The games industry has never been in better shape, with a huge range of platforms and titles out there serving up diverse and exciting gameplay experiences in every genre and niche you can imagine.
But there are plenty of signs on the horizon that much of the way we’ve been playing and interacting with games over the past 20 or so years is looking set for a major shake-up.
Here we’re going to be taking a look at some of the leading trends getting ready to transform gaming in the 2020s and beyond.
VR is coming on leaps and bounds, with new headsets coming out from both Oculus and Sony in the coming months. While it has taken a while for such headsets to get both cheap and light enough to gain more widespread traction, the enormous development we’re seeing in the technology underlying them, from all angles, strongly points to an all-in VR gaming future in the coming years.
With Meta joining Google, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon in feverishly building out the coming metaverse concept, the buzz around this tech is not looking like it’s going to die down any time soon.
While VR’s utility for any number of glamorous business and planning tasks is eagerly being pushed by the aforementioned big tech corporations, the beating heart of VR experiences was and is always going to be gaming. Oculus, the headset company acquired from Meta (formerly Facebook) in 2014, started out as a product chiefly concerned with creating next-generation gaming.
With games consoles and PCs pushing for ever greater graphical fidelity, the jump into six degrees of freedom and ultra-immersive gaming content holds out the promise of continuing the industry’s forward march into creating ever more vibrant and fully-realized worlds.
Everyone’s favorite buzzy abbreviation, NFT, is popping up virtually everywhere you look in 2022, and gaming is certainly no exception to this. In fact EA boss Andrew Wilson has gone on record to state that they are the future of the industry.
Why is this then? Well, much of this is to do with the way NFTs work in general, which is that they create digital scarcity, a wholly novel premise. A rare Blind Ape Yacht Club NFT gives you bragging rights on Twitter, and some obscure perks, but that’s about all you’re getting for your hard-earned there.
However, say you’re a die-hard gamer, and a limited edition collection of rare and powerful weapons or items drops in your favorite title as an NFT. Now these NFT items aren’t only bragging rights, they offer a decisive advantage unique to you.
We’ve seen this type of thing before in games, where rare items such as the various hats in Team Fortress 2 end up selling on real-money markets for serious cash. Where this is different, is that this process can now be wholly directed and managed in-game using a developer’s own blockchain resources.
It’s still early days to see where this trend will go in games, and early implementations have occasionally left room for desire. But providing NFTs are here to stay, and are not the next big impending bubble crash, as some analysts suspect, odds on they will be an indelible part of our gaming landscape for a long time.
Sometimes mistakenly thought of as VR’s poor relation, AR represents an exciting parallel development route for game developers to explore. To date, the most successful examples of what AR can do in the gaming space comes by way the studio Niantic, Inc. Their early title, Ingress, and its breakthrough follow up, Pokémon Go, laid bare the unique and compelling gameplay experience offered by blending gaming with real world locations.
To date the tech has been held back somewhat by having to operate through a smartphone display. Once AR headsets and glasses become more commonplace, we will likely see much more enthusiastic development for new mixed-reality games.
The sky’s the limit with AR, and its ability to bring MMO (Massive Multiplayer Elements) of certain games into the real world is both wholly unique, and unprecedented.