In the past few decades, the gaming industry has adapted and evolved in unprecedented ways. Prior to the internet, gaming was associated with board games like Monopoly and role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons.
When people did consider interactive games, they were likely thinking of the earliest 8-bit video game consoles, the must have items before the PlayStation launched in the 1990’s. It was during this period that internet enabled gaming started taking shape, but it wasn’t until the 2000’s that it fully exploded in popularity, this was when Stream was introduced.
In 2003, the digital store Steam is launched, allowing gamers to purchase new games online, while a year later, the massively popular multiplayer game World of Warcraft is released. With over ten million subscribers, it helped bring online gaming into the mainstream – and the industry has only gotten bigger from there.
Now, more than a billion people regularly play games online, either via consoles on their best television screens which provide the best experience or smartphone devices. The online gaming industry is worth a whopping $152 billion as of 2019. This is only expected to grow further, so here’s a glimpse at the future of online gaming.
The advancement of technology
One of the reasons for this major market shift is due to the rise in games available for smartphones. The shift began in 2007, with the industry putting more focus on it in 2009, when Apple announced the option for in-app purchase features for iPhone apps.
Statistics earlier this year showed that more than three billion people worldwide currently own smartphones, with gaming moving increasingly online to accommodate this. This was most evident back in 2016, with the unexpected popularity of augmented reality game Pokémon Go.
It may now be five years since that game broke records, but experts still believe that the gaming industry is heading in the direction of that cultural sensation. Instead of VR, it’s widely believed that augmented gaming is the natural evolution of gaming – and with the vast majority of people already owning smartphones, the shift is ready to be made.
However, the industry is still approaching a bigger problem. With more games vying for attention at the click of a button, the competitive marketplace means it’s now a lot harder than ever for companies to make money.
How the industry can attract the attention of gamers
For the multi-billion-dollar industry to keep prospering, it has to look towards another sector that is doing booming business: E-Sports and online casinos. These industries have risen in popularity due to the rise of smartphone apps, which aim to recreate the experience of being in a live betting shop or casino.
However, the central reason the number of users is growing at online gambling sites is due to a wealth of promotions designed to attract new players. For example, at 888poker you’ll find a free to play version, but with additional promotional incentives enticing you to play a higher stakes game.
The interactive aspect, and the cutting-edge graphics, make playing at 888poker feel very similar to visiting a casino itself. This promotional, “try before you buy” approach should become a standard for the wider gaming industry, not just the online gambling sector.
The idea of “free to play” games isn’t a new one. Gaming sensations such as Fortnite and Star Wars: The Old Republic are all considered “Freemium” games as they are all free to play – but bonus features come at an extra cost.
But to see how the industry can profit, you have to go back in time to the early days of “Shareware”. Here, developers would offer a free demo of the game, to entice the player into hopefully paying to finish it.
This method isn’t as popular as it used to be. In recent years, developers are more likely to offer free games filled with ads, with an ad free version only available to paying subscribers.
However, as the online casino industry shows, this approach clearly works at converting free players into paying subscribers. In a crowded marketplace, don’t rule out this method becoming commonplace once again.
The next generation of online gaming
It looks like VR will be nothing more than a passing fad, due to the expensive nature of the technology, and the fact gamers want social interaction while playing. So, with that ruled out, where is the industry likely to go next?
Mixed reality games, the evolution from augmented reality sensations like Pokémon Go, seem to be the next big thing. Combining virtual and augmented reality technology, these games would be cutting edge – but crucially, would be available for mass market consumption when released on smartphones.
Experts are also predicting that artificial intelligence will play a major role in the future of gaming. And this isn’t just in the games themselves, but in the way they are developed and made.
It is believed that the technology can help reduce development time, with the possibility it may even be able to generate new content (i.e.: new levels) based on existing ones. This has the potential to be groundbreaking when it comes to keeping gamers invested in classic games.
Following the lead from live casino games could also see more interactive multi-player options get added to various online games. And then there are the developers themselves – could pre-existing social media companies start developing games of their own, to keep users on the site?
The possibilities for the next generation of gaming are endless. Just don’t expect the shift to VR that everybody is predicting – the revolution will be taking place on your phone.