In 1983, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). At the time, it was a technological and visual powerhouse. Super Mario Bros. was considered the cream of the crop and practical eye candy for most gamers. Hardly anyone could have imagined the progress in video game quality we have made since those early days of home entertainment systems. Today’s gaming systems offer 4K resolution, virtual reality (VR) capabilities, and powerful artificial intelligence (AI) to challenge even the most grizzled gamers. But what does the future hold for video gaming?
In recent years, the advent of virtual reality has been the hot new selling point for many video game and technology companies. In fact, research from Super Data shows the VR industry will reach $13.7 billion by the end of 2022.
Most VR systems function through headsets which immerse gamers into the video game experience. Although consumer sales haven’t been as high as originally predicted, VR technology has still made inroads with gamers, despite the fact that the technology is still in its infancy. So what can we expect in the future for virtual reality?
With each passing year, the applications and capabilities of VR technology evolve. Beyond visual improvements, some video analysts believe that VR’s biggest promise is interaction with virtual characters or AI-driven NPCs (nonplayer characters). For hardcore gamers, the possibility of directly interacting with classic characters from their favorite video games is an exciting prospect. Another potential area for VR companies to explore is mass-VR gaming in the form of VR arenas. Some companies have already begun creating massive warehouse facilities which enable teams of gamers to compete against each other in immersive, simulated environments.
In recent years, full immersion technology has been a potential avenue into the future of video gaming. Discussions around this topic typically center around something called haptic feedback. Gamers who play with a vibration setting in the controller have experienced some level of haptic feedback. However, some developers are working on something akin to a full body suit with more complete sensory functionality and an immersive form of haptic feedback.
Augmented reality (AR) became a household term with the advent of the mobile game Pokemon Go in 2016. In the game, players compete to capture digital pokemon which are hidden in the world around us and revealed through our smartphone cameras. In recent years, augmented reality has found practical applications beyond the video game industry. Companies such as furniture manufacturer IKEA have experimented with the technology to help potential buyers map out how a piece of furniture would look in their home.
In terms of gaming, augmented reality still shows a lot of promise. Behemoths such as Disney and Hasbro have tested the waters and begun developing their own games predicated on the technology. Hasbro’s Iron Man mask is its first foray into the realm of augmented reality, but a lot of toy companies are banking on augmented reality as the savior of the future toy market.
If the mobile gaming trend continues to spike upwards, augmented reality will only improve with each passing year, meaning more variety and higher quality gaming.
Many experts believe that the rise of mobile technology and mobile gaming signals the end of traditional console gaming. Even though Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft command the lion’s share of video game industry proceeds, mobile gaming has been catching up. In 2018, Electronic Arts, one of the world’s biggest video gaming companies, purchased cloud streaming technology created by the game rental company GameFly. Older generations of gamers have traditionally associated gaming with a stand-alone console in their house, but for younger consumers, games are thought of as mobile-first. For manufacturers, this has upsides and downsides. For one, sales of pricier consoles and games is trending down. However, mobile-first games and cloud-based gaming will result in continual revenue in the form of in-game purchases and subscription models such as “battle-passes.”
Video games have come a long way since the early days of pixelated characters and low-resolution boss fights. Gamers are experiencing entertainment in whole new ways, often directly in the role of the characters they used to idolize. It remains to be seen where video game technology is headed, but if current trends are an indicator, we may be at the forefront of a whole new world of completely immersive entertainment.