having AI generate narrative content is taking this to an entirely new level, one that not even all human beings are that good at.
We’re on our way there, however, and can expect AI’s influence on NPCs to hit the shelves in the next couple of years.
Augmented reality games are changing the industry by creating experiences that are more competitive, engaging, and immersive. These games unite virtual game elements with the player’s physical environment in real time by using sensors like cameras, GPS, and microphones to detect the real world and overlay game audio and visuals on it.
AR creates a shared experience, with multiplayer games connecting the virtual and physical worlds of players all over the world. It also encourages movement since players need to move around to interact with virtual objects. AR games are definitely more memorable as well, since their interactive overlays actually respond to objects in the real world and their movements.
It’s a hot trend, with adoption growing at a compound annual growth rate of almost 22% between 2021 and 2028.
It looks likely that the future of gaming may actually unfold on someone else’s desktop, smartphone, or tablet. That is to say, in the cloud!
Cloud gaming is also sometimes referred to as game streaming, and it’s a kind of online gaming that lets players stream games directly to their devices by accessing them from servers located sometimes very far away. It’s the same way that we stream Netflix movies on smart TVs. We don’t need to put a DVD in before we can start watching a movie.
Theoretically, this arrangement makes gamers’ local hardware less important because they can stream games regardless of what kind of device they’re using. Also, cloud gaming is usually pitched as a subscription service, and this is moving players away from the mentality of needing to own physical media towards renting digital content instead.
In recent years, Microsoft, Nvidia, and Sony, longtime gaming console incumbents, have started rolling out their own cloud gaming services. Even Big Tech is getting in on the game, with Amazon debiting its cloud gaming service, Luna, in 2020. Netflix, a company that until now has only made movies and television shows, has also indicated that it might be getting into cloud gaming. The company hired its first vice president of gaming, Mike Verdu, in 2021.
AI isn’t just part of the experience of playing games, though. It is also part of the game creation experience. For a number of years now, designers have been using AI to help them create game assets, something that frees them from having to painstakingly draw every rock formation in a canyon or tree in a forest. Designers can instead give that work to computers by using procedural content generation, a technique that has become fairly standard practice in the industry. This technique is used for all kinds of gaming, whether for the games available at Grand Bay casino or on Steam.
Procedural content generation can also be used to generate game levels, sometimes at random, so that players can enjoy a new experience each time. No Man’s Sky, the 2016 game, took this technique to its furthest extent. The whole open-world game environment is procedurally generated, and game creators did not sketch these out ahead of time.
Generative AI looks likely to have a bigger impact on game creation in the next few years.
VR is still a niche category when compared to the rest of the gaming industry. While it’s certainly on the rise and enjoys a relatively buzzy status, it still gives many consumers pause. We’re all sort of disillusioned about VR at the moment, after the hype it enjoyed in around 2015, and then the globe got disappointed when the 1st generation VR headsets didn’t deliver the Holodeck experience!
Although VR has hit more than a few bumps along the way, gaming and tech companies are busy trying to advance the industry, and they’ve invested significant resources to help develop VR games and hardware.
Businesses like Meta, PlayStation, Samsung, and Valve have all entered the VR industry over the last few years. Even Apple is rumoured to be developing an AR/VR system, although this project has experienced delays and issues. This investment trend is likely to keep going, however, with the industry projected to grow by more than 30% by 2028.
The Bottom Line
The popularity of video games is extreme and has been so for many years now. With the social benefits of video gaming becoming apparent, the trend has only sped up, and gaming is now a bigger industry than sports and movies combined!
Gaming revenue will reach almost US$200 billion in 2022, and the number of players among us is expected to hit nearly four billion by 2025. It’s not just children, either, with 38% of players being between the ages of 18- and 34-years old and 16% being older than 55!