Arcades in the sky


Illustration by Jack Cassel-Gerard

Day in day out we see sparkly new tech inventions hitting the scene. No industry has

gone untouched by the revolutionary hand of technological innovation and we’ve

seen drastic evolution as a result. Books became films and now we have virtual

reality allowing us to be a part of our favourite stories, live music became records

and now we have unfathomably large libraries in our phones able to be enjoyed at

any time. One of the most amazing evolutions is in our entertainment, specifically

gaming. When you think about how far the gaming industry has come, from board

games to arcades, to video games and all the way through to the phone app market,

it’s difficult to imagine how much further they could advance. But really, the

possibilities are far from limited…


Virtual Reality

We’ve already mentioned how virtual reality’s immersive qualities make for a great

cinematic experience but this genius technology is taken to new heights when used

for gaming. It might feel as if VR has been around for years if you look back to the

90s when the iGlasses, Virtual Boy and VFX1 Headgear blasted onto the scene, but

these headsets merely grazed the tip of the iceberg in both technology and impact.

Given a bit more time to iron out some creases (or glitches in this case) headsets

like the HTC Vive and PlayStationVR now hold resident positions in the gaming

industry. The concept of being fully immersed into a game has been the pinnacle

fantasy of most gamers ever since they first got their grips on a joystick and for a

long time VR has been projected as the future we’re in store for. But is the reality of

VR all it’s cracked up to be? Like every tech it has it’s limitations, heavy and bulky

headsets make sustained usage unlikely and their are restrictions before you’ve

even purchased the equipment - you first need the appropriate space to use it! The

next steps in VR development should definitely be focused on gear optimisation,

lighter and more wearable tech that, with the introduction of cloud gaming, could be

used anywhere!


Augmented Reality

If VR is a new reality, AR is Old Reality 2.0! Augmented reality isn’t immersing the

user into a new realm like VR does, but actually taking the one we already live in and

adorning it with interactive objects and characters. Taking the world by storm across

social media and various smartphone apps, AR has charged onto the scene. A prime

example of the impact of AR in the gaming world is Pokémon Go. In 2016 when

specialist developers Niantic released the game it spread like wildfire. On every

street corner you’d find a huddle of people aiming their phones in every direction in

an attempt to catch a Psyduck that appeared to be floating halfway up a lamppost.

Within 200 days, players had spent a billion dollars on in-game upgrades, breaking

records by huge margins. Since then we’ve seen Niantic release more games like

Ingress and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite - although the not so impressive impact of

the former and gargantuan success of the latter gives the impression that it was the

Harry Potter and Pokémon fanbases that contributed to the success of the games,

and less likely the augmented reality aspect. This is no surprise really, considering

that the AR usage in the games is limited to a ‘point and shoot’ style of play. Both

and Google and Apple have invested heavily into AR development, hopefully, the

future of augmented reality will be more versatile in game usage and spanning

across many genres.


eSports

How we enjoy watching video games has come on leaps and bounds from crowding

round your favourite arcade game impatiently waiting your turn with change firmly in

your grip. You can now attend huge arenas with thousands of other spectators much

as we expect of many sports. There are amateur leagues, professionals,

adjudicating committees and even attempts to bring eSports (electronic sports) to

Japan’s 2020 Olympic games. In many countries professional gamers are already

recognised as pro athletes, after a few more years of growth and some Olympic

action these athletes will accumulate fanbases and followings of their own, making

them perfect partners for advertising campaigns and sponsorships. If eSports

continues to grow like this, we can expect it holding a huge place in modern

entertainment - reflective of other sports cultures. The experience of an eSport

competition is a great advance from its humble arcade roots, creating a collective

atmosphere that couldn’t be further from the perspective of gamers being cooped up

in their bedrooms by themselves. Its popularity is growing, having attracted an

estimated 380 million viewers (both casual and enthusiasts) in 2018. Streaming

capabilities have taken the roof off the limit to who can watch the competitions and

their potential reach only grows as streaming becomes a faster and smoother

experience.



Streaming

Sports spectatorship has always been a mammoth market, lives streams only made

it more accessible and the same goes for gaming. Many eSports competitions are

viewed through streaming instead of live attendance, services like Twitch and

Youtube Gaming are platforms making game spectatorship as easy as watching the

footie on the telly. However it’s not only eSports that takes advantage of streaming,

many games now have spectator modes, you can watch your friend’s gameplay and

vice versa. Those who watch streamed games are twice as likely to purchase digital

and mobile video games, the platforms providing these services are clearly making a

big impact on the industry, encouraging sales and generating committed consumers.

With 5G on the horizon we can only imagine the speeds and accessibility that will

come with it, the communities that gamers have built through the PlayStation

Network and Xbox Live could become entirely portable. Streaming games will be

accessible anywhere and any time at breakneck speeds. It goes even further than

just playing against your buddies, imagine being able to link up with the top players

from around the world for 1:1 consultancy sessions… could this be the new personal

training?

Cloud Gaming

Greater bandwidth speeds won’t just affect the ease of spectatorship, but gaming

itself. Imagine a system that allowed you to essentially stream games in the same

way we watch videos online, making use of powerful cloud servers and insane

connectivity. Announced earlier this year, Google Stadia is one of the frontrunners in

upcoming cloud gaming. Completely console-less, a controller allows you to access

the platform through any compatible device no matter where you are - 5G speeds

will make this super slick and reliable, securing a valued position within the

gaming community. Cloud-based gaming allows any users across the world to be

connected in a way like never before, in the future we could see game developers

uploading their own creations onto the cloud with shorter load times and no

download waits, more powerful and impressive than anything built for PC or console

currently. Cloud technology has enhanced so many different industries in ways

practically no one could predict, the gaming industry is likely to have the same

revelations and breakthroughs as the tech only grows. Although just spreading its

wings, cloud gaming’s potential to continue soaring higher and higher is down to

what other uses it has. Imagine combining technologies, cloud VR gaming where

you could be immersed in a world with other players all around the world. What would

a VR cloud version of WoW look like?

The future of gaming feels very immediate, all these amazing technologies are in our

hands and houses already and seem to be getting stronger, faster and better at what

they do. It’s hard to predict the evolution of an industry that keeps continuing to

exceed expectations, what was once an adolescent and male-dominated market has

seen growth in both older and female players, clearly, the popularity of gaming

continues to exponentially increase. Soon enough we’ll all be playing arcades in the

sky.


#VR #AR #cloudgaming #videogames #gaming #streaming