The video game industry has been exponentially evolving and year over year disrupting itself. Each year, new technologies are developed that aim to maximize the endemic entertainment value held in games in order to create participatory and immersive experiences for audiences seeking novel experiences. As these new technologies continue to march forward, they are altering the ways that brands, marketers and advertisers can take advantage of enhanced viewer engagement across various screens and platforms. We’ve been tracking this quite heavily at Emerging Insider Communications. Although video game technology is always improving, there are five current tech trends that will take the industry by storm in 2014 that should be followed and analyzed by marketers looking to leverage the power of lean forward interaction. By understanding the technologies presented, we can begin to formulate novel ways to capture audiences across brands.
1. Immersive Gaming
An incredibly exciting trend is the return of head-mounted displays. Although head-mounted virtual reality (VR) consoles have seen little success in the past, the Oculus Rift aims to change that by offering a 110 degree field of view, an ultra-low latency head-tracking system and immersive stereoscopic 3D rendering capabilities, creating intriguing displays with responsive, head-turning motion control. Other companies are also toying with VR headsets. Industry leaders such as Sony, GameFace and Valve have shown off their own prototype VR headsets over the past few months.
Another immersive technology comes from Microsoft in form of the IllumiRoom. The IllumiRoom literally expands the viewer experience by using the geometry and appearance of your living room and projecting games on walls and furniture surrounding your TV. Using the Kinect camera and a projector, your home can become any digital environment depending on the game you’re playing.
2. Multi-Screen Gaming
With the release of the Wii U in 2012 came the Wii U GamePad, a controller with a built in touchscreen that has several applications in certain games. For example, in one of its launch titles, ZombiU, the GamePad is used to perform tasks such as managing your inventory, accessing your map, using a touch screen keypad to unlock doors and controlling machine gun turrets. This allows gamers to perform important secondary tasks without having to pause the game or obstruct their vision on the primary screen. Also, if someone else in the household wants to use the TV, the GamePad can be used as the primary screen, eliminating the need for a television.
Providing a similar function to Wii U’s GamePad, Microsoft’s SmartGlass performs secondary tasks through a compatible mobile device of your choice. Other than being used as an in-game tool, SmartGlass can also be used as a remote to navigate the Xbox Dashboard. Also, when watching a movie or television show on your Xbox console, SmartGlass can be used to surf for other shows and movies while leaving the content on your primary screen uninterrupted.
A truly revolutionary advancement in multi-screen gaming is Sony’s Cross-Play feature. With Cross-Play, gamers can stop playing a game on their PlayStation 3 and resume playing it on their PlayStation Vita. If you’re at a heated moment in a game but have somewhere to be, you can turn off your PS3 and continue the experience on your Vita while on-the-go.
3. Cloud Gaming
Without a doubt, the most exciting and game-changing technology for the future of video game industry is cloud gaming. Cloud gaming takes advantage of faster, more reliable internet connections by giving gamers the ability to stream games through video and file streaming methods.
With video streaming, games are directly streamed on-demand. Through a thin client, titles are stored on the company’s server and streamed directly to computers. They then can be accessed without the need of a console or a state of the art PC since most of the performance intensive operations are handled by the server. Companies that provide this type of cloud gaming include Gaikai, OnLive, CiiNow, Ubitus and Playcast Media Systems.
File streaming, on the other hand, uses a thin client to run an actual game on a mobile device, PC or console. Using this method, a small part of the game is downloaded initially, enabling the consumer to start the playing instantly while the remaining content downloads during play. Users get instant access to games with low latency, at a low bandwith. Companies that provide this type of cloud gaming include Approxy, Kalydo and SpawnApps.
4. Modular Computers
Modular computers aim to simplify PC upgrading for the non tech savvy. Razer Inc, a company dedicated to computer manufacturing in the gaming market, displayed its own modular concept at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). The concept is a tower that houses ports for any type of modular component including graphics cards, hard drives and even Blu Ray players. Origin PC, a custom PC manufacturing company, also displayed its own modular concept that enables owners to arrange inner components such as the motherboard, graphics card and hard drive in a variety of orientations. If this trend takes off, it will add another level of customization to PCs as well as simplify the building and upgrading processes
5. Open Source Gaming
Lastly, there is open source gaming, a type of gaming that allows independent developers to produce mobile and web based games through a simple and affordable process. A prime example of this is the Ouya microconsole. The Ouya offers a 1080p display as well as an array of free-to-play and cheap games. Most importantly, it acts as a development kit, making it possible to develop and share games without an expensive software development kit (SDK). However, Ouya isn’t the only open source development tool on the market. Other companies that offer affordable development tools include YoYo Games and Flying Monkey Interactive.
With all of these mentioned tech trends emerging in the video game industry, the future of gaming engagement and monetization looks bright. Video games are headed in a direction where experiences will become more immersive, participatory and streamlined. There is no telling how groundbreaking some of these technologies will be as of now. We will have to wait and see how they shake the gaming world as they emerge. In the next post, we’ll take a deeper dive into the potential marketing methodology that can take shape behind each of the aforementioned technologies.